This year, as we’ve come to expect, Barcelona’s annual Primavera Sound boasts arguably the finest music festival lineup in the world. For its fifteenth installment, which begins with scattered performances Tuesday and Wednesday and kicks off in earnest this Thursday, the fest has assembled an embarrassment of riches that begins up at the top of the poster — LCD Soundsystem! PJ Harvey! Air! Tame Impala! Brian Wilson! Radiohead and Sigur Rós! — and continues all the way to the bottom. From rising stars (Julien Baker, Car Seat Headrest, Kamasi Washington, Vince Staples, Steve Gunn, Shura) to trusty veterans (Ty Segall, Freddie Gibbs, Beach House, Dungen, Pusha T) to the first Avalanches live show in almost a decade, this year’s assortment of performers portends a music festival where the excitement never lulls.
One result of such a stacked bill is excruciating schedule conflicts all weekend long. But the overabundance of awesome music also means that if you’re not feeling one of the festival’s many superstar performers, there’s almost certainly something special happening elsewhere at Parc del Fòrum at any given moment, from late afternoon almost to the break of dawn. Below, we’ve spotlighted a handful of lesser-known acts we expect to blow Primavera-goers away this weekend.
Wish LCD Soundsystem had stayed broken up? Try Beach Slang.
The reunited LCD Soundsystem will have only played six times when they ascend the Heineken stage just after 1AM on Thursday night (including a special Primavera-sponsored club show Tuesday night in Barcelona). But if you haven’t been swept up in the euphoria around James Murphy getting the band back together, consider seeing a group who recently almost broke up. Beach Slang are one of the world’s most fiercely beloved rock bands, commanding passionate devotion among emo fans and Replacements-style beer-punk zealots alike. They’re sure to electrify all comers when they take the Pitchfork stage Thursday at 1:15AM. (Note: they’re also playing an early set Thursday: 4:25PM at the Firestone stage.) And given how close they came to calling it quits last month, it might be wise to see them when you get the chance.
Not a fan of Tame Impala’s sprawling psych-pop? Go for John Carpenter or Protomartyr.
In recent years, Tame Impala have become one of the world’s most reliable festival acts and arguably the world’s most important rock band. They’ll have the chance to prove it Thursday at 11:30PM on the H&M stage. But if you’re one of the people who “couldn’t give two shits,” Primavera is serving up two excellent alternatives. Legendary horror film composer John Carpenter will play his first-ever live show Thursday at 11:50PM on the Primavera stage, while Detroit post-punk upstarts Protomartyr will demonstrate their road-tested powers Thursday at 11:45PM on the Pitchfork stage.
Hudson Mohawke not your idea of a pre-dawn rager? Rip with White Reaper instead.
Hudson Mohawke is one of the most inventive producers on the edge of hip-hop and EDM, and he’s known to slip unreleased tracks from collaborators like Kanye West into his DJ sets. The idea of dancing at 4:10AM on a Thursday with HudMo on the decks is basically a European music festival fantasy come to life. On the other hand, White Reaper are one of the most exciting young rock bands alive, so although the crowd they attract to the Adidas Originals stage at 4:05AM Thursday will likely be smaller than HudMo’s, those lucky few may well walk away with a new favorite band. (Note: White Reaper also play 6PM Thursday at the Ray-Ban Unplugged stage.)
Looking for something softer than Titus Andronicus? Check out Moses Sumney.
Few experiences compare to seeing Titus Andronicus at a music festival. Patrick Stickles writes anthems for outcasts and margin-dwellers, but get a field full of them together and hoo boy. They’re charging onto the H&M stage at 7:05PM Friday night, which is quite early by Primavera Sound standards. Those hoping to ease into their evening instead should check out the gifted young LA singer-songwriter Moses Sumney, who’ll play the Pitchfork stage at 7PM.
Enjoy an abundance of Radiohead counter-programming with Dinosaur Jr., Jay Rock, Tortoise, Royal Headache, and Shellac.
Radiohead is the headliner of headliners, literally the name above all names. But the Primavera people must recognize that Thom Yorke’s band has a lot of skeptics out there too — either that or they knew they had to schedule some heavyweight competition to make sure people showed up at the other stages. Whatever the reason, the quality of the artists performing opposite Radiohead is astounding: First, choose between alt-rock legends Dinosaur Jr. (10:15PM, Ray-Ban stage) and TDE spitter Jay Rock (10:15PM, Pitchfork stage). After those guys wrap up, you can opt for post-rock luminaries Tortoise (11:25PM, Primavera stage), Australian punk powerhouse Royal Headache (11:35PM, Pitchfork stage), or Steve Albini’s ferocious and minimal Shellac. It’s arguably the best two-hour run of the whole festival, even without Radiohead factored in.
Not buying the Avalanches hype? Bow to Evian Christ.
Hype for the Avalanches reunion is spiraling out of control, so it’s hard to imagine passing up the the elusive Melbourne production crew’s first performance since 2007 (and first live appearance of any kind since a 2011 DJ gig). That’s going down Friday at 2:50AM on the Ray-Ban stage. But surely somebody at Primavera would rather be losing their mind to visionary producer Evian Christ’s concurrent DJ set beginning at 2:30AM on the Pitchfork stage.
Looking for something more transgressive than Brian Wilson? Meet Jenny Hval.
Brian Wilson is almost certainly the most famous musician on this year’s Primavera lineup, and he’s performing his masterpiece — the Beach Boys’ massively influential Pet Sounds — in full at 8PM Saturday on the Heineken stage. It’s sure to be a momentous occasion, one that will likely never happen again once Wilson wraps up this current 50th anniversary tour. Yet maybe you’re the type who feels like the Beach Boys are a little, I don’t know, quaint? Maybe you’re looking for youth and danger and sex and intellect and showmanship? Then perhaps Jenny Hval is your gal. Her live shows are already legendary, and her discography is just as fearless and thought-provoking. She’ll be on the Pitchfork stage at 8:30PM Saturday.
Worried Sigur Rós will put you to sleep? Stay awake with Chairlift, Action Bronson, Julia Holter, Parquet Courts, and Unsane.
Sigur Rós are one of my favorite bands, but I must admit that the emotive post-rock OGs’ midnight Saturday set on the H&M stage could lead to some premature drowsiness among festival-goers. Fear not, though: Primavera has assembled plentiful options to keep your pulse pounding during that time slot. Chairlift’s effervescent live show is nearly as underrated as their new album Moth, and their 11:30PM set on the Pitchfork stage will still be going strong when Sigur Rós get cooking. Meanwhile, Action Bronson will bring his buoyant persona to the Primavera stage at 11:45PM. And if you want to pass through various states of intensity, stroll from the graceful, undefinable Julia Holter (12:50AM, Ray-Ban stage) to the knotty classicist indie rock of Parquet Courts (1AM, Pitchfork stage) to the aggressive skree of noise-rock pioneers Unsane (12:45AM, Adidas Originals stage).