The big review: Primavera Sound 2024

Madness in the Med! Deftones, Chelsea Wolfe, Amyl And The Sniffers and more bring the rock to Barcelona’s biggest party…

The big review: Primavera Sound 2024
Nick Ruskell
Header photo:
Silvia Villar

Primavera Sound: it's like Glastonbury transported to a massive city park by the sea in Barcelona, without the camping or mud, and where you can party ’til breakfast time without needing an extra layer.

With a diverse line-up that takes in metal, hardcore, pop, folk, techno, R&B, electronic minimalism, OTT maximalism, and a never-ending stream of DJs in a specially-designed Boileroom stage that looks like a greenhouse in a rave, you can make it the fest you want while also discovering something new every time you walk past one of the 16 stages. Add to that a level of representation that finds women onstage for more than half the slots, and a sizeable chunk of LGBTQ+ facing programming, not to mention some of the best festival food you will ever find, and you have a vibe that makes it easy to see why it's earned its name as one of the coolest gatherings on Earth.

2024's jamboree finds the likes of Deftones, Amyl And The Sniffers, Scowl and Chelsea Wolfe sharing a bill with Lana Del Rey, Pulp, PJ Harvey, Ethel Cain, XX electro genius Romy and Charli XCX. With the sad absence of Shellac following the passing of Steve Albini last month, a stage is renamed in his honour on which there's a listening party for their excellent new album To All Trains.

It's one of many touches that say much about the kind of festival Primavera Sound is: music-first, smart, and in touch with what artists and fans want from such a weekend. It's also a bloody lovely time. Grab a coffee or something stronger, you're in for a late night: here's the best stuff that kept us up over three days of music in the Mediterranean.

Mannequin Pussy

Mannequin Pussy get angrier as they go on. Opening with the dreamy I Don’t Know You, the first portion of the Philly punks’ set is agreeably mellow in the early evening sun with the sea behind you. Loud Bark gets things a bit more shouty, but when they bust out the raging Aching they get into full-blooded rage mode. “We are ashamed of America!” yells Missy Dabice at one point during a rant against their government’s hand in the genocide in Palestine, having already had a pop at Catholicism, creepy men and a world that demands you be anything other than a happy human. In all this, there’s also a sense of joy, though, furiously dancing out the anger while also keeping it white-hot.

Photo: Gisela Jane

Amyl And The Sniffers

You may imagine Amyl And The Sniffers’ natural habitat to be the sort of beer-spilling dive bar riot AC/DC used to sing about. Like, it is, but like those Aussie countrymen, a stadium doesn’t stand a chance against them, either. The deceptively simple slap-in-the-face genius of their raucous punk has Primavera getting its dancing shoes on from the moment they walk on with a casual, “G’day, g’day!”

Guitarist and human-mullet Declan Martens’ riffs sound particularly wild today, and in Amy Taylor they have one of the best performers on the planet. “You got some dance moves up ya sleeve?” she asks, somewhat needlessly as by this point there isn’t an arse in the arena not shaking. Like Iggy Pop in heels, she arrives like a boxer entering the ring and spends the entire set running and dancing across every inch of the stage as if plugged into the mains.

I like being the big bad boss!’ she yells proudly during Control. Clearly. No complaints here.

Photo: Eric Pamies

Beth Gibbons

As the sun goes down over Primavera, the vibes come up. In the case of Portishead singer Beth Gibbons, this involves calm introspection, moments of beautiful melancholy, and an appropriately dusky atmosphere. Never the most extrovert of artists, saying barely a word throughout, she is nonetheless stunning, with her voice sounding absolutely incredible. Her recent Lives Outgrown album is one of this year’s finest, and songs from it such as the moody Tell Me Who You Are Today and gorgeous Floating On A Moment cover this amphitheatre in a blanket of emotion. Unexpectedly, there’s a run through of Portishead’s classic Roads, but really, 30 years after that song’s release, it’s in the now that Beth Gibbons is at her very best.

Photo: Clara Orozco


It’s actually not too far a remove to go from that to the vibier moments of Deftones. The Sacramento sluggers can be hit and miss at festivals, but someone has clearly put 2 Euros into Chino Moreno tonight. Drenched in sweat from the word go, there’s a sense that he’s having a lovely time, performing with a particular vigour and smiling his face off. It’s helped that the setlist is a humdinger that balances moody vibe with huge heaviness to create absolutely textbook Big Deftones Energy, with You’ve Seen The Butcher, Rocket Skates and Lotion sounding particularly thrusty, a cover of The Smiths’ Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want being a welcome surprise inclusion, and Change (In The House Of Flies) still managing to touch places other bands can’t even dream of.

Photo: Christian Bertrand

The Armed

“You guys stayed up late as shit to see us!” grins The Armed's Tony Wolski. Turns out, two in the morning when you’re starting to wonder about reality is actually the ideal time to be assaulted by the Detroit punk collective’s violently colourful noise.

“Are you having a good time? ’Cause we’re having a great time!” This is true – few bands look like they’re having as much of a laugh onstage as they do, bopping about, switching instruments, Cara Drolshagen stage-diving, and generally being as bonkers as their music. Which, incidentally, sounds like a crash between Fall Out Boy and Bladerunner. Does it make sense? In daylight, probably not. Right now? Clear as day.

Photo: Sharon Lopez


Having just arrived in Europe, Scowl are apparently suffering from jet-lag ahead of their dinner-time showing. If they are, then it turns out jet-lag is a massively energising experience. Kicking up a pit from the moment opener Retail Hell rams into fifth gear, the California quintet are on fire. And if circle-pits in a car park doesn’t sound very health and safety, it’s handy that Scowl are also one of the most danceable bands in hardcore. Fuck Around is a minute of shouty roughness, but as Kat Moss herself demonstrates, it’s almost more appropriate to bop to Shot Down and the infectious, grungy Psychic Dance Routine. Jet-lag? Jet-powered, more like.

Photo: Gisela Jane

Chelsea Wolfe

The question of ‘What if Chelsea Wolfe but on a lovely summer’s day by the sea’ is one that will have to wait for another occasion.

“I don’t really like playing in daylight,” she tells Kerrang!. “Typically we’d choose to play in a tent or an auditorium than be on a main stage at two in the afternoon. I’m always asking my lighting designer for less light… I kind of think of it as rock lighting meets theatre lighting. I really didn't want it to be so much about me like lighting my face up. It’s fun to create a little world for an hour that’s totally different to everything else you’re seeing that day.”

Welcome, then, to Primavera’s indoor auditorium, where, seated in such darkness that a bat would trip over something, a couple of thousand people are treated to Chelsea’s magic in one of the most perfect settings imaginable. The minimal but inspired lighting and dark visuals onstage allow the enigmatic, soulful music to cast its unique shadow in a way that’s at times almost overpowering.

Songs from this year’s excellent She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She album blossom in such a setting, amplifying the way Whispers In The Echo Chamber builds and collapses at its climax, or further enables the pulsing bassline of the almost QOTSA-ish House Of Self-Undoing to take on a trance-like quality. Unseen World is enormous today, as is the chorus of Everything Turns Blue – a haunting song cut from a similar glacier as Madonna’s Frozen. Throughout, her voice is incredible, and even when a technical gremlin pauses things for a moment, the spell being cast is too strong to break.

“It’s strange for me to go from playing total metal festivals, like Mystic Festival in Poland, which is super-metal, to something like this,” she says afterwards. “It's another challenge, I think, to find the right setlist and the right feel for all these different types of shows. Today was only day three of tour so I’m still working out what to play at the festivals, so the setlist was kind of all over the place. Being able to play such a variety of songs is kind of a blessing and a curse.”

Perhaps. For anyone watching, it’s only the former.


A couple of hours before they take to the Steve Albini Stage, GEL are musing to Kerrang! about where they fit among the Primavera line-up.

“We’re probably the heaviest band here, right?” asks guitarist Anthony Webster. Quite possibly. But that’s good, he reckons. “We can stand out more. We're not surrounded by our peers. So many festivals are just like, ‘We’re like all the bands playing around us.’ But this is cool. I’m excited for Lana Del Rey.”

Reckon her fans will be vibing to you?

“I’d love that, if someone just walked past and were into it,” laughs singer Sami Kaiser. “It’s cool when you see people dancing, not in the pit, but, like, normal dancing, to bands like us for the first time, when it's breaking their brain a little bit in like a way that they're gonna remember that for a long time to come.”

“I respect when someone has no idea what to do, but yet they feel compelled to do something anyway,” adds Anthony. “Like, ‘I just have to react to this because it’s so awesome!’”

Drawing a nicely large crowd, it’s hard to spot if such a thing takes place, but onstage GEL are a fast and furious sandblasting of no-fucking-about hardcore. Sami is an absolute demon on the mic, but the effect of cinder-block-heavy songs from last year’s brilliant Only Constant album is inviting, a party where aggression gets turned into something more fun. With recent shows at Sick New World, Sonic Temple and Welcome To Rockville still fresh in the memory, Primavera presents no problem, as they steamroll their way through their half-hour onstage.

The heaviest band here? Possibly. Also, one of the best.

Photo: Sergio Albert


“It’s great to be back in Spain. Only joking,” says Lankum guitarist Daragh Lynch in the darkness of the indoor auditorium. “I know this isn’t really Spain.”

“There are three things to do in Dublin,” adds co-guitarist Ian Lynch later on. “Walk on shit roads, drink alcohol, and fight the Brits.”

At first glance, one might not think that Lankum’s slow-burning, windswept noir-folk would have much in common with the Mediterranean coast, but here we are in Catalonia, where the Dublin quartet are busy finding shared ground. Opening with a mournful version of The Wild Rover, they set a tone that’s part lamentation, part defiance, while also creating a dark atmosphere that’s hard to resist. The New York Trader, meanwhile, is introduced as a song about “hanging out with murderers, which is not a good look, something a few politicians in Brussels should remember.” All of it, though, is put out with a genuine feeling of togetherness and camaraderie. Because this is music for and by the people, not the power.

Photo: Sergio Albert

Militarie Gun

It takes about half of opener Seizure of Assets for Militarie Gun to get a large portion of the crowd bouncing and the first crowdsurfers heading over the barrier. Which at dinner time on the last day of any festival is good going, but for singer Ian Shelton, today is a particularly sweet victory.

“We've never been to Barcelona, never even played a show in Spain!” he buzzes to Kerrang! after the set. “So to come here and get such a warm welcome is a huge honour.”

It’s not hard to see why, mind. Think Less, I Never Fucked Up Once and My Friends Are Having A Hard Time are perfect barometers for why people are starting to go head over heels for the LA post-hardcore quintet, sounding particularly vital and lively. Ian – with or without his bulletproof vest – is also an immensely likeable frontman, working hard to get people going ever harder, and looking absolutely delighted with the results, particularly during a cover of Blur’s Song 2.

Having told us that, “I tried to get to the front for Lana Del Rey last night but it was so packed I couldn’t get anywhere near,” today he makes up for it by taking to the one in front of his own stage, catching a crowdsurfer in the final moments of the set. A killer showing from a band headed somewhere special. They never fucked up once.

Photo: Eric Pamies

Bikini Kill

As an unexpected rainstorm soaks the site, it does fuck all to dampen Bikini Kill’s spirits. They’re having far, far too much fun for that. So are the huge crowd gathered for the riot grrrl legends to finally set foot on Spanish soil. It’s a patience greatly rewarded, as they tear through opener Statement Of Vindication, Carnival and Suck My Left One with singer Kathleen Hanna looking like she’s having the time of her life while spitting truths. Come midnight, as they close with a mass sing-along of Rebel Girl, everyone’s soaked, dazed from three days of madness, and trying to summon the energy to head properly into the night, but having a lovely time. Absolutely killer.

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