Festivals

Staged Haze Takes Primavera Sound LA ’22: Our Recap

Way back in 2001, Primavera Sound had its inaugural festival, held on just one single day in the Poble Espanyol: an open-air museum. The debut event attracted nearly 10,000 fans, likely due to the festival’s concept that had existed across a series of club nights across Barcelona.

As the years go by, the festival continued to grow rapidly, eventually expanding from one day, to two, to three, moving to a larger location, and even adding several shows across various city venues leading up to the weekend festival.

In 2010, 100,000 people attended the festival to see artists like Pet Shop Boys, Pixies, The xx, Beach House, and more. Just seven years later, over 200,000 visitors attended at the 2017 edition.

As the critique of gender-imbalanced lineups continue to dominate the conversation in regards to music festivals, Primavera was one of the first to promise delivering a 50/50 gender split by 2022, in accordance with the PRS For Music’s ‘Keychange’ initiative.

US fans have been anxiously anticipating the day that Primavera Sound hit America ever since its announcement back in 2019 (and postponed due to that one pandemic). The inaugural festival is up against stiff competition in an incredibly competitive market for live music: another festival happened to take place this past weekend as well (also its inaugural year), just a couple hours southwest on the beach.

But Primavera’s secret weapon is its incredibly unique, nuanced, and eclectic lineup of performers, including “a firm intention of integrating itself into the cultural scene of Los Angeles” and aiming to “reach out to the inspiring Latino community, represented from north to south,” stated in a press release for the festival.

With just three stages and a small DJ area, Primavera LA’s home in the LA State Historic State Park is nestled in quite nicely: small enough for easy navigation, large enough to ensure the sounds from each stage don’t bleed into each other. For our Chicago-based readers (and since we got our start as Chicago-based publication), it’s most comparable to Pitchfork Music Festival in terms of size and atmosphere.

Photos by Pooneh Ghana, Miranda McDonald, Ismael Quintanilla III (clockwise, starting w/ top left)

For us who’ve also attended major festivals like Coachella or Lollapalooza, we’re sure you understand the frustrations of lengthy lines for food, water, and the bathroom: Primavera’s ample selection of all three made it seamless to grab a bite or refill your water without the stress of waiting in long lines and worrying about missing the start of your next set.

Read on to check out our highlights from the weekend. All photos by me unless stated otherwise.

Day One:

Pinkpantheress

If you’d like to get an inside look at what a Gen Z’s brain looks like, I direct you to see a performance by pinkpantheress. The 21-year-old waltzed onstage with a small handbag on her arm (ironically, I did see Charli XCX do something similar a few days ago at one of her recent performances), but not so ironically because I’d venture to assume that both artists have massively overlapping fanbases. I personally don’t think I’ve ever seen a musician onstage with a purse as an accessory at the hundreds of sets I’ve been to. Yet another thing to add to my list of things I don’t understand about people younger 3+ years younger than me!

Something especially unique to this festival is that at each stage, there was a designated area for those 21 and under: they were not allowed in the general standing areas of the festival. This was especially prevalent at Pinkpantheress’ set: most of her fans were in fact in the 21 and under section. 

It’s glaringly obvious that as popular music continues to evolve, so do the performances. There was nothing necessarily “wrong” with the 21-year-old’s set, whose real name is Vicky Walter, it just didn’t really click for me as an attendee. It felt a tad rushed and under-rehearsed, no real sense of excitement or legitimacy as a performer (or the desire to be one) was palpable. But I just continue to age out of the core demographic of what’s popular, so what do I know, really?

Clairo

Clairo by Ismael Quintanilla III

Clairo delighted fans with a performance of the 2017 track “Flaming Hot Cheetos,” which is a song they rarely play anymore, according to her intro of the song.

Giveon

Giveon’s sunset set time pulled a massive crowd to the main stage on Friday night and created a level of screams that rivaled Beatlemania.

As many of you probably know, Mitski has been releasing music for over ten years at this point: her first album, Lush, dropped in January 2012—and I haven’t even listened to the album. Fast forward to 2022, and she’s now released a whopping six albums, toured the world, and supported artists like Lorde and Harry Styles on tour. 

I guess it was silly for me to be surprised at the number of people in her audience that were seemingly under 18-years-old: many chaperoned with parents. While I first scratched my head at this, I realized pretty quickly that Mitski has developed a massive teenage audience since her 2018 single “Nobody” went viral on TikTok last year, resulting in a whopping 2.5 million user-generated videos. TikToks with the tag #Mitski have been viewed 1.5 billion times. 

So basically, the days of Mitski headlining shows in venues of 800 people and below are far behind us: and Mitski has become her own version of a popstar thanks to the internet (and her talent, of course). This was evident due to the hyperactive screams that engulfed me at the start of her set this past Friday, leading up directly to Lorde’s headlining performance to close out the evening. Decked in her usual kneepads and an oversized, collared silk shirt and biker shorts (very pajama chic of her), Mitski did what she does best: she gave us a damn show.

Complete with interpretive dance moves, props, and very little banter in between songs (the longest she spoke to the audience was about halfway through her set when she asked a section of the crowd to take several steps back to avoid crushing each other), Mitski’s mark on the weekend felt very apparent: it felt more like a night at the theatre than an hour-long rock show (in the best way possible). Mitski seems so unbelievably in her element onstage, paying homage to her colorful discography (fans seemed particularly tickled to hear “Drunk Walk Home” and “I Will,”) it was fascinating to see the level of fan dedication from start to end, singing along every word from the “indiest” of her indie songs to the most mainstream, obviously garnering a massive crowd reaction during “Nobody,” which she opted to play smack dab in the middle of the set, closing with “A Pearl” instead.

An amazing thing about live music, and probably what I love about the experience the most, is the feeling that comes alive between yourself and the strangers around you, and the immediate bond you feel seeing an artist whose music is meaningful to you. Lorde’s closing set on night one of Primavera felt exactly like that: almost like a reunion of old friends coming together to celebrate the soundtrack that so many of us had playing in the background of poignant life moments. Don’t get me wrong, the crowd was excited for the songs performed off of Lorde’s 2021 album, Solar Power, as well, but there was something different in the air when we heard tracks like “Buzzcut Season” and “Ribs.” 

Though Lorde has been touring Solar Power for several months this year already, this was only her second time performing it at a US festival in 2022, and something about that felt noteworthy to include. This meant that for many of the audience members, it would be their first time hearing songs like “The Path,” “Secrets From A Girl,” and the titular “Solar Power.” The contrast of Lorde performing her earliest work with her newest work was full circle moment as an audience member: and it felt like the majority of the attendees were also having some existential moments, good and bad. That’s the type of feeling I want to have at every show for the rest of my life.

Day Two:

Georgia

Photo by Quinn Tucker

The beauty of music festivals is their ability to help artists find new fans. Each day of Primavera was specifically curated for attendees to discover new artists based on the genre of the headliners. For example, the relationship between Lorde, Mitski, and Clairo is evident (all performed Friday), Saturday’s headliner, Nine Inch Nails, with rock artists like Machine girl, Fontaines D.C., and Surf Curse. But this also shows the relationship between pop girly Georgia, and her experimental dance sound in comparison to Bicep, another headliner on Saturday night.

My question for you and the majority of America is as follows: when will we give Georgia the love and stardom she deserves? Georgia, who is a drummer, record producer, singer, and songwriter, recently opened for HAIM in London. Remember that one? Yeah: Taylor Swift was a special guest. So clearly, Georgia has some American superstar friends in her corner.

Her late-afternoon set started to a small, yet dedicated audience, and eventually grew into something larger as she continued on, and passersby seemed intrigued and wanted in on the secret. With songs like “Started Out,” “Ray Gun,” “About Work The Dancefloor,” and “Live Like We’re Dying,” a collaboration with Mura Masa, Georgia managed to get the crowd up and moving: which wasn’t an easy task, considering her set was during the hottest minutes of the day. Georgia closed out her 50-minute set with her cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” (released way before it had its resurgence, thanks to Stranger Things).

Tierra Whack

It’s easy to enjoy a set from Tierra Whack. The Philadelphia native is funny, quick-witted, and incredibly emotive onstage.

Khruangbin

It’s always a fun game when tasked with trying to describe a band’s sound that well, sounds like multiple different things at once. That’s exactly how I’d describe Houston band Khruangbin. You just have to see them to get it.

Day Three:

Amyl & The Sniffers

Photo by Ismael Quintanilla III

When the mosh pit began to open ten minutes in, I knew it was my time to bow out. But I still heavily enjoyed watching Australian punk rock band Amyl & The Sniffers blow the roof off of the Tecate Alta stage from a safer vantage point.

Girl in Red

Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

Can you imagine performing on the main stage of a festival as a 23-year-old Norwegian woman just a couple hours before a critically acclaimed rock band is set to perform the closing set of the weekend? A band led by a 36-year-old British man? Just think about it. Think about the awkwardness of performing to said band’s core demographic, whose handful of dedicated fans have been riding the barricade to claim their front row spot for the entire day in the sun. OH, and this is their first performance in the Los Angeles since October 2018. Just wanted to throw that in there. 

This is exactly what Marie Ulven, otherwise known as the stage moniker girl in red, had to do on Sunday. I first saw girl in red perform back in Chicago at Lincoln Hall in 2019, a venue that holds about 500 people. Since then, she’s blown up, touring the world pretty consistently and making stops at various festivals around the globe. Her 2021 release if i could make it go quiet featured hits like “Serotonin” and “Midnight Love,” adding to her already impressive catalog of viral hits like “girls,” “bad idea!” and “we fell in love in october,” the latter quickly approaching 500 million streams on Spotify alone. 

Despite the massive crowd that gathered and seemed to stay at her set for its entirety, Marie’s discomfort was known multiple times throughout the set, commenting on people in the front being on their phones and being generally disinterested in her performance. I can certainly understand how this could be challenging, but despite her unease, I thought she delivered a great performance. The 10-song set really did run through her biggest songs, and was an exemplary example of just how many of those she really has. I’m sure she’s still feeling somewhat off after that performance, but I can almost guarantee that she made some new fans in the crowd. 

Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys’ brought out the big guns for their first performance in Los Angeles since 2018. Photos by Pooneh Ghana

It was a sad day when I found out that the two headliners closing out the last night of Primavera were Arctic Monkeys and James Blake: two artists I would definitely like to see full sets from. Luckily, I’ve seen Arctic Monkeys in the past, and I’ve missed several opportunities to see James Blake, so it was a relatively easy (still a sad one) decision to make on whose set I’d spend the most time at. The crowd was pretty small when I got to the Tecate Alta stage to see Blake’s one-hour set: arriving 10 minutes early got us in about the fifth or sixth row in the dead center. 

I’d be lying if I told you that I’m heavily familiar with Blake’s catalog: I’m pretty much obsessed with his 2019 album, Assume Form, and then I know probably about five to ten other songs. Sadly for me, he only played one track from Assume Form (“Mile High”) but I definitely left the set with some new tracks to listen to. The beauty of the set was the dissonance: Blake took us from love songs to sad songs to ten minutes of dance beats to sad songs again to love songs to dance beats again, and I loved the ride. The icing on the cake was his absolute flawless vocals that I was blown away by from start to end, especially during his cover of “Godspeed,” a song by Frank Ocean: the cover went, you guessed it, incredibly viral on TikTok within the last year, so much so that I would believe it to be Blake’s own song. 

Thanks to an incredibly successful first year, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Primavera Sound will be returning to Los Angeles next year.

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