It’s starting to be too common: no matter how warm and sunny it is in the week leading up to the festival, NOS Primavera Sound (NPS) is doomed to be ruined by at least one day of rain. The first day did not look promising after the announcement of the passage of depression Miguel (no, not the rnb star who performed there a couple of years ago) through the north of Portugal. Flights were cancelled, Ama Lou and Peggy Gou could not reach Porto in time to perform, strong winds and rain showers threatened to turn Parque da Cidade into a muddy mess, the gates were opened almost an hour later than it was scheduled.
It doesn’t matter how conservative or liberal you are: people are naturally resistant to change, especially if the previous form of what’s changing was so dear to them. We get it: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Judging by the tone and content of most comments we can find online about this year’s Primavera lineup, both in Porto and Barcelona, folks ain’t happy about “the new normal”. Yes, some of the biggest pop artists in the planet have claimed most of the spots with the big font in it. Yes, there’s a shortage of loud, extreme music we often found at the long gone ATP stage, and every year there are less and less historical, cult indie rock bands reforming for a Primavera performance. But, other than that – tiny specks on a lineup of over 120 bands in Barcelona and over 60 in Porto – has it really changed that much? Is the Primavera DNA gone? (Was there really a “Primavera DNA” to begin with?)
On its fourth year in Porto, NOS Primavera Sound has set a record attendance of 77 thousand people who passed through the Parque da Cidade during the 3 days of the festival, including a sold out Friday session, with the likes of Antony, Patti Smith and Belle and Sebastian headlining. As usual, the quality of the acts built on a crescendo, with Saturday night ending on a bang, making up for a weak first day (please make it a full festival day next year – only the two main stages were opened, along with the Pitchfork stage just for Patti Smith’s acoustic/spoken word performance that ended up not being an acoustic/spoken word performance at all) although, to be honest, it went better than last year’s.
Traffic jams meant we missed the unmissable Bruno Pernadas concert and arrived just in time for the second half of the Cinerama gig. David Gedge’s least known act provided not much more than a nice soundtrack for exploring the beautiful, green, and still uncrowded festival grounds: a scenic paradise right in the border between the city and the sea that would be a perfect setting for a festival if not for the chilling climate the ocean provides us with during the night. But we would never trade our warm sweaters for the sight of tarmac or concrete everywhere we looked.
Right after Cinerama, Mikal Cronin made anice move, trying to win the audience over by playing songs off the excellent MCII and not his (weaker) latest album MCIII. The live show lacked spark, though: “Weight”, “Shout It Out” or “Am I Wrong” are the definition of crowdpleasers, but they not only weren’t improved from the studio versions, they didn’t sound as good as on the record. His pop punk/garagy tunes may be suited for a late sunny afternoon, but it didn’t work out this time.
Mac DeMarco. Well, what can I say. The dinner was nice, as always. NOS Primavera Sound has the best food stands of all music festivals I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to quite a few. This year there were 0 chain fast food stands available, which lead to people having very few options besides trying traditional Porto dishes and sandwiches prepared by some of the nicest restaurants in town (Conga’s bifanas, Lado B’s francesinhas and, of course, Guedes’ pernil). The only festival I’ve been where dinner time needs his own slot on the timetable just like any band.
FKA Twigs. Such overproduced and carefully crafted songs, regularly accompanied by visual stimuli (check out her music videos) need more visuals when translated to a stage environment; they ask an experience instead of a regular concert. Twigs’ voice is stellar live, but her music is clearly unsuited for daytime in a festival – probably unsuited for a stage at all, but we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.
Interpol. [There are more people clapping on that backdrop than when they first left the stage. Poor guys.] Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]
Interpol. Or the shadow of the amazing band Interpol once was. Paul Banks’ 2015 voice is frankly below average, and, even with a competent band behind him, he managed to ruin a show with an almost impeccable setlist (maybe better than the first two times I saw them back in 2007). Sure, timeless classics like “Take You On A Cruise”, “Slow Hands”, “PDA” were sung by many old fans, “The New” and “Pioneer to the Falls” are still two of the best songs of the 00s, but show opener “Say Hello to the Angels”, “Evil” or “Leif Eriksen”, in the early stages of the concert, were thrashed by Banks’ flameless voice. Once they were done with the weaker El Pintor songs the show got slightly better, but the least asked for encore I’ve ever seen in a festival setting (seriously, it was depressing) was a complete disaster: “Untitled” is probably the weakest song off the first two albums, “Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down” was never interesting live and I had to walk off the concert in the middle of the show closer “All the Rage Back Home”. You simply don’t put a close on your “greatest hits” concert, made to appeal to people who loved you ten years ago, with a song from your uninteresting last record. Interpol, please go back to room 2005 and throw the key off the balcony. Rest in peace, like my memories of them will.
The Juan Maclean. Speaking of the mid-to-late-00s, The Juan Maclean sound like they never quitted that era. Electropop with female vocals? Ok, nothing new to see here. They certainly aren’t the most interesting band on Earth, but at least they seemed to be enjoying themselves on the stage – and so were everyone around us by the middle of the concert, especially those drug-fuelled tourists right next to the drinks stand on the right side of the Superbock stage. All in all, a very fun way to make everyone forget about the disaster witnessed just a few minutes ago.
But the only truly magical moment of the night came from Caribou. For about a hour and a half, Dan Snaith and the rest of the crew took care of us all. Putting his last album Our Love on center stage, starting with ”Our Love” and the fabulous “Mars”, the result was an unforgettable aural and visual show – admittingly with some least interesting building-up moments mid-concert that, although technically incredible, felt somewhat out of place on a late night show – that ended on ecstasy with a wonderful sequence that included Swim’s “Jamelia”, “Odessa”, the magnificent closer “Sun” and last years’s most infectuous tune, “Can’t Do Without You”.