After floods called off the first night of Primavera Sound's Madrid weekend, a night of big acts including Depeche Mode, Skrillex and Christine & the Queens gets the ball rolling again.
After calling off the first day, there were doubts as to whether Primavera Sound’s decision to add a Madrid location to the festival was the right call. Would the Ciudad del Rock venue way outside of the city be able to cope with the needs of one of Spain’s premiere music festivals?
Despite expecting the severe late nights that come hand in hand with Primavera, due to the sudden weather-related closures and the singular Blur concert last night, I woke up early. Feeling very refreshed in my hotel — booked through Omio, the travel app that saved my train journey the day before — I was ready to hit the streets of Madrid. You can read about the mishaps and celebrations of Primavera Day 1 here.
With a full day ahead of me before any music got started, I went for a stroll through the Chueca neighbourhood to find my favourite restaurant, Restaurante Morgana, for a late lunch to keep me going through the evening.
Before long, it was time for the festival. After torrential rains called off the first night, there was some doubt as to whether Primavera would have the logistics down in this new location. Primavera’s reputation for logistics was hampered last year when the Barcelona edition was plagued by overcrowding, long queues and little water access.
Thankfully, getting to the Ciudad del Rock, 40 km away from the city, was a breeze. Shuttle busses ferried people at a consistent pace and once inside, the work done to deal with Thursday’s flood issues was clear. Huge amounts of gravel and astro turf had been laid down to cover soaked mud. In some areas, the turf had a springy bounce owing to the waterlogging beneath.
The arena itself is well placed to serve the amount of music fans Primavera expected. The 12 open-air stages are all huge, with even the smaller ones dwarfing many other festival’s second and third tier stages.
Opening up the festival, Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin brings her particular brand of sad-girl indie. Despite the breadth of artists seemingly in the same genre, Jacklin has a welcome fire and breathes personality into her whole set. ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’ is a highlight as potentially the best break-up song of the past decade.
Japanese Breakfast put on the first big show of the night, with lead singer Michelle Zauner commanding the audience over the band’s dreamy pop tunes. Over on one of the smaller stages, American hardcore band Soul Glo give a head rocking and heartwarming set that’s as queer friendly as it is moshpit obsessed.
More hard rock comes with a douse of polyrhythms thanks to the always complex The Mars Volta, while British-American gospel soul band Gabriels stuns on a stage opposite. One of the day’s highlights, Gabriels frontman Jacob Lusk first came to fame as a top 13 finalist on American Idol. At Primavera, he’s put his undeniably soulful voice at the forefront of a funky choral band that is the first to get the crowd properly dancing.
Coming to the stage nearly 40 minutes late, British synth rock titans Depeche Mode are a bit of a damp squib. While the sexagenarian singer Dave Gahan can still whip about the stage, their hour and a half plus set sags with lesser known tunes. Despite their lateness, they don’t prune their set, and the crowd is so anxious for follow-up headliner Kendrick Lamar, that even crowd-pleaser ‘Personal Jesus’ falls short.
Barely seconds after Depeche Mode leaves the stage, Lamar arrives with all the fanfare audiences have now come to expect. Is there a contemporary artist with as much gravitational pull as Lamar? As he launches into set opener ‘N95’, fireworks detonate to the beat, a colourful tableau drops metres from the edge of the stage, and Lamar is isolated, in complete command.
Cycling through a modified version of the festival and tour setlist he’d played in 2022, Lamar has the audience entirely enraptured. Jumping on cue, the crowd is so clearly his, they even sing along to comparative deepcut ‘A.D.H.D.’ off his first album ‘Section.80’.
Throughout, Lamar is accompanied by more colourful stage-sized paintings and a troupe of identikit dancers cycling through abstract shapes. He closes out the set in a now typical trio. First Lamar brings on his cousin supporting headliner Baby Keem for ‘Family Ties’, then is the invariably popular ‘Alright’ before ending on Lamar’s current mission statement ‘Savior’.
Elsewhere, Christine & the Queens puts on an electrifying set. French artist Héloïse Letissier wears just a pair of high-waisted trousers and star stickers over his nipples as he cycles through songs from new album ‘Paranoia, Angels, True Love’. The grief-stricken album reaches messianic proportions when Letissier puts on a pair of angel wings for the final few songs.
Chaos reigns when Yves Tumor’s tight backing band work through a set of his experimental rock despite Tumor’s best attempts to derail the performance. Swaggering around the stage, he humps cameras, screams “God isn’t real” and wriggles about giving one of the most memorable performances of the night.
Finally, the travelling DJ trio of Four Tet, Fred Again.., and Skrillex keep punters entertained late into the evening with sets of bacchanalian euphoria.