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15 awesome acts we saw at Primavera 2014

6th June 2014
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So Primavera happened again, and it ruined us! Three days and nights of Barcelona good-times and a seriously brilliant musical line-up that makes Primavera the discerning music-fan's ultimate party weekend.

There’s a reason we keep going back. 2014 may have been the biggest edition of the festival yet, bringing with it the trappings of other enormo-events, but luckily this didn’t mean a less eclectic and diverse bill.

We saw a lot of great bands, but here are 15 that really stood out over the weekend:

Girl Band

Pretty much the first band we saw all weekend this Irish lot, who matched kinetic, groove-filled noise with the lyrical mumblings of Mark E. Smith. Swirls of sound and repetitive beats recall early Liars, which is no bad thing. Our new favourite band were one of our Primavera faves.

Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley

Introducing him as the ‘king of soul’ might have been over-selling it a bit, but Charles Bradley brought classic soul to the Med coast-line. What makes his energetic performance (at 65 he still has moves) more beautiful is his under-dog backstory. After a life of struggle recent years has seen his silky-smooth soul vocals and personal songwriting recognised – at Primavera he showed exactly why – SOUL POWER!!

Mick Harvey performs the songs of Serge Gainsbourg

It’s a travesty that the brilliance of Serge Gainsbourg is barely recognised in the UK. The Frenchman is undoubtedly one of the best composers of the twentieth century. In the sublime setting of the Rock Delux Auditori ex Bad Seeds member Mick Harvey set about performing a selection of his best tunes with a band and string-section. Despite some of the songs not having the same allure sung in English, this was one of the those special gigs that sets Primavera apart. Inch perfect renditions of classics. Harvey laid waste to expectations of a rendition of the J’taime song with a joking short burst of it recorded.


This was exceptional in every respect.

Chvrches

Chvrches

On the vanguard of bands making pop music credible again, Chvrches performed a masterclass in crowd-pleasing. Everyone of their songs is a hit, and they have now perfected their live renditions of them. There’s nothing more to say really, they just make perfect pop.

Slint

There’s not much to look at when these post-rock innovators perform, but it scarcely matters when the songs are this beguiling and complex. Listening to Slint off record you’d be forgiven for thinking it could not be delivered live, for this is not can’t be music made by actual humans – it must have just oozed out of the cosmos or something. You’d be wrong, somehow the delivery is very real and every bit as good as the records.

Nothing has an ever will sound exactly like Slint.

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

There’s a reason Arcade Fire have been elevated to the top of the Worthy Farm bill – in the live arena they seriously know what they are doing. Despite a strangely lack lustre response from much of the crowd Win Butler & Co played like they were having the time of their lives. With the new disco-infused edge of latest record Reflektor sitting wonderfully next to classics from debut Funeral. Arcade Fire make a glorious noise. Watch them at Glasto (or on the telly) – do it!

Factory Floor

Our 3am dalliance with techno noise-mongers was nothing short of euphoric. Cerebral dance music produced with industrial precision and utterly perfect. Under a trippy backdrop the three piece match surging electronics with guitar-noise and live percussion to produce an astonishing live sound.

Neutral Milk Hotel

Few bands have their own indie folklore in the same way as Neutral Milk Hotel. Criminally underrated in their life time, their two albums have become seminal since. So their Primavera set was something of a near religious experience, with band leader Jeff Magnum leading his rag-tag band of indie, alt-folk heroes through the entirety of their two exceptional releases. The surging horn-section added depth to the off-kilter folk arrangements of some of the most heart-felt songs ever released.

Pixies

Pixies

Admittedly this was not anywhere near one of Pixies best performances. But a mediocre Pixies gig is still better than most, especially with a set crammed full of their best material.

Kronos Quartet

For just four figures sat in the middle of an expansive stage in the Auditori Rockdelux , Kronos Quartet were one of the biggest sounding acts of the weekend. For 40 years they have been reinventing the quartet concert and this was no different.  Performing intense works from a range of composers including Bryce Dessner, Omar Souleyman, Laurie Anderson and Clint Mansell this was a fine exercise in what modern classical sounds can be – intense, moving and exceptional beautiful. 

Cloud Nothings

On the back of one of the best albums of this year so far Cloud Nothings have stripped down to a three-piece which on the one had has lessened the complexity of live performance but on the other lends itself to the noiser, stripped back and more aggressive nature of the newest material. Taking more cues from US hardcore their performance is not slick and polished, but is a energetic and emotional burst of three-chord rock – what more could you want?

St. Vincent

St Vincent

Annie Clark might be the coolest person in rock right now. There are performers and then there are stars – Annie Clark is a star. With a minimalist stage set (last seen on Jools Holland) she proved St. Vincent to be the kind of unique act that stands apart from the crowd. Her exceptional, intricate guitar work and delicate voice would work better in a smaller venue but it still packs a punch.

Godspeed! You Black Emperor

You can’t underestimate the sheer seismic impact of G!YBE live, from their intricate quiet moments to the blasts of the crescendos that sound like a jet-plane landing on your head they are intense. The shadowy Canadian collective perform in near darkness under sinister projections that adds an atmosphere of dread to the proceedings. Two hours of intense sounds is an endurance test for even the most hardened fan but sticking with the post-rock legends is definitely rewarding.

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails

As much as his soundtrack work and experimentations were great, thank goodness that Trent Reznor is back to what he does best with Nine Inch Nails. Hesitation Marks was a grand return to form after a run of hit and miss releases, with a modern techno take on his industrial sounds. Running through a two-hour, career-spanning set Reznor never relents and the quality never drops. The new material like ‘Copy Of A’ sat perfectly next to a brutal as always ‘March of the Pigs’ and the set ending ‘Hurt’ was beautiful and haunting. NIN are back on form.

Chromeo

These Canadian dudes were making funk-laden, disco/dance classics well before those robot-headed Frenchmen jumped on the bandwagon. And, boy, do they do it better. Chromeo take all the cheesiest aspects of music and performance and ramp it up to ridiculous performance, but with a knowing wink and a understanding of the joke pull it off effortlessly. It’s not big, it’s not clever but it’s fun and it will make you boogie. It was a perfect end to an awesome weekend.

Images by Dani Canto and Eric Pamies




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