Primavera Sound 2017 review: Standout headliners set sun-soaked festival apart from others

Bon Iver, The xx and Arcade Fire were just three of many who played the Barcelona event 

Jacob Stolworthy
Monday 12 June 2017 10:33
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While disappointment may have prevailed following news of Frank Ocean's Primavera Sound pull-out days before the festival was due to begin, dampened spirits were eradicated when Jamie xx - Ocean's beneficiary - craftily segued a version of the singer's track 'White Ferrari' into his very own 'I Know there's Gonna Be (Good Times).'

Ultimately, the Endless artist's cancellation was a mere drop in the ocean of sun-soaked secret sets and standout headline performances which took place across the four-day event.

Barcelona festival Primavera has been renowned for its stellar billings since launching in 2001, and this year's edition was no different.

From the sleepy hues of Portland singer-songwriter Alexandra Savior and London grime star Skepta to stalwart Van Morrison - whose 'Gloria' and 'Brown Eyed Girl' had thousands singing along at dusk - organisers yet again scaled the industry to bring acts of differing nationalities and genre to the bustling crowds. If anything, dwellers were too spoilt for choice.

Alexandra Savior on the festival's Thursday evening

If Bon Iver and The xx relied on the audience's hushed tones to ensure an experience was had - the former especially delivering something remarkable with faultless renditions of '29 #Strafford APTS,' '8 (Circle)' and 'Skinny Love' (the audience piped up for that one) - then it was Montreal six-piece Arcade Fire who permitted the crowds to blow off some steam on the closing night.

Beginning with usual set-closer 'Wake Up' - an exciting statement of intent - their set was a twist-laden thriller with Win Butler, Régine Chassagne and company tearing through the old ('Power Out,' 'Rebellion,'), the new (ABBA-Bowie infusion 'Everything Now,' 'Creature Comfort) and the rare (set-closer 'Windowsill,' 'In the Backseat,' and - for the first time in nine years - 'Neon Bible').


It wasn't just the live performances that set tongues wagging either: Dancefloor Meditations, a project from Pulp members Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey, almost stole the festival before it had even begun.

Lucky wristband-clad individuals made their way to the Heineken Hidden Stage on the festival's first night and were met with an ethereal music lesson on the history of the bass drum via Marvin Gaye, Steely Dan and a Human League remix you'll still be humming days later.

Primavera Sound seemed worlds apart from its festival peers, laced with a laidback injection of calm whether attendees were dashing between its many stages or scouring the stalls in the food hall (the same location football fans gathered to watch Real Madrid's Champions League victory on one huge projector). The sun-soaked event gave music-lovers something refreshingly rare for a festival of this stature - room to breathe.

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That atmosphere was sliced in two on Saturday evening as news trickled in about devastating events in London, foreshadowed eerily by actor Riz Ahmed who had earlier performed as part of hip-hop group Swet Shop Boys (“In these sour times please allow me to vouch for mine,” he told the crowd. “I'm losing my religion to tomorrow's headlines”).

While many respectfully decided to end the festivities there, those who remained found themselves rewarded by sister trio Haim whose secret 3am set served as a unifying close to a bittersweet evening.

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