San Miguel Primavera Sound is a vast festival; it’s impossible to see it all, so one has to decide where to be and at what time. Here, we propose another itinerary: to see the headliners and the groups that will draw crowds. You won’t be alone.
Our tears still haven’t dried over Björk’s cancellation, due to her delicate vocal chords. But we are keeping a stiff upper lip, as the rest of the roster of San Miguel Primavera Sound still offers us plenty of big names. And if you don’t trust the hype and you want to go for a sure thing, the festival will once again offer renowned performers (like the legendary The Cure) as well as others who are well on their way to becoming definitively established (for example The xx, who will be performing their long-awaited second full-length for the first time in Spain). If you are one of those people who take advantage of crowds to widen your circle of contacts, we’ll show you ten of the big stars who the greatest number of people will be turning out to see in the coming days.
1. Death Cab For Cutie
Thursday, 31st May, Escenario Mini. 9:45 p.m.
Despite the lukewarm reception received by “Codes And Keys”, Death Cab For Cutie are still American indie icons. This position is the result of a career spanning more than fifteen years; their mastery at putting out pop songs with a romantic soul and eternal choruses also goes hand in hand with proven reliability in their live performances. This performance, their first appearance at the festival, promises a set-list chock-full of hits.
Thursday, 31st May. Escenario San Miguel. 11 p.m.
Those who have seen Wilco lately - that is to say, since the release of “The Whole Love” last autumn - say that it’s an almost orgasmic experience, especially the 20-minute introduction on “One Sunday Morning” and “Art Of Almost”, the album’s opening and closing songs, respectively. This is obviously not the Chicago band’s best work and it’s also true that at this point many people have already seen them live two or three times. But those two songs, and of course many others (classics or not), justify the presence of one of the leading bands on the alternative scene over the last two decades. Their presence at San Miguel Primavera Sound is indispensable.
3. The xx
Thursday, 31st May. Escenario Mini. 12:45 a.m.
Two years after introducing the minimalist sound that they used to turn the more obscurantist legacy of new wave on its head at the same festival, the British band will be back at San Miguel Primavera Sound with the intention of sharing their new compositions. With no release date for their second album in sight (which is said to be inspired by “club music”), the band has a golden opportunity to establish themselves at the festival and to draw major crowds with well-known songs like “VCR” and “Crystalised”.
4. The Cure
Friday, 1st June. Escenario San Miguel. 10:10 p.m.
It will be hard to find a spare inch of breathing space in order to enjoy seeing Robert Smith, but the battle will be worth it to be able to witness one of the most legendary bands of recent decades. With a show that promises to be the longest in the festival (it’s likely to run longer than two hours), the Brits will once again make it clear that as far as timeless hits go, very few can hold a candle to them. The San Miguel stage will be painted black to give them the honour they deserve.
Friday 1st June. Escenario Mini. 12:45 a.m.
In spite of spending a decade waving the flag of epic shoegaze, it wasn’t until last year with “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” that the French group really hit it big; thanks to that interplanetary hit “Midnight City”. Knowing that the audience wants to have a good time, their live shows get straight to the point, heading directly for many of their most accessible, danceable songs. Since Peter Gabriel hasn’t been invited to the festival, we always have good old Anthony Gonzalez to make up for it.
6. The Drums
Friday, 1st June. Escenario Ray-Ban. 12:50 a.m.
The festival organisation has often explained that they get excited when they see how bands that they bet on before anyone else did have grown. The Drums performed here in 2010 when they were on the crest of the wave. They were on the smallest stage and played at the same time as Grizzly Bear, but that didn’t stop a crowd from forming to see Jonathan Pierce’s dancing. Now well-established, with their second album - “Portamento” - under their belt, it’s time to see whether they have grown as a group over these last two years, or whether the hype has got them down. Either way, don’t expect them to perform “Let’s Go Surfing” because they are still renouncing it.
7. The Rapture
Friday 1st June. Escenario San Miguel. 02:00 a.m.
If there is one band that has contributed notably to the international projection of the revival of post-punk – along with LCD Soundsystem – it has to be The Rapture. The New Yorkers are back in Spain again, to perform at the best possible time: the wee small hours of the morning, playing to an audience chomping at the bit to dance the night away to their frenetic sound cocktail. You don’t have to be a genius to foresee that “How Deep Is Your Love?” will not only be one of the hot spots of their concert, but also one of the biggest songs of the entire festival.
8. Beach House
Saturday 2nd June. Escenario Mini. 9:45 p.m.
We already have our packet of tissues ready. The Baltimore band has outdone itself and is coming back to the festival through the front door. And with good reason. “Bloom”, their latest dream made vinyl, has set the standard so high that it’s scary. The expectation surrounding seeing Victoria’s hair close up is palpable, so things would have to go terribly wrong during the concert for them not to bring the house down. Just in case, forewarned is forearmed: when they play “Silver Soul”, we won’t be responsible for our actions.
9. Yo La Tengo
Saturday, 2nd June. Escenario Mini. 12:45 a.m.
Yo La Tengo is one of those Primavera groups who always show up from time to time (this will be the fourth time that the Hoboken trio will perform at the festival, which is to say that they come about once every three years). When they were announced to be on the roster months ago, they were expected to have a new album under their arm by now, but we still haven’t heard anything about it, so whether they will play new material or not is unknown. It shouldn’t matter much either way, with a band that has a spotless career spanning a quarter of a century, with moments of particular brilliance.
Saturday 2nd June. Escenario San Miguel. 01:45 a.m.
Doing more justice (excuse the pun) than ever to the leather jackets and rock-star attitude displayed in every one of their public appearances, the French group will be landing in Barcelona to present the controversial “Audio, Video, Disco” - with which they intend to bring prog-rock to the most dissipated youth. Presided over by their trademark cross, it’s sure to be a party with them and their early dance-floor anthems like “DVNO” and “Stress”.