Saturday was Primavera Sound’s final full night of music, and I expected it to be a pleasant comedown after Thursday and Friday’s thrills. Instead, it was arguably the most physically and emotionally stirring stretch of the whole festival. Almost every artist I saw Saturday was some kind of powerhouse, even theoretically placid performers like Brian Wilson and Sigur Rós. Here were my eight favorite sets.
Boredoms Jolt Saturday To Life
WHOOSH TUMBLE SHIMMER BLARE SKRONK SKITTER CLATTER TWINKLE SURGE SCRAPE RATTLE ROLL SHRIEK SHAKE GLIMMER GLOW WALLOP WHACK WAIL EXPAND EXPLODE.
Brian Wilson Emanates Good Vibrations
The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is one of those classic albums I have always appreciated but never loved. So I attended Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds 50th anniversary set expecting to enjoy myself, not be swept away on a delicate wave of euphoria. “My band members, they’re so good!” Wilson exclaimed at one point. He’s right: This crack crew of players brought every little detail of Wilson’s meticulous masterpiece to life, lending a gentle, masterful touch that helped me tap into this stack of classics like never before. There’s a reason this album is so revered, and it goes beyond the instrumental mastery. There’s real power in Wilson’s tender, simplistic lyrics, too: When they got to “God Only Knows,” and I spotted a father holding his baby daughter on his shoulders, and I flashed to images of my own wife and daughter back home, I just about lost it.
Jenny Hval Puts On A Show
When I arrived partway through Jenny Hval’s Pitchfork stage set, I was greeted by Hval, a tuba player, and a keyboard/computer/DJ type, all wearing blonde wigs and nude-colored bodysuits. They were in the midst of an extended performance art excursion that involved Hval acting out some kind of breakdown. As the music gradually intensified, its droning synth and tuba palette joined by a harsh programmed beat, Hval collapsed into mimicked tears, moaning, “Are you crying too?/ All I want to do/ Is to make everybody cry!” As she sat there sobbing, the tuba player came up from behind and clumsily contorted Hval’s wig into an up do. I can’t even begin to unpack what was going on there, but given the nature of Hval’s upcoming Blood Bitch, which views the menstrual cycle as a bond shared by women of all kinds, she might have been satirizing stereotypes about “that time of the month.” Like the best performance art, it cut to my core even if I couldn’t fully grasp its meaning. To paraphrase Will Ferrell’s Kanye-beloved Blades Of Glory quote, whatever it meant, it was provocative. It got the people going.
Deerhunter Throw A Party
I’ve seen Deerhunter a bunch of times, and never has the mood been so overwhelmingly positive as when they strode onto the H&M stage around sunset Saturday night. “I don’t think I need to tell you how much I love Primavera,” said the notoriously volatile Bradford Cox, dressed up in the southern gentleman guise he’s been rocking lately. “Some of the best experiences of my life have been here in Barcelona. It’s gonna be a great night!” It was! An expanded version of Deerhunter played tracks like “Rainwater Cassette Exchange,” “Revival,” and “Breaker” in funky, ebullient fashion, and the arrangement of “Living My Life” that popped up later in the set could work in a Lion King reboot. (That’s not meant as an insult; it was a beautiful arrangement.) When darkness fell, they dipped into the gauzy swoon of “Agorophobia” and “Helicopter,” but even then the good times continued to roll. The only real downer: no “Nothing Ever Happened”!
Pusha T Makes The Most Of His Features
Ever since Clipse collapsed, Pusha T has worked hard to get himself on or near rap’s A-list. And even though his solo material has become progressively more essential, culminating in last year’s excellent Darkest Before Dawn, his only bona fide hits outside of the rap Internet are other artists’ songs — mostly Kanye West posse cuts. So even though tracks like “Numbers On The Boards,” “Untouchable,” and the new “Drug Dealers Anonymous” were as solid as ever, what really got a rise out of the Pitchfork stage audience were “Runaway,” “Mercy,” “I Don’t Like,” and “Move That Dope.” Hopefully soon he’ll have a few universally beloved anthems to call his own, though lord knows his catalog is bursting with would-be hits already.
PJ Harvey Creates A Whirlwind
My colleague Tom Breihan took a stand against PJ Harvey’s recent The Hope Six Demolition Project. He had good reasons for that, but for me, watching Harvey give life to the album’s bleak reportage was stunning. Her band was heavy on brass and strings, and their treatment of the songs was somehow both minimal and ornate, far more stately than the ferocious rock songs the singer made her name on. Harvey herself was a simmering force; her voice was commanding as always, but what stuck with me was her hands — extending forward, covering her face, dramatically streaking through her hair. And when the band got properly revved up for “50 Ft. Queenie,” those arms became a whirlwind. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in their path, but from a safe distance, it was a marvel to behold.
Sigur Rós Overwhelm In The Best Way Possible
When Sigur Rós announced their upcoming theater tour, the one performed by only the three remaining core members, with “new unreleased songs, a new show and maybe some other *new* things,” they noted, “we can only ask you to trust us on this one.” TRUST THEM. I had joked that by scheduling the Icelandic legends at midnight on the last full night of the festival, Primavera Sound was daring us to fall asleep. Nope! They played the very best set of the festival, a breathtaking sensory overload that looked, sounded, and felt like heaven. I’m not sure words can do it justice, but the assortment of classics and the extremely promising new “Óveður” all felt urgent, electric, otherworldly powerful — even the slow, somber passages like mist rising over a glacier. The light show was the best I’ve ever seen, a complex array of tubes and screens that created the sensation of a portal to another, better dimension. And when they built to one of their volcanic climaxes, particularly the apocalyptic grand finale “Popplagid” (aka “Untitled 8″), it was completely overwhelming. When it was all over, I ran away pounding the air and shouting like my team just won the championship.
Ty Segall & The Muggers Burn The Place Down
Most bands would have seemed small and inconsequential after Sigur Ròs, but not Ty Segall’s latest combo. Because of his genre agnosticism and history of lo-fi recording, I always forget how hard Segall’s live show rocks, but hoo boy, every music festival ought to book this guy. In the early hours of Sunday morning, his Muggers were absolutely crushing. Segall was out front in a denim jumpsuit, liberated from guitar duty and therefore free to maniacally prowl the stage, playing hypeman for himself. His antics were amplified by a blitzkrieg of glammed-up hard rock bombast that felt like all the guitars, all the bass, all the drums, all the keyboards, all the vocal harmonies, all the everything.