Primavera Sound LA 2022: The best & worst of the Barcelona music festival’s inaugural edition on U.S. soil

Primavera Sound LA 2022Photos by Josh Herwitt & courtesy of Primavera Sound LA // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Primavera Sound LA //
LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
September 16th-18th, 2022 //

It’s no secret that Primavera Sound has had its sights set on Los Angeles for quite some time now. The Barcelona music festival that has been going strong for two decades expanded to Porto in 2012 and will finally stamp its brand on four more cities in 2022 after a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LA is the first of those four cities, but with the festival’s other three new locations — São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Santiago — all launching in South America later this year, LA State Historic Park also served as Primavera Sound’s inaugural event in the states.

Spreading four stages across the 32-acre park that remains one of the best spots in the city to host a music festival before and after three years of renovations, PSLA welcomed a wealth of talent from the top line to the bottom. Lorde, Nine Inch Nails and Arctic Monkeys each delivered headline-worthy sets while an indie-leaning undercard highlighted by BICEP (Live), Cigarettes After Sex, Clairo, DARKSIDE, Drain Gang, Fontaines D.C., Girl in Red, GIVĒON, James Blake, King Krule, Khruangbin and Mitski all drew big crowds over the course of three days. In a lot of ways, PSLA fills a much-needed void after the sudden and disheartening end to FYF Fest, which would tout itself as the “best weekend of summer” for many live music fans and was one of our favorite multi-day festivals to cover (read more here).

Any time a new music festival launches though, there are always highs and lows. So without further ado, here are our best and worst moments from Primavera Sound’s first installment on U.S. soil:


Primavera Sound LA 2022

Best: The weather

After LA experienced its worst heat wave of the year earlier this month with temperatures reaching triple digits, the weather luckily cooled down just in time for PSLA. For many of us, a second layer of clothing wasn’t ever necessary from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. After all, how often does that happen? With great music lined up throughout the day and a forecast hovering in the mid to high 70’s, it truly felt like a quintessential summer weekend in LA.

Primavera Sound LA 2022

Worst: Will Call line

When we arrived at the festival on Friday afternoon, the line at the box office quickly stood out. In fact, it was so long that we knew the wait would be at least an hour for those trying to pick up their passes, only to discover later via Twitter it was even longer for many even at 6 p.m. These are the kind of issues any first-year music festival hopes to avoid and can ultimately prepare for, but when you change your ticket delivery method to in-person on short notice after previously telling fans it would be done electronically, it’s no surprise that you end up pissing off some of your customers.

Primavera Sound LA 2022 - Lorde

Best: Lorde

The 25-year-old singer-songwriter has been making the rounds this year on an extensive world tour in support of 2021’s Solar Power, and there’s no question that her entire stage design and production was impressive to witness. Ahead of festival stops at Life Is Beautiful and Rifflandia over the same weekend, Lorde arrived onstage via a rotating staircase with some of her backing band and ran through 15 songs — from her 2013 debut single “Royals” to Melodrama hits like “Perfect Places” and “Green Light” — as PSLA’s first headliner. We wouldn’t necessarily call ourselves big fans, but we definitely understand why she was deserving of top billing.

Primavera Sound LA 2022

Worst: Food & drink

We will eventually get to the limited viewing space that under-21 guests were offered, but even if you wanted to drink at PSLA, the options were simply not good. This was certainly not the place for craft beer enthusiasts, as your choices were Heineken or the low-calorie Tecate Alta that tasted mostly like beer-flavored water for $12 each. Not only would it be nice to have seen local breweries — there are two excellent ones located across the street from the festival’s entrance — featured, but in a city such as LA with a food-and-drink scene that’s one of the best in the country, partnering with major beer and liquor brands along with a handful of Smorgasburg LA restaurants doesn’t exactly cut it anymore. The only food stall in one of the VIP areas selling “California style” Philly cheeseteaks made us think about how much Goldenvoice has elevated its game in this respect, with top-notch local options at Just Like Heaven (read our festival review here) from Goldburger to Homage Brewing standing out as examples most recently in May.

Primavera Sound LA 2022 - Khruangbin

Best: Khruangbin

The Houston three-piece that has made 70’s Thai funk sound cool again has been one of the hottest acts to tour over the past five years, as evidenced by their three sold-out shows at LA’s Greek Theatre last November. While most might have come Saturday to see Nine Inch Nails, it was K-bin who would steal the show before Trent Reznor and company ever played a note. Those who made it to the main stage for sunset were treated to an hour of grooves, as Mark Speer (guitar, vocals), Laura Lee (bass, vocals) and Donald Johnson (drums, vocals) hypnotized us with fan favorites “María También” and “So We Won’t Forget” before diving into a melody of covers that embraced a wide array of artists, from MF DOOM, The Isley Brothers, Tina Turner and Chris Isaak to 90’s hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Warren G and Dr. Dre.

Primavera Sound LA 2022

Worst: Art installations

Sometimes it can be easy to forget how spoiled we are in California when it comes to all of the music festivals we have. Not only do many of our best and brightest such as Coachella, Outside Lands and Lightning in a Bottle showcase a wide range of musical genres, but they also feature their own unique art installations that continue to push the envelope. In the case of Primavera Sound, let’s just say that’s not its M.O. While we can’t fault the festival for keeping the focus strictly on the music, LA State Historic Park did seem to lack some color aesthetically. That said, there were a couple of highlights off the stage, including the vinyl market that was curated by KCRW and Beat Swap Meets as well as the FLATSTOCK poster show series making its only West Coast stop of the year and featuring locals like Kii Arens of La-La Land Prints.

Primavera Sound LA 2022

Best: Signs, sightlines & sound

With the Primavera Sound brand being all about the music, our eyes were mostly focused on the artists performing. Nevertheless, the signs, sightlines and sound at PSLA were all on point. The downtown LA skyline served as a fitting backdrop like it usually does at LASHP, and despite poor audio issues playing a role at outdoor music festivals, we didn’t experience any while we were on the ground so kudos to the organizers for locking that down. If anything, the decibels across the fest’s four stages were so high that we found ourselves needing ear protection most of the weekend.

Primavera Sound LA 2022 - Nine Inch Nails

Worst: Short headliner sets

After Primavera Sound LA unveiled the lineup for its debut this year, we presumed all three headliners would receive at least 90 minutes each day. So when the set times dropped more than a couple weeks in advance, it was a bit of a shock seeing only 75 minutes designated for each of them. A Hall of Fame band like Nine Inch Nails has more than 10 studio albums and several EPs in its catalog but were only granted enough time to crank out 16 songs, many of which have been setlist staples for years up to this point. Though NIN classics like “Wish”, “March of the Pigs”, “Closer”, “Gave Up” and “Head Like a Hole” are never tracks to lack energy live, we’re happy we caught their sold-out gig at the Santa Barbara Bowl (read our show review here) four days earlier for the chance to hear a cover of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” and multiple other deep cuts.

Primavera Sound LA 2022 - Arctic Monkeys

Best: Arctic Monkeys

It was clear when we showed up for PSLA’s final day that the attendance felt bigger than the day prior. Although that seemed a little odd considering it was Sunday and not Saturday, it was a testament to the fan base Arctic Monkeys have built at the 20-year mark. The English rockers haven’t toured since 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, and with their forthcoming seventh LP The Car slated to come out next month, frontman Alex Turner and his bandmates gave us a taste with the disco funk that they’ve cooked up on “I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” midway through their headlining performance. And even though we didn’t hear lead single “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball” despite it being the only track that they have officially released so far, there were plenty of other thrilling moments for us to remember in between the opening notes of “Do I Wanna Know?” and the closing “R U Mine?” to end the night. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long before there’s a return date to California after the new album drops.

Primavera Sound LA 2022

Worst: Under-21 viewing areas

Most of PSLA’s guests are of legal drinking age, and with the festival boasting a number of alcohol-related sponsors that included Cuervo and Smirnoff, it certainly caters to the over-21 crowd. But for those who weren’t, the viewing areas at the Primavera and Tecate Alta stages were less than ideal. Besides the allotted space being too small and positioned off to the side, underage guests were only informed 10 days in advance. If you’re not 21 yet, make sure to temper your expectations — or we’d recommend waiting until you are before attending.


Primavera Sound LA photographers featured: Nicolita Bradley, Lindsey Byrnes, Pooneh Ghana, Miranda McDonald, Ismael Quintanilla III & Quinn Tucker.

Just Like Heaven 2022: Pasadena’s own slice of indie-music bliss

Just Like Heaven 2022 - Interpol, Santigold & The ShinsPhotos by Josh Herwitt & courtesy of JLH with artwork by Melissa Herwitt // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Just Like Heaven //
Brookside at the Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
May 21st, 2022 //

For those of you in California who haven’t noticed yet, we’re right in the midst of festival season.

With Coachella wrapping up last month and Lightning in a Bottle as well as BottleRock taking place over Memorial Day weekend, 2022 has already brought the live music industry back to the Golden State in a big way (and let’s make sure we mention BeachLife Festival, too).

But for those of us who haven’t been attending music festivals for a few years in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more exciting when any concert promoter can assemble a lineup of great artists and bands to perform all on the same day. That’s what Goldenvoice did, in fact, when it announced the return of Just Like Heaven with a dream lineup for any indie-music fan during the mid-2000s, anchored by Interpol, Modest Mouse, The Shins and M.I.A. with Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Chromeo, Santigold, Cut Copy, The Hives, Wolf Parade, Peaches and !!! also listed on the poster.

After taking over the Queen Mary Park in Long Beach for its debut in 2019, Just Like Heaven has found greener pastures to call home 35 miles north in Pasadena at the Brookside Golf Course adjacent to the Rose Bowl. It’s a proven location for hosting music festivals at this point after holding several large-scale events there before like Shaun White’s inaugural Air + Style and both editions of Goldenvoice’s two-day Arroyo Seco Weekend. But with the AEG-owned company’s other single-day fest Cruel World occupying the site two days the previous weekend and more music festivals like This Ain’t No Picnic scheduled for August, it’s safe to say that the Brookside is becoming quite a hotspot for Goldenvoice of late.

Just Like Heaven, nevertheless, seemingly fits the bill for Goldenvoice CEO Paul Tollett. And though the festival didn’t sell out nor was a second day added this time around, it still felt like quite a success given everything we have endured for more than two years. If anything, it was a brief reminder of what life felt like before the pandemic.

Just Like Heaven 2022 - Peaches


Peaches

While there wasn’t one performance at Just Like Heaven that stood above the rest, there were certainly highlights throughout the day — starting as early as 2 p.m. when Peaches stepped onto the main stage with an array of scantily-clad costumes to celebrate the belated 20th anniversary of her second LP The Teaches of Peaches. For those who got there in time to witness the Canadian electroclash musician in all her glory, it was 50 minutes we’ll never forget as Merrill Nisker delivered one erotic moment after the next alongside her backing band and backup dancers who were wearing as little as her. Sure, hearing Wolf Parade play 2005’s Apologies to the Queen Mary right after wasn’t quite as entertaining, but it did feel apropos given Just Like Heaven’s prior location, setting us up for an evening of classic indie rock.

By the time Franz Ferdinand took the stage for their 5:10 p.m. start, you could tell that the attendance had grown considerably compared to what it was earlier for late-afternoon sets by Kele Okereke, The Hives and Cut Copy. Of course the latter did their best to turn the daytime dance party up a notch with crowd-pleasers such as “Lights and Music” and “Hearts on Fire” off 2008’s In Ghost Colours, but it was Franz Ferndinand, Santigold and Bloc Party who shepherded us through the early evening (and one of them even made us pretend like we were back in 2005 listening to Silent Alarm for the first time again).

One of our only grievances with Just Like Heaven this year was scheduling Chromeo to perform exactly when The Shins were, leaving us less of an opportunity to catch both acts during the sunset. But James Mercer and his sidekicks made the most of it after a long time away from touring, offering 15 cuts across the band’s catalog before finishing with a rare cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl” as the sun fell behind the San Gabriel Mountains.

From there, the remaining hours of the festival belonged to Modest Mouse, M.I.A. and Interpol. With the first two receiving 60 minutes on their respective stages — Orion and Stardust — each made a point to placate the more casual listener with commercial hits like “Float On” and “Paper Planes” receiving their three minutes in the spotlight. But while some of the songs on Modest Mouse’s 2021 album The Golden Casket don’t translate as well to a live setting as their older material and M.I.A.’s show can often be a bit too bizarre for some, Interpol was there at the end to ground us and bring it all home.

The NYC post-punk revival trio has been on the road for about a month after completing The Other Side of Make-Believe, and although we will have to wait until mid-July for their seventh studio effort to arrive, Interpol did provide a preview of sorts with “Fables” and “Toni” sprinkled into a setlist highlighted by one of our personal favorites “Rest My Chemistry” from 2007’s Our Love to Admire. Yet, it was only fitting on this night for Interpol to also uncork “The Heinrich Maneuver” from the same record that hears frontman Paul Banks ask the audience in the opening lyric, “How are things on the West Coast?” before replying, “I hear you’re moving real fine.” With Just Like Heaven alive and well after a three-year hiatus and new music from Interpol on the horizon, there’s no doubt we are now.