Primavera Sound is a festival brand that for the last 20+ years has steadily built a reputation as one of the best live music experiences in the world. Starting in Barcelona where it now has two full weekends of music, art, and entertainment, it then expanded into other major global markets including Buenos Aires in Argentina, Porto in Portugal, & Santiago Chile.
The party has finally made its way to California, landing in LA for its inaugural run after it was originally postponed twice thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With covid worries almost nonexistent for festival goers (I did see a few people wearing masks), residents of the greater Los Angeles area were treated to what I’m sure was a scaled-down version of the festival that still treated fans to some incredible music, including favorites such as Nine Inch Nails, The Arctic Monkeys and James Blake. LA historic park provided a stellar backdrop for the event and mild temperatures made things extremely comfortable after a recent heatwave left Angelenos chained to their AC units for two straight weeks.
I know I already mentioned some of the music, but here are a few personal highlights from my experience at the event which should give you plenty of reasons to keep this festival on your radar for its return in 2023.
One of my favorite parts of Primavera Sound LA was the general vibe of the experience. A centrally located venue like LA Historic Park, with what felt like manageable parking, kept stress levels down, and while I did hear some rumblings of long lines at the start of day 1 and some faint complaints from the under 21 crowd about the beer gardens owning the better views on the mainstage, what I really saw was a crowd of happy people who were out to have a good time with their friends and that energy was infectious.
Music Festivals are a big part of the Southern California music scene and just like many other festivals that returned to the area this year, this felt like another live music reunion where we could once again dance and sing with our friends without a care in the world. I appreciated this so much and it really added to the music each day.
The music (as expected) was really the star of Primavera Sound LA, and while there were quite a few bands and artists who may have been new to a lot of people in the crowd, there was still plenty of heat on this lineup that anyone could appreciate. My personal favorites from day one included Stereolab, Mitski, and of course my real headliner of the first day, Darkside (who also played two nights at The Hollywood Forever Cemetary just before the fest).
Their performance was pure magic and it was incredible to see the whole crowd fall under their spell, cast upon us through the group’s signature sound. It was one of my favorite live sets from them yet.
There also seemed to be quite a buzz for Lorde who played in the actual headlining slot but besides peeking over at her impressive stage production and tuning in for one or two of her singles, there really wasn’t much for me from the performance.
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Day two was packed with great acts as well and while I wasn’t able to catch much during the day, as the sun set over LA, things actually started to heat up. Khruangbin straight jammed as they always do and continue to be one of the most consistent live bands I’ve seen in quite some time.
They paid homage to the west coast during the covers section of their set with some familiar hip-hop instrumentals, and you could just feel the good vibes all around. Nine Ince Nails was obviously the band to see on this night, and the crowd was packed tight as they played through their set.
They sounded great and I was surprised at how good they continue to be considering it had been years since I last saw them live. I closed the night out with another personal favorite with BICEP, whose live set is always a pleasure to witness live (especially with all those lasers).
Day three was more of the same.
A perfect weekend of weather was capped off by some very special performances from the Arctic Monkeys (who hadn’t graced Los Angeles in more than 4 years), and James Blake who could easily draw a sell-out crowd in just about any venue in the city on any given night. The energy was especially strong during the Arctic Monkey’s set, as die-hard fans belted out every word to every song all around you with no regard for their personal pitch or volume. Some might find that annoying but I love it when the fans get what they want and the group sing-a-long is just part of the fun.
My only real complaint on this day was the sound of James Blake felt a little off at times, however, I believe this was due to the nature of his music and the positioning of his stage more than anything. I still thought he did a great job and I left the festival feeling great with a smile on my face.
Overall, I think the organizers behind Primavera Sound LA did something really smart.
They did not go way over the top for year one and blow their load trying to go crazy in one of the world’s most fickle markets for live events. This version of Primavera was just the taste people needed in order to secure a place in the future schedules of SoCal festival goers; and while they will need to better cater to the younger crowd next year as far as access to better viewing, and maybe a bit more to do between the sets and stages, I believe the general consensus was that Angelenos are happy to have Spain’s most well-known festival brand in their own backyard.
Year two should be even better and I look forward to seeing how things will grow as time goes on.
Check out more highlights from the fest here.