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Barcelona’s Primavera Sound: 15 Great Years, 15 Top Sets

Adam Kivel and Lior Phillips pregame for their upcoming trip to this year's festivities.

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    The 15th anniversary of Barcelona’s Primavera Sound is right around the corner, and in order to celebrate, we thought we’d throw it a birthday party in the form of a look back at its brightest moments. So, click through for the best of the best from the festival’s decade and a half, from its very first set to today.

    Sr. Chinarro (2001)

    Opening the very first Primavera Sound festival is a big honor, one that went to Seville, Spain, indie outfit Sr. Chinarro. Antonio Luque’s syrupy sweet vocals and shimmering guitar set the tone for the festival, the outfit’s new wave and retro pop making the perfect match for the open air in a Barcelonan spring. Fittingly, Luque’s been a welcome presence throughout Primavera’s 15 years, and the organizers will be bringing him back this spring to celebrate the anniversary. –Adam Kivel

    LCD Soundsytem (2003)

    “I’m losing my edge/ The kids are coming up from behind/ I’m losing my edge.” This is frontman James Murphy in all his punk rock slant and captivatingly frantic splendor, crying out the opening verse to an unsuspecting crowd of Primavera Sound goers in 2003. But the message wasn’t accurate. It didn’t matter that they hit the stage with only two singles to their name at the time because this appearance would power LCD Soundsystem right over the edge, just so they could invent a new one. It had to do with them setting the stage for hyper-hip indie versions of tracks that sounded like Todd Rundgren meets Talking Heads rallying Brian Eno’s funk-punk intricacies. Even then, their sound and spirit felt humongous enough to fill a festival arena. “Losing My Edge” finds Murphy at the tail end, chiming, “But I was there” — and oh how we wish we had been. –Lior Phillips

    Wilco (2004)

    A lot of things changed for Wilco after the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2002, including a serious raise in expectations. So, in the summer of 2004, the Chicago indie rockers played the festival in what would be their inaugural trip to Spain, bringing along with them tunes from the soon-to-be-released A Ghost Is Born. The setlist cherry-picked from those two albums beautifully, giving the crowd their first chance to see YHF mainstays as well as get in on soon-to-be setlist mainstays like “The Late Greats” and “Hummingbird”. The pairing was a success, as Wilco made triumphant returns in both 2007 and 2012. –Adam Kivel

    Arcade Fire (2005)

    Quite a few bands make their debut in Spain at Primavera, including Arcade Fire’s 2005 appearance. A year removed from their masterpiece studio debut, Funeral, the Montreal-based band were just starting to wow world audiences with their anthemic take on indie rock. At Primavera, though, the outfit’s cathartic set covered the emotional gamut, opening with the explosive, uplifting “Wake Up” and tugging on the heartstrings with Regine Chassagne’s transcendent vocals on “In the Backseat”. –Adam Kivel

    The Good, The Bad & The Queen (2007)

    With names like Sonic Youth, Slint, and Buzzcocks all sharing a festival bill, you’d assume that the sonic wrath could unleash a portal to another dimension — preferably one with a microphone and loudspeaker handy just to scream, “What in the utter fuck did I just witness!” Before Primavera Sound ’07 had even begun, it promised an expansive, powerful list of bands to reflect both its target generation’s inner makings and the ability to lure in a newer generation. That lineup reads just like a music history lesson. The Good, The Bad & the Queen — the supergroup made up of The Clash’s Paul Simonon, Blur & Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn, Simon Tong of The Verve, and legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen — stepped up to that challenge and delivered. The good news? According to an interview Albarn did last year, they’ll return to the festival circuit someday soon, having already written new songs for an upcoming record. Where’s that loudspeaker when you need it? –Lior Phillips

    DJ Coco (2007)

    Primavera attendees through the years know full well the bombastic celebration that is DJ Coco’s festival-closing set. The Barcelona native is an obsessive digger, and his sets explore pop music’s brightest lights and dustiest corners in order to send visitors out on a serious high. Coco’s been a staple of Primavera final late-late-nights/early-early-mornings since his appearance in 2007. A particularly bleary-eyed and joyful video from last year finds the DJ spinning Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” at around 5:30 a.m. Dude knows how to party, and thanks to Coco, the thousands and thousands lingering, hoping Primavera will never end, do too. –Adam Kivel

    Portishead (2008)

    In 1998, the experimental trip-hopping Bristol-based Portishead went silent, apart from one or two secret gigs wrenched between charity events. They more or less disappeared for an entire decade. Buoyed by a new album plus a slew of world tour dates, their reappearance in 2008 felt like the Houdini-years had passed just so their circuitry could be rewired. (They’ve never really seemed “human,” have they?) It’s remarkable re-watching them play songs like delicate folk crusher “The Rip” to a massive festival audience. They performed two successive shows, unveiling songs that seemed so private, so mysterious, pummeling the memory right into submission. I doubt it took long for the spellbound crowd to turn a little misty-eyed when Beth Gibbons’ quivering whisper hushed through “Silence”. They surfaced with a sense of purpose, thrashing up an atmosphere that was both brutal and inclusive while performing every track live just to show off the humanism behind their innate transient force. –Lior Phillips

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