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?)
One of the worst nightmares of a music festival – especially one that boasts as one of its highlights the stunning greenery of the park where its grounds are located – is having twelve hours of non-stop rain as its headliner. Saturday, June 9th, the third and last day of a sold-out NOS Primavera Sound, was blessed with a late autumnal weather that might have ruined the day for some, but ultimately enhanced the experience for most. We’re talking about the stoic vast majority of festival goers who endured the most annoying of elements for what it seemed like forever to witness a rare local apparition of the biggest headliner of the circuit, one of the least divisive big acts of the scene, the constant top performer while most big names go through phases.
It’s that time of the year again! The seventh edition of the Porto edition of the Primavera Sound festival brings along the seventh edition of our printable timetables you all know and love, and, with it, our seventh preview of the lineup.
Meanwhile, we have also published our usual headliner-free Primavera Spotify playlist (check the end of the post) so you can check out some of the smaller names on the lineup that deserve our seal of approval. We tried to achieve a balance between local artists, songwriters, indie pop/rock, electronica and stuff you cannot really fit in a single basket. Some have been around for a while (Shellac, Wolf Parade, The Twilight Sad…), others are quickly establishing themselves as household names on their genres (Waxahatchee, Thundercat, Amen Dunes…) while others are still giving their first steps on festival lineups (DJ Lycox, Jay Som, Fogo Fogo…). All aboard.
Thursday, June 7th
First day usually means people are not coming to the festival early because they’re either working or being a tourist in downtown Porto and we obviously cannot blame anyone who decides to do something else in the limited time they have in such a beautiful town you don’t see every day. But, as we will see, this year, some of the most interesting acts play fairly early, starting with Fogo Fogo (SEAT stage, 17:30) paying homage to Cape Verdean funaná, followed by the unique songwriting of Waxahatchee (NOS stage, 18:20) and the classic indie rock of the Scottish band The Twilight Sad (SEAT, 19:15). Later on, after headliners Father John Misty and Lorde, Lisbon dance outfit Moullinex (Super Bock stage, 23:20) opens the dance floor of a very energetic last third of the day.
Friday, June 8th
Again, there’s way too much stuff to see right from the start: local stoner mammoths Black Bombaim (Super Bock, 17:00) give way to one of the finest songwriters on the festival this year. Amen Dunes (SEAT, 18:00) is back with an unmissable new record, and while you’re still cherishing what you’ve just seen, Zeal & Ardor (Super Bock, 18:50) will provide a challenge even for those who thought they’ve seen it all. There’s nothing wrong with mixing gospel and blues with noisy metal. Then, even though the overlapping acts are strong, don’t even think about missing the reason why we all sign up for this, the annual celebration of SHELLAC OF NORTH AMERICA (Super Bock, 21:00). Then, as the night starts to cool off, you can be sure you won’t feel cold dancing to the sweet kuduro-ish tunes of DJ Lycox (Bits stage, 23:00) in the new electronic stage of the festival, before immersing yourself in the world of Thundercat (Pitchfork stage, 23:30), the coolest and grooviest bass guitar player around.
Saturday, June 9th
You don’t need to understand Portuguese to appreciate the pop melodies of Luís Severo (SEAT, 17:00). Then stick around for Aussie indie rockers (with a touch of twang) Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (SEAT, 18:00), the nightmare of anyone that makes printable festival timetables and has to adjust column sizes to adapt to long band names. Young songwriters Vagabon (Pitchfork, 19:00) and Jay Som (Pitchfork, 22:00) also make their first appearance in Portugal and are not to be missed, but the latter has a mountain to climb, playing at the same time headliner Nick Cave takes the stage and at the same time Wolf Parade (SEAT, 21:45) finally play their debut show in the peninsula, thirteen years after the seminal Apologies to the Queen Mary. It’s a tough call, but we’re sorry, Nick. And good luck trying to choose between The War on Drugs and Nils Frahm later on. We’ll just leave you with a small playlist with a few songs you should listen to.
Oh my brothers and oh my other comrades… six years of NOS Primavera Sound, six years we’ve left the Parque da Cidade hungry for more. After another sold out edition, we’re wondering if the festival needs to grow a bit more. And the answer is “no it doesn’t”. We love it just the way it is: a smaller, familiar festival that keeps us from going to Barcelona because we simply don’t need it anymore, even after those two sweet, sweet editions we were a part of (’09 and ‘10).
10. HAMILTON LEITHAUSER
After repeated listens of Leithauser’s debut record (with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam), I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, we couldn’t help but think “A 1000 Times” was a one hit wonder. Things are shaken up a bit live, but the single still stands strong as the major highlight, a contender for one of the best moments of the whole festival, with Leithauser screaming his heart out during the verses.
9. THE GROWLERS
Half an hour of The Growlers’ gig was enough to grant them a spot on our top ten. In the end, all you need is a great song – and they’ve delivered it in the form of “Love Test”, off hit record Chinese Fountain. The Growlers have grown from the garage scene and matured well enough to grant them a safe spot at a festival’s major stage, but they remain young at heart. Wish we could have stayed for “Going Gets Tough” later in the set, but some band was calling our names in a stage nearby… (Photo: Miguel Oliveira / pointandshoot.pt)
8. SLEAFORD MODS
The Nottingham duo sounded a bit less abrasive than in the past, but they’re still what you should look for in a festival stage if you want a good time. Props to Andrew Fearn for keeping the best job ever (traveling the world, hitting the ‘play’ button every now and then and bobbing his head while holding a 50cl can of beer, and drinking it). (Photo: Hugo Lima / nosprimaverasound.com)
7. SAMUEL ÚRIA
Our favorite Portuguese songwriter of the 21st century had the honor to open NOS Primavera Sound 2017 and of course he was up to the task. It was also the first time in six years that we’ve seen someone dance in the first concert of the festival, when people are usually busy seeing friends they rarely see during the rest of the year and having the first beers while there’s barely any queuing. “É Preciso Que Eu Diminua”, from his latest record, and old favorite “Teimoso” did the trick.
6. JULIEN BAKER
Playing simultaneously with the festival’s headliner, especially since the headliner is also a fellow singer-songwriter, is a tough job. Still, the few hundreds who (rightfully so) thought this kind of music is best enjoyable in a small crowd, close to the stage, and not in the middle of 20-something thousand people were rewarded with what was probably the best solo delivery of this festival. The young Julien Baker, alone at the microphone, presented new songs (“Distant Solar Systems”, “Funeral Pyre”) from her second record, her yet unnamed Matador debut that should be due later this year. We have, indeed, witnessed the beginning of something important. And beautiful.
Like The Growlers an hour before, Mitski was hurt (well, not literally, just our appreciation of her gig) by the fact that our annual celebration with a certain Chicago trio did not allow us to be there at 9pm sharp. Still, our swift run to the Pitchfork stage has rewarded us with the chance to witness her playing the song that turned us on to her music, Bury Me at Makeout Creek’s “First Love / Late Spring”. However, the highlight of her show had to be the closer “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars”. Who does not relate to the words “I work better under a deadline”?
4. WEYES BLOOD
Her birthday wasn’t until one hour later, but in the end it was Natalie Mering who gave us a present instead. Playing most of Front Row Seat to Earth, an album we unfortunately haven’t seen her play before – and with a full band – this was one of our most awaited shows and we weren’t disappointed. And, on top of her having the most beautiful voice of the whole festival, the band delivered a pretty decent version of Can’s “Vitamin C”.
In an edition of the festival where we ended up seeing mostly “quieter” acts, Japandroids – along with our favorite band, read along… – was one of the exceptions to the rule. It’s difficult to stand still while the Canadians are on stage, throwing us punches left and right. (Photo: Miguel Oliveira / pointandshoot.pt)
2. NIKKI LANE
Playing for an understandably small audience given the options, the Highway Queen still deserved a bigger crowd. Mostly playing songs from her latest album (“700,000 Rednecks”, “Send the Sun”, “Highway Queen”, “Jackpot”), our favorite country princess/queen/just give her a crown already ended things in style with a great version of Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”. (Photo: Miguel Oliveira / pointandshoot.pt)
1. SHELLAC OF NORTH AMERICA
What did you expect? My seventh Shellac show in eight Primaveras (two in Barcelona, six in Porto), although not my favorite from the bunch – 2016 was unreal – was indeed the best of the 2017 edition. Back in the ATP meadow, and earlier than ever (8:30), they didn’t even need two of their biggest classics (“The End of Radio” and “Prayer to God” were absent from the setlist) to set the crowd ablaze. New crowd favorite “Wingwalker” was as fun as ever, “Steady as She Goes”, “My Black Ass” and “Squirrel Song” provided the most headbanging fodder and, by the time the show ended, most people would be perfectly fine with an additional half hour. Yes, it’s true: year after year, Shellac is still the best rock band you can see in a stage. (Photo: Hugo Lima / nosprimaverasound.com)