Primavera Sound 2018, Day 1 – the NME report

Sun, sea and sounds on the Barcelona shoreline

“Do you like my shirt?” asks (Sandy) Alex G as he steps on-stage to open Primavera’s first day proper. “I really like my shirt.” In fairness, it’s a bloody nice shirt. As the late afternoon sun beats down on Parc Del Forum, Sandy’s warming indie-rock is the perfect, gentle start to what promises to be a heavy weekend. The oh-so-romantic likes of ‘Proud’ and ‘Bobby’ ease a swelling, sweltering crowd into their night of debauchery, and the riotous screamo of ‘Brick’ hints at the madness to come. By the time things come to a shimmery close – and despite a brief incident with the sound dropping out – (Sandy) Alex G has once again proven himself one of modern indie’s very best (and most criminally underground) songwriters.

Alex G – Photo: Matías Altbach

Over in the opposite end of the park, Spanish noise meddlers Za! are peddling a very different soundscape. Bearing some sonic similarities to weird-rockers Battles, theirs is a barmy-but-brilliant set, which ends with them throwing whistles into the crowd and commanding a whistle-along to the jolty electro-punk of ‘Badulake’. It’s a fun-first approach that seems to bleed into Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s sunset appearance, which sees frontman Ruban Nielson leap into the crowd mere minutes into their Apple Music Stage set. While their psych-ier tendencies showcase Nielson’s stranger, it’s when a one-two of ‘American Guilt’ and ‘Multi-Love’ – by the time the anthemic ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’ ends proceedings, the sun may have gone in, but the beaming smiles of everyone in attendance could light up the dark.

Za! – Photo: Matías Altbach

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have no trouble sinking in the gloom, though. Seeming to emerge out of the blackness itself, an opening salvo of ‘Jesus Alone’ and ‘Do You Love Me?’ set the Hammer horror scene for the evening. Stalking the stage and the front rows of the crowd like a dog on the hunt, Cave himself is the most absorbing character imaginable. ‘Come Into My Sleep’ makes for a brooding, hypnotic twist, before ‘Red Right Hand’ sees the previously monochrome stage lighting shine a bright crimson, an assembled congregation thrusting their outstretched palms at their dark overlord.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Photo: Matías Altbach

From then, Primavera’s incessant pace requires a snap decision, which sees NME duck out and dash off to catch Vince Staples over at the Ray Ban Stage. The colosseum-esque structure the stage sits within makes for a fitting setting, as Vince comes out fighting from the off. Bursting into life with ‘Get The Fuck Off My Dick’, he swings hard with each subsequent track, last year’s ‘Big Fish Theory’ LP getting a thorough workout. A brief intermission allows for an all-too-short breather, before an explosive ‘Norf Norf’ sees fists (and one erstwhile crowdsurfer) flung to the 2am night sky.

Vince Staples – Photo: Matías Altbach

As the night reaches its hedonistic apex, it’s left to the stars of electronic music to see in the sunrise. Over in the Bacardi-sponsored dance arena, Floating Points continues to deconstruct his classically-led take on modern electronica, but it’s the main areas which holds the very best. The Apple Music stage plays host to Nils Frahm, whose stunning compositions float effortlessly across the harbour, while around the corner lo-fi house buzz-man Ross From Friends brings his mates on stage to keep weary punters slinking into the approaching morning. Unsurprisingly, it’s Four Tet who closes the night in the most impressive style, the king of modern electronic music filling that Ray Ban colosseum with his melting-pot of melodies. Swinging from the world-music-inspired sounds of ‘Morning/Evening’, into heavier techno flourishes, it’s a masterclass in sonic transformation, and a perfect end to Primavera’s first night