After the first weekend of Primavera Sound Barcelona, there was much talk about how disorganized the festival was. Attendees complained about lengthy lines for drinks, a dearth of water refill stations in the heat, and just general poor crowd control. With these issues in mind, I was a bit cautious going into Primavera Porto, but thankfully the smaller festival (only five stages and one weekend, compared to Barcelona’s 15 stages and two weekends) proved to be well-run and, just as importantly, a whole lot of fun.
Located northwest of the city center at Parque da Cidade do Porto, festival attendees could spy the sea from certain vantage points. Everyone behaved quite civilly for an event brimming with Super Bock- and Jameson-sponsored bars—was this politeness thanks to having been locked away for two years, or are Porto attendees just lovely people? Either way, these factors made for a thoroughly enjoyable festival experience.
While I couldn’t possibly have caught every act (even at a festival so reasonably sized), those I did see were by and large enthusiastic and without technical issues. The main exception was Sky Ferreira, who arrived late and therefore left before the end of her set, but when she did get the chance to sing, there was some Grizabella-like (yes, from Cats) beautiful desperation to her voice.
Here are a dozen of my favorite sets from Primavera Porto 2022.
I arrived late to Spellling’s Thursday evening set at the Super Bock stage, but the last-minute replacement for Georgia was enchanting. The California art-pop singer will definitely appeal to fans of Björk, including her bold fashion choices (I thought of her outfit as a funky ren faire get-up, while my friend said it was like something from Practical Magic). Spellling was expressive from head to toe, twisting her hands gracefully through the air and giddily spinning onstage. Her songs occasionally dipped into jazz and R&B, while her track “Under the Sun” is a proper banger. Not to mention her pianist, who deserves a shoutout for an exquisite performance.
My Primavera highlight came early on in the weekend, as the Australian indie rocker was probably my favorite act (and she wasn’t even originally slated—she filled in for Japanese Breakfast). Donnelly was like a ray of sunshine as she took to the main stage, starting off her set with “Mechanical Bull.” She was alternately funny—cheekily humming after the line, “I use my vibrator / Wishing it was you” in “Mosquito”—and sincere, playing solo for “Boys Will Be Boys,” her anti-rape culture song that she said may not be a “party starter,” but will stay on her set lists as long as it’s relevant. Donnelly also showed off her talent as a multi-instrumentalist, hopping from guitar to piano to harmonica. She led the crowd in a coordinated dance, did a handstand and even performed a breezy cover of “Love Is in the Air” by fellow Aussie legend John Paul Young. What a way to start the festival.
Admittedly, I don’t know all that many black midi songs, but I do know they’re a force to be reckoned with. The band were competing with an extended Nick Cave set (the beginning of which I caught), but still managed to draw a sizable crowd with their high-energy performance. Drummer Morgan Simpson was on fire, at one point casually breaking a drumstick and not missing a beat as he tossed it off and replaced it. Lead singer Geordie Greep was definitely radiating theater-kid vibes with his melodramatic delivery, and he was funny to boot, introducing a whole fictional set of bandmates as they ended their set (“Clunge on guitar,” etc.).
The former Chairlift singer was a dream, dressed like the fourth Sanderson sister and prancing around a surreal backdrop of small rolling hills and a volcano that evoked the setting of her “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” video. Polachek’s delicate dance moves and generally winsome air immediately brought Kate Bush to mind. She was sure to play the hits, with “Bunny Is A Rider,” her cover of The Corrs’ “Breathless,” and “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” featuring towards the end of her set. She made for a spellbinding end to Thursday night.
The festival had no business putting Sawayama on so early—7 p.m. on Friday, when the sun was still blazing. Nonetheless, Sawayama proves herself headliner-worthy whenever she’s onstage. The crowd gathered before her chanted “Rina” until she came on and performed “Dynasty” as her opener. “Are you ready to dance? Are you ready to slay? Are you ready to scream?” she asked adoring fans, who responded enthusiastically to each question. Sawayama played a new song, the anthemic pop-punk track “Catch Me in the Air,” and, in honor of Pride Month, served up a rousing rendition of “This Hell.” From her and her dancers’ impeccably coordinated moves to the tight band and the striking visuals behind them, Sawayama’s stardom was obvious.
While I didn’t know any Shellac songs, my husband promised that we’d get to see some old rockers in flannel, and I was ready for a change in vibe. Indeed, both the band and the crowd gave me the Gen-X feel I was looking for (I know Steve Albini was born in 1962, but he’s far more Gen-X than boomer). The band arrived a bit late, and gave people happy birthday shoutouts while they tuned their instruments. When they did play, they connected immediately with the audience. I’m still smiling thinking about the middle-aged men standing near me playing inflatable guitars along to Shellac.
Archy Marshall, better known as King Krule, started playing at sunset, bathed in blue stage lights as he filled the air with melancholic guitar. Photos of his adorable dog flashed onscreen behind him as Marshall sang in his familiar growl. He played furiously, as did his incredible sax player, flooding the stage with reverb. “Half Man Half Shark” was a definite standout, and Marshall even came out for an encore.
Pavement were the whole reason my husband wanted to come to Primavera in the first place. He’d never seen his favorite band play, and witnessing his excitement as he sang along to them was almost more fun than watching Stephen Malkmus and company. Even though they played fewer than the 30 songs they had in Los Angeles, they fit in plenty of favorites, including “Harness Your Hopes” (the B-side-turned-viral sensation), “Fight This Generation,” and “In the Mouth a Desert.” An excellent end to Friday night.
The sun was beating down relentlessly on us when Dry Cleaning started at 5 p.m. on Saturday, but vocalist Florence Shaw couldn’t have been cooler. Swirling a drink in one hand, she looked very devil-may-care as she asked if there were any Pedros in the audience, before launching into “Strong Feelings” (the subject of which is apparently named Pedro). Shaw’s languid delivery matched just how listless the afternoon heat made us feel. She performed in her usual sardonic speaking voice, but when she did sing, it was deep, enchanting and effortless. Before the end of their set, Shaw dedicated a song to the late Paula Rego, a Portuguese-British artist who died on June 8.
Khruangbin were the definition of good vibes. Their visuals consisted of video of the band and audience put through various retro filters, and Laura Lee was sporting my favorite outfit of the whole festival: a flamboyant, feathered green dress. The highlight of their set was their relentless medley, with the band easily flipping between “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, “Benny and the Jets,” “Regulate” by Warren G, “True” by Spandau Ballet, “Miserlou” by Dick Dale, and countless other hits.
British rapper Little Simz was simply magnetic throughout her set. She performed numerous songs from her acclaimed 2021 album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, which ranked fourth on Paste’s list of last year’s best records. It was reassuring to see Little Simz not just performing, but also having fun on stage, considering the cancellation of her North American tour due to financial and mental stress. “Point and Kill” was my favorite song of the night.
Squid were on at the same time as Gorillaz, and as a result we got right up close for the Brighton band’s frenzied performance. Lead singer and drummer Ollie Judge kept thanking the audience in between their raucous songs, including plenty from their debut album Bright Green Field (which ranked 18th on Paste’s list of the best 2021 albums). Ending the festival with Squid felt appropriate: energetic, chaotic and ultimately satisfying.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.