For some North Americans like myself, Primavera Sound has long been the game your cooler older brother plays while you blow snot bubbles from across the pond. 2012 saw the festival expand into Portugal, but the premium lineups the brand had became famous for remained just shy of the continent’s reach. Apparently, the magic year was 2022 and southern California the place. Coasting off of the tail end of a heat wave, the Northern Transmissions team landed in sunny Los Angeles for the jewel of the European festival circuit, the inaugural Primavera Sound LA fest.
The best parts of Primavera are the early evening shows. Artists that would normally headline most bills go on right before dusk to slightly thinner crowds. You can get in close with relative ease and see performances previously reserved for 3000 capacity clubs from 15 feet. I’m admittedly young and wide-eyed in any festival environment, but day one was monstrous in the scope and scale of its lineup, leaving me a bit thrown for a loop.
To kick off our day, PinkPantheress strut out to Americans foaming at the mouth for UK jungle and garage, and she obliged. Her banter was infectious, throwing out cheeky taunts and standing in unity with the under-21 section during “Nineteen.” With the hardest pivot of day, we made our way over to Shellac to see Mr. Albini himself. The trio were as lovingly sardonic as you’d expect, answering rapid fire questions from the crowd while tuning, pantomiming planes, and destroying our collective ear drums. “Wingwalker” might just be my new favorite Shellac song after that performance.
As the southern California sun set, Stereolab mellowed the angst in ways only french vocals and Moog synthesizers can. It was a masterclass in rhythm and vibe, and the legends strictly played the hits. Fifteen minutes of “Refractions in the Plastic Pulse” live is enough to make any young, angry Shellac fan like myself cool the jets, and the set couldn’t have come at any better part of the day.
Thankfully, as our minds had grown foggy post-dinner quesadillas, Mitski went on around 8pm to bring the temperature up again with her expertly choreographed ballads. There were phones galore, but she’s a professional. As always, her vocals were incredible and her stage presence enchanting. After Mitski, we managed to sneak over for the last few songs of the Current Joys set and were rewarded with an amped up Nick Rattigan. You would have been hard pressed to find anybody young or old not pogoing to their drummer’s frantic floor tom hits.
Lorde was obviously the biggest draw of the night, so we made sure not to miss what the main stage had to offer. Framed by a neon circle of light, she ran through the majority of Solar Power along with the biggest hits of my teenage years. The set design was masterful, with Lorde gliding about the rotating columns and rising platforms as she belted out song after song. Our day had reached a triumphant, anthem-filled ending, but one act remained.
Darkside was unlike any show I’ve ever experienced. As someone completely oblivious to the neo-psychedelia of the New York group until Friday, I’ve made it my mission to spread their gospel. A mix of droning backing tracks, fuzzed out roots rock, and blitzing drums, the trio made noises previously foreign to my realm of human experience.
As we packed up and left day one at Los Angeles State Historic Park, it became quite clear how special the next couple of days were going to be.
Kicking things off on day two, Machine Girl set the precedent for crowd control. Leaping from the stage five songs in, vocalist Matt Stephenson continued to steer the mosh pit everywhere he walked, making it all the way to the back fence with his amoeba of fans. The show ran into the start of BEAK>’s set, so we made our way quickly over to the Barcelona stage for the experimental lads (they predictably did not disappoint).
Back on the Tecate Alta stage, Kim Gordon sang up and down 2019’s No Home Record with the swagger only Kim Gordon knows (yes, even on “Paprika Pony”). A legend once and a legend always, Kim is squarely responsible for the headbanging induced pain in my neck this morning. Tierra Whack followed with a set of hits from Whack World and her 2021 trio of EPs. The tracks, graphics, and crowd banter aligned perfectly for one of the rap world’s most unique artists, and the show was truly a blast.
We split our time evenly between Fontaines D.C. and Drain Gang for a taste of both worlds and their fans, and it was undoubtedly the right decision. Fontaines played with the tenacity and bile we’ve come to expect, while Drain Gang had the crowd utterly wrapped around their finger. The casual ethnography involved in flowing between fan subcultures is amplified to beautiful extremes at a festival with so many distinct acts like Primavera.
As the night pushed on, Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails closed day two of Primavera Sound LA with a cover-to-cover showcase of technique and theatrics. The main stage was absolutely buzzing. Trent’s a showman and he did what he does with every headlining opportunity he gets. It was an undeniable finish to a day carefully curated with legacy acts, rising indie artists, and what are probably some of the best smaller stage lineups of any festival under the sun. Here’s to day three!
Words by Chris Burleson