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Primavera Sound Part 3: The Non-Headlining Artists That Impressed

  • Published in Live

The festival site of Primavera is a marvel.

The Ray-Ban, with its seating like an amphitheater,

The DJ site that can only be reached by bridge.

The Pitchfork and Adidas stages at the bottom of a steep staircase that overlooks the Barcelona coastline beautifully.

The Primavera Stage smack down in the centre of things yet blocking absolutely nothing.

And then we’re not even talking about the large field with the two main stages a bit further off.

But even if you don’t head to that field, there are still some quality acts to be found. One of them starts early at the Primavera stage. Sinkane I’ve seen before, just coming off his album Mars. The vocals on that were a bit aloof, distant, singing over hypnotic guitar lines.

Now, not so much.

The band has turned into a full-fledged band for World Music, taking cues from African rhythms, blues and funk sounds, and a bit of that going to church gospel. Sinkane isn’t even really the main vocalist anymore, having enlisted a woman who, next to having that big voice, also keeps working it, keeps dancing, and also keeps on smiling, to make sure those feel good vibes transcend right into the audience.

The growth isn’t only in terms of band size, but it is also evident when he turns to one of his Mars tracks, ‘Jeeper Creeper’, which already was amazing in its recorded format. Now, live, it still thrives on the same funky rhythm lines, but especially when they slide into the new second part of the song, where the female vocalist gets to work it, the audience witnesses not only a transition within the song, but also from a young artist back then, and a more complete band a good five years on.

Angel Olsen has a way to wrap the audience around her finger.

To someone shouting “We love you”, she, with a Steel Magnolias wit, asks when she and the audience are getting married.

There’s something loveable and strong about her at the same time.

The same goes for her vocals and songs, which combine the vulnerable with a palpable strength. She makes sure all that is in place when she sings a number of songs from her well-received album Woman, which came out last year, ending with the titular track.

Dan Boeckner leaves it all out on the battlefield.

Whether it be with Handsome Furs, with Wolf Parade, or, as on this year’s Primavera, with Operators. Him, someone behind synths and assorted electronics, and a live drummer, get started late at night, but tired they certainly are not.

He spouts the lyrics out as if he is leading the protest march of a life time, in the meantime taking care of a synth and sending out some mean guitar riffs to boot.

In between songs he even tinkers around with which graphics are projected behind them.

Energetic, strong, and charismatic, the set list moves from one power synth track to another. And, as ever, he seems grateful for being allowed to do this.

Like, genuinely.

And we believe that, as he puts it all out there, no punches pulled, no holds barred, as if it is the very first time.

Alexandra Savior and her keyboard player have the atmosphere down pat.

Both dressed in black, with a hint of nostalgia, they seem to be in their own dance macabre.

The way she hunches over the microphone, her voice sounding in between bored and the not-there, and from there on occasion descending into madness.

The rest of the band doesn’t entirely play along. All the men are casually dressed, and the bass bleeds into the rest of the sound and, at times, obscures the vocals.

Which is a pity. Because the vocals and the tone they set are the central hub the rest needs to work around. It seems she would be better served with a more clinical backing sound, a more complete control over the stage set, and maybe some visuals too.

Later that day Solange would play, and the togetherness of every element (sound, movement, visuals; everything) is what could’ve made Savior’s performance one of the more memorable highlights of the festival too.

Even without, the potential is palpable, and the performance, as is, is still very much worth the time there.­­

Sometimes, the coattails one chooses has a lasting effect on everything.

SURVIVE members made the soundtrack to the major Netflix hit Stranger Things.

And so, suddenly, you are famous.

The four of them have their electronic hardware lined up next to each other, and then an hour of b-movie horror soundtrack begins, fitting in with the Stranger Things aesthetic.

Certainly, at the end, I am reminded why I love that sound so much. It’s heavy on the atmosphere, on the hypnosis, and it certainly conjures up images in one’s mind like this kind of music is supposed to do.

The urge to put similar artists back on my iPod is both praise and a small point of criticism on the band. Yes, they have put that sound back at the forefront of my mind. And, yes, there are artists out there who combine that sound with tracks that are closer to my specific preferences. Songs that last a bit longer, and which have a steady beat/drum underneath it that gets that feel of being chased right into you, translating into the physical movement of dancing, not running.

But this, late at night in the Primavera darkness, it certainly ends the day in fitting fashion.



Angel Olsen, The Cluny, Newcastle

  • Published in Live

Touring her second album and first with a full band, the former Bonnie Prince Billy backing singer Angel Olsen makes her way to Newcastle, bringing with her, her friend Rodrigo Amarante who takes to the stage alone, the packed audience make him feel nothing but welcome.

He flits between English and Portugese as he serenades us with his delicately picked acoustic guitar and well-chosen words. Delivered in a soft, sweet manner Amarante seems genuinely touched by the crowd’s reaction this evening. At the same time it is nothing less than he deserves, we’re blown away by the delicacy and beauty as the man bares his soul in front of us.

In something of a contrast Angel Olsen takes to the stage with her band, and her voice is as beautiful as Amarante’s if not more so. Yet there is a much fuller sound filling our ears - Angel’s beautiful Americana infused indie rock. Theres a real passion in the early part of Angel’s set, and whilst the band is there her voice upstages everything.

She is almost motionless whilst delivering her heartfelt tracks, and numbers such as ‘Stars’ sound exquisite; the music becoming supplementary to the lyrics, and whilst there is little movement on stage, it adds to the captivating element of the performance. We’re seduced by the power of Angel’s voice, as if it were a spell of some sort.

‘Lights Out’ possesses a phenomenal Americana quality to it; Angel’s set evolving in front of our eyes. The earlier parts are much folkier, though as she traverses into Americana ‘Lights Out’ is arguably one of the stand-out tracks of the evening. The gorgeous guitars fill our ears as a deep pain fills her voice and we’re like over-excited teenagers as she raises the tempo even more.

The latter part of the set is a much rockier affair, reminiscent of another favourite of ours Courtney Barnett. ‘Forgiven / Forgotten’ is a brilliantly brash slab of lo-fi , perhaps a simpler track than some of the earlier ones but one that doesn’t fail to provoke a hefty crowd reaction. As Angel chants “I don’t know anything.” The awesome fuzzy guitars are a welcomed break to the quieter sounds of earlier on this evening.

Angel closes out her set with a beautifully spaced out cover of ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac, another personal favourite of ours but this version takes this song to a whole other level. As the band leave the stage Angel remains for one final track ‘May as Well,’ another beautiful song filled with heart and a complete contrast to the latter part of the set, yet it compliments them so well despite its sad tone. A truly fitting end to what has been a very special evening.

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