Primavera Sound in Barcelona was a great experience – many stages, old and new international acts, the vicinity of the sea and..yes , the weather! No rain, no muddy fields, no wellies. However, this year it was time for a change - it was time to switch city and festival and go to Primavera Sound’s little sister, Optimus Primavera Sound in Porto.
Porto is a petite city built on the banks where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean, joined together by tall bridges, built on a rock where layers of buildings of different ages join together like a puzzle, with colourful tiles adorning the external facades. The historical city centre has incredible views of Porto from the top and old buildings in different states of repair which paradoxically give the city charm and instil a certain creative vibe. The city centre also hosts amazing venues, such as Casa de la Musica, a stylish modern complex comprising of two auditorium halls where some of the weekend events took place.
Optimus Primavera Porto was a more intimate affair compared to Barcelona. Four stages, the green surrounds of the city park and no overcrowding. In line with Barcelona, the headliners in Porto were great established acts with a baggage of greatest hits on offer. And so was the case for Suede, who headlined the festival on the Thursday. And suddenly it was 1996, with the band in top form and the eternally young Brett Anderson swaggering around the stage with confidence and taking the audience with him. Suede totally owned the show, with the ever favourites ‘Animal Nitrate’, ‘So Young’, ‘The Wild Ones’ and hits from their third album ‘Coming Up’, finishing with the nostalgic notes of ‘Saturday Night’. It was emotional, nostalgic and a great start to the festival.
Unfortunately the same could not be said for The Flaming Lips who were so busy with their spectacles of hamster balls, confetti and girls in Dorothy costumes to think about the songs. Their set on the Friday lasted 1.30h and covered only a sparse number of songs, which included classics from ‘Yoshimi’ to ‘Do you realise?’ which still proved to be mind blowing and immense against a backdrop of lights and darkness. Disappointment in the performance for the lack of material but still a visually captivating show.
Saint Etienne transformed the muddy field of the Saturday night into a disco floor with a glittery Sarah Cracknell and co getting the crowds dancing to the indie-dance songs that have become part of the musical heritage of the Noughties, such as ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’, ‘Sylvie’ and ‘Nothing can stop us now’ and the new Euro pop and dance beats of their latest album ‘Words and Music’.
When it comes to music, “new” can be regarded as a dirty word, if you have played for years in smaller venues and you have only recently started receiving recognition, so I will just say that amongst the “newer” bands that played at the festival the performances that stood out were Chairlift, with their infectious synth electronic pop, and Veronica Falls, tight guitars and girl-boy melodies born at the school of C86, punk and indie pop.
Beach House gently managed to clear your mind from any redundant sounds and just concentrate purely on the electronic dreamy melodies. The greatest surprise was Wavves, a pick ‘n’ mix of punk, grunge, and indie rock, that shook the tent to its foundations. Whenever the songs seemed to start off with a slower tempo, the drums kicked in and the pace of the songs increased incrementally transforming the songs into pure explosions of rock ‘n’ roll.
On the Sunday things got “cosier” with the 1000 capacity venue for the concert by Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel). After two hours queuing in the rain to get tickets, it was the right reward for all the effort. The show was fully acoustic, with the lyrics and the powerful voice of Jeff Mangum to have a solid grip over you. And to make the atmosphere created by a concert hall less formal, Jeff Mangum invited people to sit on the floor by the stage.
A great long weekend, great bands, great food, sunshine (mostly) what’s not to like, Porto?