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Primavera Madrid Day 3: Female talent comes to the forefront

Rosalía lights up the stage as the final night's headliner
Rosalía lights up the stage as the final night's headliner Copyright Christian Bertrand
Copyright Christian Bertrand
By Jonny Walfisz
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Primavera's maiden voyage to Madrid ended with a finale full of female phenomenons, including St. Vincent, Caroline Polachek and Rosalía. Here's our final verdict.

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The third and final day of the festival kicked off with a bang. Except imagine that bang as sludgy as possible as it passes through the vast array of guitar pedals shoegaze band Wednesday use.

If Wednesday brought atmosphere, then British singer-songwriter Arlo Parks brought the tunes. With the 19.00 set on one of the twin mainstages, Parks had a very early set by Primavera's standards. That didn't stop the Mercury Prize winning artist attracting an almighty crowd, all singing and dancing along as she pivots between jazz, pop and RnB genres on a dime.

It was back to the heavier stuff after that, with an impressive set from Shellac. The US rockers performed from their vast back catalogue with their trademark brand of quirky earnestness. At one point, Steve Albini candidly told the crowd of his dual emotional state, half in love with the crowd, the other half teetering on breakdown.

The duality of man was further emphasised by the set on the stage directly opposite, where Puerto Rican rapper Villano Antillano shimmied and twerked through an electric reggaeton performance. It might not have had the austere sincerity of Shellac, but Antillano knows how to have a hell of a good time.

Joyous performances from the glorious Maggie Rogers and Julian Casablancas side-project The Voidz kept the energy up for the last of the day's sun as the Ciudad del Rock filled up.

Headliners

The first of the big hitters was St. Vincent. With the sun setting behind her, streaks of amber lined the sky, bringing out Anne Clark’s dazzling red leather jumpsuit.

Clark is one of the sharpest talents around as she, alongside her tighter than tight band, zip through hit after hit. Clark’s songs range sonically from the melancholic romance of 'New York' to the barnstorming guitar thrashing hooks of ‘Fear the Future’.

Eric Pamies
Maggie Rogers at Primavera Sound MadridEric Pamies

Near the end of her set, Clark praises the range of female talent on the day's lineup. She's not wrong. I've written before about the UK's premiere festival Glastonbury selling female musicians short with this year's line-up, and yesterday's artists at Primavera was hardly a sausage fest. Saturday at Primavera is all about the women though. Even the drug dealers navigating through the crowd are women today.

Following on from St. Vincent in the slot Kendrick Lamar played last night is US pop sensation Caroline Polachek. Since the dissipation of Chairlift, Polachek has been amassing a hefty collection of dazzlingly good pop songs.

Early into her set, Polachek apologies, saying she lost her voice at the precious weekend's Primavera in Barcelona. She'd feared she wouldn't be able to make tonight's set but just the night before it had started to return. Concerned it wouldn't be up to strength, she asked for the crowd's help in singing along.

She shouldn't have worried. Polachek's ability to cycle through octaves over single syllables is as remarkable as ever. She has the audience enraptured, managing impressive vocal feats without ever letting the physical load on her voice interrupt her sultry dance moves. By set closer 'So Hot You're Hurting My Feelings', Polachek has convinced everyone she's the sort of multi-talent that you'd hate if only she wasn't so damn charming.

Before Primavera Sound's final headliner Rosalía has her turn, there's the chance to catch Calvin Harris' crowd-pleasing DJ set and a performance from Italian rockers Måneskin.

The idea of a young gang of gnarly self-serious glam rockers enticing in one of the biggest crowd's of the night to the festival's third biggest stage might seem odd. It seems Måneskin has unlocked a secret to relevancy in the hair metal genre. By winning 2021's Eurovision, the campers event in music, Måneskin can embrace the inherent campiness of their genre while keeping their punky aesthetic intact. This is no limp impression of 80s rock, it's wholesale joyous headbanging, emphasised by the band performing a song with crowd members flying LGBTQ+ flags joining them on stage at the end.

Sharon Lopez
Victoria De Angelis of MåneskinSharon Lopez

Last but definitely not least, Rosalía brings an eruption of hip-swaying to the Primavera crowd. Homegrown hero Rosalía has had a momentous rise on the international stage since featuring on a James Blake album track, but it's clear that among the legions of Spanish fans, she's developed a dedicated following. Her high energy set is the perfect way to end the main sets and bring the crowd into a night that continues thrumming with activity until daybreak.

Festival Verdict

The first time Primavera took its celebrated festival to Madrid has been a varied affair. It's impossible to reflect on the weekend without considering the impact of the first day's cancellation.

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Even with the unexpected weather calling off the day's events, a force majeure clause in a contract will hardly assuage the disappointment felt by the thousands of weekend ticket holders who seemingly won't be offered any form of compensation for only getting ⅔ of a somewhat expensive festival. While the surprise set by Britpop legends Blur was a unique wonderful event, the limited capacity of the venue left the vast majority in the lurch.

Among festival goers, a rumour also spread that the first night’s cancellation was even a potentially convenient set of circumstances for Primavera’s organisers. With weekend tickets available up to the day, and no concern from organisers about capacity when allowing any Thursday day ticket holders to attend, it seems feasible the weekend was very undersold. Potentially a rumour founded out of discontent, many attendees were convinced the force majeure cancellation clause is an attempt at organisers recouping some lost money by not having to pay artists.

On the logistics side, my personal experience was of seamless bus transfers to and from the Ciudad del Rock. However, for attendees staying up to the wee hours, there have been reports of wait times up to an hour and a half for a bus back to Madrid.

Beside these significant issues, Primavera Madrid was still an excellent music festival. Primavera Sound's reputation for sharp programming, giving a plethora of high quality artists across multiple genres and allowing them all to shine, has continued on through to this new event.

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Travelling to and from Madrid, as well as booking a convenient city centre hotel was also covered with ease from the Omio travel app, a top recommendation for your next international adventure.

Once at the Ciudad del Rock, the venue works well for hosting the stacked line-up, with food and drink points aplenty. The international crowd Primavera brings also adds to the experience. From newfound friends from Portland and Jamaica, to discovering the joys of unique acts like Yves Tumor, if Primavera can iron out the cracks that caused the first night's disappointment, Madrid should become a mainstay of annual music pilgrimages.

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