It wasn’t a particularly exciting edition, nor was it as edgy as it could have been. Among the line-up were many names that weren’t new to crowds, and the ones that were newcomers weren’t drawing big numbers in the audience. In the end, this was a pretty relaxed edition, that didn’t require many difficult choices, as it was easy to decide what you wanted to watch next.
We have gathered this year’s edition of the good, the bad and the ugly…except there is nothing ugly about NOS Primavera Sound, on the contrary. This beautiful festival is made of green hills overlooking the stages, an unusual satisfying organization, great food and picnic towels. We could go on and on about the this festival’s level of comfort, but we will give you a general picture of what went through on June 8th, 9th and 10th.
In no particular order, here is the best of NOS Primavera Sound 2017.
You cannot prepare yourself for an Aphex Twin show. The incredible laser show, combined with algorithmic created distortion on images captured both from the live audience and a bucket of images that represented Portuguese society and culture, were the ingredients for closing the main stage on the final night. Half gnarling noise, half electronic dance music, Aphex Twin show was supposed to make an impression, by perverting imagery and sound itself. With a setlist made of mostly covers, it was clear that Richard David James hadn’t come to please crowds, and instead, was mostly interested in giving the audience a tough, unyielding show.
Some might say that Justice’s maximal is a thing of the past. Friday audience can prove you wrong. The crowd gathered for a unanimous mouth drop at Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay’s ridiculous light set that left everyone awestruck. If you don’t care much about the music, do appreciate the effort that goes into creating the structure that allowed LED-filled panels to move and rotate, creating a handful of combinations and scenarios. Resorting to a continuous mix of oldies and new songs, Justice’s show was set to a sample of LOVE S.O.S that insisted on being mixed on top of several songs. Less danceable than what we have seen them do, this show was about hitting us hard and fast, only slowing down towards the end.
No one expected a large audience for Nikki Lane, but what started out 10 minutes late, 80-ish people waiting, grew into many more by the end of the show. Charismatic and charming, Nikki and her hat-wearing, cigarette-smoking cool looking squad, delighted the crowd away with plenty of americana country folk and wits. There was even time for Nikki to find a “portuguese boyfriend” in the shape of blown up male doll, with jacket and sunglasses included. When trying to find a name for him, and while the audience shouted several different ones, spanish guitarist come to the conclusion that, in Portugal, there could only be one name: João. After the show, there was still time for Nikki to get to the side of the stage and take photos with an unexpected group of fans. “You’re not leaving here”, said one of them, and we kinda wanted to agree.
As the hour turned and Teenage Fanclub emerged onstage, the guitars started striking the first chords of “Start Again”, soon after Norman Blake’s quick salute. This would mark the beginning of a stellar setlist, mixing perfectly hits from a career spanning over twenty-five years and ten studio albums.
Consistency is really the best word to describe Blake’s, McGinley’s and Love’s band. Whoever decides to lay his voice over the quintessential Teenage FanClub’s power pop song, the crisp loud guitars linked by a fine rhythm section are just enough to fulfill all the answers to life and make purpose of it. Despite the first half of the concert had been felt too binge-listening, playing as many songs as possible (total of fourteen of a hour concert), Bandwagonesque’s first single “Star Sign” was the first blow for an older crowd, who didn’t quite react until the build-up guitar feedback suddenly was interrupted by the first verse’s “Hey”. If proof was needed we just witnessed one of the best concerts of the festival, the surprising appearance of a ringing in our ears in what seemed frankly a quieter concert ensured us of the underrated importance of Teenage Fanclub’s song in our lives. Spot on.
Up until the last day of the festival, it seemed like there was something missing. That ended up being the raw explosion of energy gently granted by Canadians Brian King and David Prowse. The amount of momentum created by a single guitar and set of drums contradicted the lethargic spirit that this year’s edition came to suffer from time to time. Once more, the city of Porto received its share of compliments, when the band revealed that the new video for “North East South West” was shot in the city.
Run the Jewels
And the crowd goes “RTJ!”. After a slow start to the festival, it seemed like this was going to be a quiet, mellow down edition. That was until Run the Jewels came to the NOS stage. The front of the stage, that had remained mainly still before, was now going bonkers for Killer Mike and El-P. Presenting many of the songs from Run the Jewels 3, the rappers inquired about becoming official citizens of Porto, gave repeat shout outs to NOS Primavera Sound’s amazing crowd, but did not forget to discuss today’s truth versus fake conundrum, remind all that we must never lose our scepticism towards politicians and politics.
Proving that less can be more, Julien Baker’s petite figure could have looked out of place up there on the Pitchfork stage. But that couldn’t be more wrong. If you wandered there looking for something special, it only took a minute to simply become enchanted by Julien’s essence and dominant voice. With a palpable silence in the audience, it seemed like a bubble had been created on the tent, away from the outside noise, the lights and smoke machines. That effect would be repeated on Weyes Blood set, but nothing would beat the homeliness that the rainbow Pitchfork background and Julien’s voice provided. It will become one of those “you had to be there” moments.
It certainly wasn’t the name we expected the most, but the curiosity dragged us in and we didn’t leave until the end. Skepta, or Joseph Junior Adenuga, showed up with towering visuals and managed to get a wave of upwards arms that went all the way to the top of the hill. With an electric audience that moved to every beat and rhyme, there was even space for a more than a couple mosh pits. If you thought that grime had no place in alternative festivals, you just got shutdown.
Sampha’s alluring voice created the perfect blend between Porto’s sunset and the feeling of relaxation that NOS Primavera Sound provides. A foolproof concert to sing along, Process, Sampha’s debut album, proves even more rewarding live, with a talented band building the musical landscape that holds it all. Seeing Sampha live is even more satisfying when moments like when all band members come together around a drum kit to create a rhythmic interlude. Cowbells galore, this concert warmed out hearts and made us dance.
The food, stores & ambient
If you have gone to NOS Primavera Sound and didn’t try Casa Guedes’ sandes de pernil, you are either a distracted little soul or a friendly vegetarian. The food this year, as any of the last years, was outstanding. Conga’s bifanas were specially spicy this year, you could have the closest you could get to artisanal beer at Super Bock’s 1927 stand, or wait for a friend’s sms warning you that Padaria Ribeiro’s lanches were coming out hot out of the oven. Sometimes, it was a shame that all this wonderful food was happening during concerts, as it took a little to get your Munchie burger or Sr. Showriço pão com chouriço. We did manage to watch Metronomy while eating a delicious Santini ice-cream, and while the band sounded somewhat disarranged, our passion fruit ice-cream was excellent.
Maybe it was because you could apparently pay with a card, maybe it was the need to exchange glasses for chips, and then chips for glasses. In the end, beer and cider line were as long as we have ever seen them. Maybe it’s time to re-think the system, getting a beer should never take half an hour.
Luckily we had we us the FestivAll app installed, but many didn’t. It almost seemed like a joke when we noticed they were handing out two pieces of fancy paper attached to a strappy graphic pendant that simply said to download the official app. No map of the festival, no schedule, no useful information. People resorted to asking others for band times and figuring out where the bathrooms were by looking at confusing totems. And besides, not everyone had smartphones or foreign data to spend on an app. Let's print something more considerate next time, trees have died for this.
Personal taste here, but this has got to the be the worst sponsor freebie bag that NOS Primavera Sound has given out. Let us explain: every NOS Primavera Sound, the main sponsor NOS, hands out very nice bags that everyone goes crazy for. People literally behave like zombies to get one. Usually they are very nice, and the transform themselves into picnic towels. This year, it seemed like something had gone wrong with the design. Either they were going with a very long tote bag, or a backpack that didn’t close. Bring back the 2016 model, please.
Pitchfork stage late schedule
It isn’t like the festival starts early, but either way, the tiredness is well set by 1am. What, you’re telling me that Bicep is playing at 4am? Loved to have watched them, but those time schedules are just too much.