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PREVIEW: Primavera 2017
Brian Coney , May 30th, 2017 14:02

Ahead of its return to Barcelona this week, Brian Coney whittles this year’s bill down to a selection of must-see highlights

Yoking acts as almost implausibly unalike as Slayer, Van Morrison and Solange this year, Barcelona’s Primavera Sound continues to lead the pack insofar as genre-yawing European summer festivals are concerned.

An annual sanctum of nicely frazzled all-nighters, never-ending knock-off Ray Bans, eclectic sonic wonderment and (let’s face it) a few unavoidable scheduling clashes, 35,000 heads from all over will once more flock to Parc del Fòrum across May 31 - June 4 to shirk sleep in favour of another righteous five-day bill.

With the festival kicking off tomorrow (May 31), we've picked out a dozen highlights from this year’s seam-bursting (and now sadly Frank Ocean-less) bill, in no particular order.

Read our review of last year's festival also here.

Grace Jones

Saturday – Heineken Stage – 22.35

Even 44 years into her equal parts sprawling and subversive career, very few artists command their own creative realm quite as authoritatively as Miss Grace Jones. Her set at the Heineken Stage late on Saturday night is so essential that we must immediately revoke the “in no particular order” bit. Put everything (yes, even the Walkmen's Hamilton Leithauser and Seu Jorge) aside to bear witness to a true uncompromising and enigmatic pacesetter: Seu Jorge.

Wait, no. Grace Jones.

This Is Not This Heat

Thursday – Primavera – 19.30

Like many a major festival, Primavera has hosted its fair share of moot “cult” reunions over the years. However, when Charles Bullen and Charles Hayward of Camberwell experimental rock forerunners This Heat take to the Primavera stage as This Is Not This Heat early on Thursday night, you’re guaranteed to heed a rebirth that vindicates itself tenfold. Two years on from returning wielding the promise of "new interpretations" of their back catalogue, expect a potent and positively unrepeatable performance from two-thirds of an act that bridged avant-prog and post-punk like no other.

Thurston Moore

Saturday – Heineken Hidden Stage – 19.30

Despite a nigh on contemptible clash with Royal Trux over on the Primavera Stage, Thurston Moore and his band at the Heineken Hidden Stage on Saturday evening should be shelved under downright compulsory. With the release of his new solo LP Rock N’ Roll Consciousness finding the former Sonic Youth talisman at his most vital in quite some long time, this will be a set of new material brimming with blitzing gusts of Technicolor noise and feedback-riddled mastery.

Solange

Thursday – Mango – 20.50

Lest we forget, 2016 was a noteworthy year in music for many reasons, not least for the release of A Seat At The Table, the staggeringly accomplished third musical manifesto from Solange. A record that reached number two in tQ’s Top 100 albums of the year, you can expect the guts of that and more when the vastly superior Knowles sibling essentially supports Slayer (you read right) on the Mango stage on Thursday night.

Shellac

Friday – Adidas Originals – 20.05
Sunday – Apolo – 22.30

Including this year, Shellac will have played Primavera Sound a decade on the trot – a remarkable fait accompli for a band who are notably tortoisian when it comes to studio output. And as some of you will no doubt recall, Albini, Weston and Trainer clashed with not only the not-as tortoisian Tortoise but also Radiohead last year. Much gnashing of teeth did occur but this time around the world’s finest minimalist rock trio will play both the Adidas Originals stage on Friday and the 1100 capacity, off-site indoor venue Apolo on Sunday. We suggest checking out The Magnetic Fields on Friday and holding out for Shellac on Sunday. Better still? Hang tight for Sleaford Mods and Bob Weston’s your uncle.

The Make-Up

Friday – Primavera – 23.30
Sunday – Seat (Primavera al Raval) – 19.40

Another act treating us to two sets are Dischord and K veterans The Make-Up, whose post-punk/Gospel Yeah Yeah craft must, if all the gushing reviews ring true, be heeded live to be fully appreciated. Having reunited in 2012 for ATP's I'll Be Your Mirror festival in London, the Ian Svenonious-fronted foursome’s powerful, borderline situationist shtick should jolt nicely with the immediate environs of Parc del Fòrum on Friday night. Alternatively, pass in favour of Swans and catch them betwixt The Mystery Lights and the perfectly un-Google-able !!! at the Seat stage early on Sunday night.

Sleep

Saturday – Primavera – 23.50

If you've been fortunate enough to catch them at any point over the last year or two, you'll be firmly aware of just how unfuckwithable Sleep right not. Galvanised by the recent Southern Lord reissue of ten-minute masterstroke ‘The Clarity’, their (frankly inevitably) face-searingly satisfying set on Saturday night will rule considerably. In fact, it should probably be your sole personal goal in life to persuade every single uninitiated attendee to check them out on the night. If anyone leaves disappointed, please just send them my way and I'll personally reimburse them the entire cost of their trip.

Pond

Saturday – Mango – 18.50

Having released their Kevin Parker-produced, lysergic-soaked seventh studio album The Weather back in May, Perth psych-rock augurers Pond at the Mango stage on Saturday evening presents a prime opportunity for a little blissed-out, prismatic repose before the likes of Thurston Moore, Sleep and Preoccupations later into the night. And whilst the word on the Setlist.fm street is to expect predominantly (if not exclusively) latter-era material, complaining shall only fall on deaf ears considering their flawless hit-rate at the minute.

Swans

Friday – Pitchfork – 22.50

Speaking of “impossibly expulsive”, do be wary about what questionable food you drunkenly nab at this year’s festival.

Only yanking your old chain, the food is very reasonable. What is equally impossibly expulsive, however, is that feeling one gets half-way through a Swans show, when one starts to feel the ire of the ether rattle in your solar plexus, inciting you to slowly pat down your person to make sure you’re still a corporeal being, rather than a mere concept distilled to perfect nonbeing via the transcendent blitzkrieg of Gira and co. Now that Frank Ocean has cancelled his slot, there’s no real excuse to pass up one last Barcelona-based opportunity to experience both this feeling and – more broadly speaking – the swansong of this particular (and arguably almightiest) line-up of Swans.

Mitski

Friday – Pitchfork – 19.15

Doubling up as one of the few festival slots in her second European jaunt this year, New York-based Japanese-American indie rock artist Mitski released one of the albums of last year in the form of Puberty 2, a critically-devoured effort that proved yet another gem in her compositionally grand and intelligently yearning output to date. And with one exceptional voice to boot, you would be silly – so very silly – to be anywhere else but facing the Pitchfork stage at 19.15 on Friday evening. This is probably the point where I should say “Mitski at your peril” but, come on, this isn’t Smash Hits.

Slayer

Thursday – Mango – 00.00

Did someone just say “Jeff Hanneman hologram”?

Nope – must be our collective innards rattling with sheer excitement at the prospect of catching Slayer permanently rework the foundations of the Mango stage on Thursday, framed by a sea of diehards and unsuspecting Bon Iver fans.

Aphex Twin

Thursday – Heineken – 1.00

Some things are just worth waiting up for. Aphex Twin – namely behind a desk on the Heineken Stage at 1am on Thursday at Primavera Sound 2017 – is one of them. Besides, 1am is pretty much the Primavera equivalent of the early evening. Shake the last jolting reverberations of ‘Angel of Death’ out of your inner ear, wade through the baffled Bon Iver fans and ease in the early morning with some RDJ magic.

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