Parque da Cidade
Porto is a city of understated vibrancy. Sitting on the northern coastline of Portugal, the city’s hilly, baroque surroundings are jolted into motion with the arrival of NOS Primavera Sound – Primavera Sound’s younger counterpart. An institution renowned for its eclectic, genre-spanning line-ups, this year’s leg in Parque da Cidade’s lush site held weight all of its own.
Thursday kicked off with JARV IS, the current iteration of Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker’s solo show. Armed with a full band (including a harpist), the Pulp frontman was on typically eccentric form, tracing the last decade of his solo output with fleshed-out renditions of Homewrecker! and disco slow-burner You’re in My Eyes. Despite the onslaught of torrential rain, his performance was flamboyant and commanding, priming us for the night’s standout set: Solange.
Watching Solange perform feels like a spiritual exercise, her graceful sound shapeshifting with each song. Charting material across 2016’s A Seat at the Table and this year’s When I Get Home, it seemed like the Texas-born singer had evolved once more. On stage, Solange and her band occupied the minimal multi-story set like a lived-in home, their defiant bounce breathing life into her dreamy, jazz-tinged soundscapes. Ramping up the energy, she took to the crowd for F.U.B.U., singing the song directly to the people in the front rows. Upon her return to the stage, she feels fully realised, a sparkling incarnation of the artist she was meant to be.
After a last minute Peggy Gou cancellation, Korean-American DJ and producer Yaeji headed up the Primavera Bits stage – the dance arena encapsulated by a large container. In her dynamic set blending elements of house, hip-hop and UK garage, Yaeji jumped out from behind the decks, interacting with the crowd for stylish hit raingurl.
Billed for Friday were Sons of Kemet XL, the Afrofuturist jazz group fronted by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, tuba player Theon Cross, and a revolving cast of four drummers. What followed was an hour of pure, life-affirming joy. Blasting through material off their Mercury-nominated album Your Queen is a Reptile, the evening sun beamed down on the crowd as if it belonged only to us. For My Queen is Doreen Lawrence, the band were joined by performance poet Josh Idehen who also features on the track. Dressed head-to-toe in a floral tracksuit, he vigorously chanted “I wanna take my country forward!”, whipping the crowd into a frenzy, bodies thrashing in solidarity. Once again, Sons of Kemet proved they’re an essential voice in music, providing a welcome pocket of respite in fraught times.
Saturday night ushered in the inimitable brilliance of Rosalía. Following a floor-shattering Primavera homecoming set in Barcelona the week before, the Catalan artist delivered a performance worthy of the hype. Drawing the largest crowd of the whole festival, she tore through an immaculately choreographed stage show that channelled the theatrical snarl of flamenco, with the sharp clap of her palmas rippling through the city. Similarly to Colombian urbano star J Balvin’s powerhouse Friday night set, Rosalía’s daring vision cemented the fact that Spanish-speaking artists are dominating the world stage, holding up a mirror to those of us who long for more representation in mainstream music.
Closing out the festivities were Yves Tumor and Mykki Blanco, a back-to-back of radical queer visionaries. Yves Tumor’s live band debut in Porto was larger than life. As he swaggered around the stage in heeled boots, the set swelled into a full glam rock show, his guitarist in particular feeding new passion into the tracks off last year’s exceptional Safe in the Hands of Love. After, rapper Mykki Blanco called on Amsterdam-via-Brazil DJ LYZZA to supply the beats for his notoriously rowdy live show. Booming through songs off his 2016 debut Mykki and beyond, LYZZA’s deconstructed club workouts laid down the foundation for his backing voguers to rule the floor.
NOS Primavera Sound feels like it exists purely to invoke a sense of mutual enjoyment and understanding between artists and festival-goers alike. It’s an exciting time to be Primavera Sound, and it’s about to increase tenfold with next year’s 20th anniversary celebrations.