In a panel recorded on-site by Radio Primavera next to the main event the host tried to start a discussion about how fans always tend to debate the line-up of the big Primavera Sound festival following its announcement. Well, I surely didn’t know about this as there’s simply no foundation for a proper debate considering the very strong line-up the Barcelona event always unravels every year. Turns out the actual debate is more a luxury one á la ‘Why are Beach House placed behind The War On Drugs in the line-up order?’ Because honestly: There’s not much to talk about when it comes to this festival line-up and while the majority tends to hyperventilate over Coachella every year I always found Primavera Sound’s musical selection way more attractive. There’s no useless headliner discussion, just a really well-thought and compiled line-up, even beyond the upper rows of the poster. I don’t know how they do it (a closer look at ticket prices and sponsors might answer that a bit) but they do it pretty well and the same goes for its companion indoor event – the Primavera Club.
When I was invited to attend the 2018 edition of Primavera Club I only knew a few names from the fifty acts who performed mostly at the Apolo centre from October 26 to 28. And that means something considering the fact that it’s my daily ‘duty’ to look for hot new music. Yes, I obviously knew about Snail Mail, Stella Donnelly, Hop Along and I also enjoyed the latest album by Serpentwithfeet but apart from that the names on the bill didn’t ring a bell which isn’t automatically a bad thing. And from the beginning right to the end of my short stay there was an overall sense of how good those musical choices actually were. Much more than its big companion event Primavera Club is a festival that encourages curiosity, discovery and immersion. None of the artists I experienced on stage seemed to have been specifically picked because of a certain commercial approach but simply because of their artistic quality and often also progressive nature. Irish songwriter Hilary Woods was a perfectly example for that as she quickly turned the hall of the Apolo into Twin Peaks’ famous Road House on Friday night, introducing her Lynchian and reduced goth folk to an attentive audience. It was a musical experience you usually don’t get at many smaller club festivals.
The rest of the line-up followed that path with surprises and unexpected musical twists basically waiting around every corner. Alaskalaska delivered twisted indie rock with an extra saxophone added while Gnod unravelled really hard alternative rock monsters on stage. But then on the hand they were followed by Norwegian indie pop sweetheart Boy Pablo whose tempting feel-good-tunes couldn’t be further away from what Hilary Woods delivered on the same stage only a few hours earlier. He was followed by British rap shootingstar Jimothy Lacoste who delivered an absurd yet highly entertaining power performance that makes you constantly ask whether he takes this whole thing seriously or just fools the audience. In-between Louder Than Death, a new punk band founded by Canadian psychedelic guru King Khan delivered a highly energetic ‘back to basics’ performance that channelled the Ramones more than once. So many different musical impressions, all within one night. Pretty Wow.
The next days made sure that the first night wasn’t a lucky shot as the high level of diversity and quality remained intact. Okay Kaya form Norway was another outstanding surprise that once again confirmed NBHAP’s golden in-house rule ‘If Austin Maloney recommends you something it’s going to be good’. Kaya Wilkins and her alter ego brought odd yet really fascinating minimalism to the stage, delivering bittersweet little pop gems that often came with a dark twist and lyrics like ‘Baby you’re so baby, but I don’t want your baby.’ It was mesmerizing, hypnotizing and partly felt like nothing I’ve ever seen before. And that means something after almost twenty years of attending concerts. Australian indie music institution Jen Cloher and her tender acoustic performance earlier on Saturday once again underlined her unique ability to tell stories in a highly interesting way (whether its in her songs or outside of them). Other highlights I didn’t see coming was the hazy dream pop of Crumb, the raw energy of Hop Along, the Turkish psychedelia madness of Altin Gün and the aggressive rap of Baltimore’s Jpegmafia whose performance partly even reached Death Grips level. From beauty to brutality – there was room for almost every emotional reaction at Primavera Club and that’s probably its biggest strength.
The Barcelona audience also acknowledged that and it was really nice to see a crowd that primarily attended the event for the love of good music and not for holding one great drunken party (which it sill was, especially during the night’s final shows). Much more than Primavera Sound its little sister is a festival from music lovers for music lovers who like to discover new sounds, interesting performances and the joy of music beyond strict genre limitations. It partly even reignited my love for live shows and smaller gigs as it naturally took me out of my comfort zone and made me enjoy and explore artists I usually wouldn’t pay attention to. So, if you feel the same way and happen to be in town in late October I highly recommend you to pay this one a visit. And if you prefer the bigger one in May I can only encourage you to give those artists in the line-up rows at the bottom of the poster also a bit more attention. It will definitely be worth it.