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.
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)
We know it’s hard to go to the festival this early, especially when the only artist playing that early is a Portuguese singer-songwriter singing in a language you probably don’t understand. But really, give him a shot: Samuel Úria (17:00, Super Bock stage) is probably our favorite dude-with-a-guitar-singing-in-Portuguese. This should have been Grandaddy’s night, but misfortune knocked at their door and we’ll get Arab Strap instead (21:10, Super Bock). Recently reunited after a 10-year hiatus, the Scottish influent duo might look oddly placed between Miguel’s adventurous R&B (20:00, NOS) and Run the Jewels’ (22:20, NOS) raucous hip hop set, but hey, this is Primavera.
FRIDAY, JUNE 9
Painful decisions are to be made early in the day, with Whitney **(18:50, Super Bock) and **Royal Trux (19:00, Palco., or “the stage formerly known as ATP”) fighting for your attention. Last year’s _Light Upon the Lake _and their recent new single “You’ve Got a Woman” brought Whitney to the spotlight and were one of our highlights at last years’ Vodafone Paredes de Coura Festival. If they bring the full band to Porto it will be difficult to not see at least part of their show, but the prospect of witnessing Royal Trux’s reunion show swings the pendulum on the other direction. Last year, Neil Hagerty walked all over whoever was seeing him at the same stage, and this year he brings his lifelong partner Jennifer Herrema along. Well, at least **Angel Olsen **(19:50, NOS), who needs no introduction (seriously, she doesn’t – this is usually what people say when they’re too lazy to write anything substantial about an artist, but she really doesn’t) has no opposition, so I guess we’ll all be there, right?
Same with the first 30min of Sleaford Mods (20:30, Palco.), we’re guessing. Their music is definitely not for everyone, but then again most music isn’t. Just one day after the British election, expect the Nottingham working class heroes to be extra angry while spitting their verses. We were similarly angry when we realized two of our favorite acts in the whole festival, Nikki Lane (21:00, Pitchfork) and Teenage Fanclub (21:00, Super Bock) are clashing. Life isn’t fair. Country darling Nikki Lane has just released her third solo album, Highway Queen, and has a mountain to climb trying to win over a crowd that usually disregards country music as food for hillbillies’ ears. Teenage Fanclub, lords of British indie rock, have been touring relentlessly after releasing one of the finest albums of their almost 3 decades long career, Here. The toughest choice of the year.
And here’s to hoping we can hear Julien Baker (22:30, Pitchfork) during Swans’ set a few metres away (22:00, Palco.). The young songwriter from Memphis is set for indie stardom, releasing her sophomore record later this year on Matador, and faces fierce opposition, not only from Swans (on their last tour, at least with this lineup) but from bearded-folky-guy-turned-glitchy-weirdo Bon Iver. Later on, Hamilton Leithauser (00:00, Pitchfork) returns to Primavera without his Walkmen and the party goes on with King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard (01:00, Palco.) and Nicolas Jaar (01:00, NOS) splitting the audience in half: rockers to the left, dancers to the right.
SATURDAY, JUNE 10
The Growlers’ (19:50, NOS) make some of the catchiest songs of modern rock and roll, and their latest record, produced by the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, is filled to the brink with such tracks. Expect fun. Then, it’s time for the yearly pilgrimage to wherever Shellac are playing (20:30, Palco.). This year, they play unusually early, but maybe that’s a good thing – they’re back to the stage where they originally played every year. Steve Albini, Bob Weston and Todd Trainer will – of course – once again provide us with the best show of the festival. I’m pretty sure we wrote the same exact thing last year.
Mitski (21:00, Pitchfork) is not exactly a good kept secret anymore, with her Dead Oceans-released latest album, Puberty 2, making her reach new heights. She will be followed by another songwriter at the top of her career, **Weyes Blood **(22:30, Pitchfork). _Front Row Seat to Earth _was one of our favorite records of 2016. Like Julien Baker the night before, she’s playing simultaneously with two of the most popular artists in the festival, but will have no trouble catching the attention of whoever passes casually through that stage.
Towards the end of the festival we switch to full-on party mode, with Canadian garage rock duo Japandroids (23:20, Super Bock) warming up to Aphex Twin (00:30, NOS)’s clusterfuck of a set (preview here) and The Black Angels (01:00, Palco.)’s psychedelic rock. And while we’re still longing for another of those DJ Coco sets at closing time that (again) won’t happen this year, there’s still a lot of dance to be had until the sun comes up for the last time.