“This is the best festival I’ve ever been to”
After the hedonism of day one, Primavera’s Friday night gets off to a somewhat subdued start. Blame it on the hangovers, perhaps – there’s certainly plenty of those on offer. But also, the line-up for this evening is a much more morose affair, topped by professional miserablists The National. The impact can be felt across the site – even one-time rabble-raiser Tyler, The Creator appears on stage backed by a huge, miserable slogan: “LONELY AS FUCK”.
Waxahatchee gets things off to a suitably sad start, Katie Crutchfield appearing on-stage alongside her sister Allison for an early evening set that sees tears break out all around the Apple Music stage (could be those aforementioned hangovers settling in, in fairness). The Breeders then appear over on the Mango stage with an entirely different tack – a blast of feedback and noise marking their arrival, Kim Deal proves she’s still a force to be reckoned with as they belt through a career-spanning set. Newer cuts from March’s ‘All Nerve’ LP – including its plaintive title track – sit comfortably alongside a selection of classics from ‘Last Splash’. A late-in-the-day cover of Pixies’ ‘Gigantic’ rallies those who might still be trying to shake their slumber, before a one-two end of ‘Do You Love Me Now?’ and ‘Saints’ proves Breeders are more than worthy of legendary status.
Over on the opposite end of the main arena, Father John Misty is celebrating his album release day on the Seat stage. ‘God’s Favourite Customer’ might only have been out a matter of hours, but it’s already a welcome soundtrack to the setting sun. Rolling through a number of classics from older records, ‘Nancy From Now On’, ‘Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)’, ‘Only Son Of The Ladiesman’, and ‘Total Entertainment Forever’, he then put down the guitar for the debut of ‘Hangout At The Gallows’, backed by brass and string sections. His preceding reputation as a mischief-maker left behind, the irony was dialled back in favour of a rich set that proved there’s far more to Misty than memes and melancholy.
Co-headliners The National were then left to top the bill solo, after Migos, er, missed their flight. It’s a role they play with aplomb, though – as the years have crept on, The National have slowly become the massive, arena-filling act their ambition always hinted at. Despite a trimmed-down stage time and, as a result, a limited setlist, their prowess shines through. Slinking on-stage to an opening salvo of the brooding ‘Nobody Else Will Be There’ and ‘The System Dreams In Total Darkness’, before wrenching the heartstrings with an early-doors ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’, there’s not an eye left dry in Parc Del Forum.
It’s a set that eschews the usual fire and brimstone of a National appearance for a more subdued, slow-burning approach, and despite the festival setting, they pull it off in style. The likes of ‘Walk It Back’ and ‘Carin At The Liquor Store’ simmer away, with frontman Matt Berninger’s only break into his impulsive, dog-off-the-leash stage persona coming during a storming ‘Mr. November’. After ‘Terrible Love’ sees him, bizarrely, stay rooted to the stage, the reason for their seemingly muted evening soon becomes apparent. A dedication of closer ‘About Today’ to the dearly departed Scott Hutchison draws an enormous cheer, as pockets of the crowd break off to embrace each other and wipe away tears. It’s a truly special moment – one that leaves a lasting mark as the band silently exit the stage, Scott’s beloved memory hanging heavy in the air.
The night closes with a heel-turn from Idles, whose riotous punk might just be the best show of the weekend. British music has been crying out for a band like this for years – one whose politics don’t come wrapped in metaphor, but are delivered with an almighty hammer blow. Amidst the fittingly brutalist architecture of Parc Del Forum’s harbour area, cuts from debut album ‘Brutalism’ inspire absolute carnage. “This is a dream come true – this is the best festival I’ve ever been to,” admits frontman Joe Talbot after ‘Mother’ sees a thousand-strong throng belt back that already-iconic hook: “The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich.”
As Talbot and co. thrash around the stage like shock therapy patients, the crowd before them ups the ante at every turn. Mosh pits and crowdsurfers turn the floor into a maelstrom of flesh, a closing duo of ‘Well Done’ and ‘Rottweiler’ finding Talbot bellowing for “more” from his throng. It’s cuts from an impending second album that best prove Idles’ importance, though. “Long live immigrants, long live foreign countries, and long live love,” the frontman bellows before one, a statement worth repeating in the wake of countless British political fuck-ups of the last few years. Meanwhile, another finds him two-foot tackling toxic masculinity – “This is why you never see your father cry,” goes the close-to-home hook. As that second album creeps closer, make no mistake – Idles are the band broken Britain needs. Just perhaps not the one it deserves right now.