Parc del Fòrum, Barcelona
30 May - 1 June
2019’s Primavera Sound line-up was eye-popping. Boasting a 50/50 gender split, acts as genre-leading as FKA twigs and Solange were neatly programmed next to cult bands like Built to Spill and Shellac. Seemingly countless stages were scattered over a concrete wonderland that was filled with neon light by night, and each one made sure there was enough room for everyone to get a proper sightline.
On the Primavera stage, hyper-pop princess Charli XCX’s fans made full use of the capacious space (which included a full-on grass-tufted hill to gaze at her from). She pumped out recent hits from Boys to 1999 to Vroom Vroom while stalking the front row in a mesh coat that gave her a regal air. To add yet more thrills, Héloïse Letissier of Christine and the Queens joined her for an as-yet unreleased banger.
At the Ray-Ban stage later on the same night, the aforementioned twigs showcased hits old and new along with all the astonishing physical feats she’d revealed at live shows earlier in the year, including her Cellophane pole-dancing and unreal sword-fighting. You may have expected to have seen this on her venue-based tour, but to see this sort of mastery of voice and body in a huge, vaulted, open-air stage was an unexpected heart-stopper.
Janelle Monáe was the biggest crowd-pleaser of Saturday night. On the largest of the very large stages, thousands watched her whooping her way through her best bits, of which there are too many to count – though Pynk, Yoga and Make Me Feel sounded especially good to the entranced audience. Her costume changes deserve recognition too – her sexed-up ringleader get-up was especially fitting, and there was plenty of pussy power in her vulva-fied Pynk outfit.
Later that evening over in the Primavera Bits – the festival’s multi-stage electronic arena – Objekt debuted an accomplished live A/V set that brought his Cocoon Crush LP juddering to life with flashing lasers and nightmarish insectoid visuals before climaxing with what sounded like a roughed-up re-imagining of Theme from Q. Immediately after, Helena Hauff provided one of the Bits’ stand-out sets, closing out the night with a characteristically devastating set of punishing EBM-inflected techno.
Stationed back at the biggest stages on Sunday and Spanish superstar Rosaliá has the biggest crowd of the weekend utterly in her thrall. Speaking in Catalonian for the ease of the Barcelona audience, she spins out a capella verses to the almost silent spectators who strain to catch every word. Directly after on the other end of the field, Solange appears. She runs through her genre-pushing R&B tunes, including a dreamy version of Cranes in the Sky backed by her elegant, monochrome-clad dancers.
Primavera is big both in scale and in ambition (there’s already a Primavera Porto and Primavera Benidorm too). In fact, it’s set to get even bigger – the festival series announced over the weekend that it’ll be expanding to LA in 2020. If they’re able to pull off the blockbuster madness that they have in Barcelona this year across the Atlantic, it’s looking like there will be many more Primas springing up across the globe. ¡Viva Primavera!