Best of the Tiny Fonts is a recurring feature in which our staff handpick the must-see smaller acts at all the major festivals.
Take a look at the lineup of 2017’s Primavera Sound Festival, taking place this weekend in Barcelona, and it’s easy to get lost in the big names. There’s Arcade Fire gearing up for their first big show of the year. There are of-the-moment critical darlings like Bon Iver, The xx, Solange, and Run the Jewels ready to bring a disparate array of performance styles and sounds to the festival’s many stages. They might have lost what would have been Frank Ocean’s first show in support of Blonde, but they’ve added an appearance from Jamie xx to sooth the wounds. And there are legends galore, with Slayer, Van Morrison, The Magnetic Fields (performing their latest, 50 Song Memoir), and Descendents as just a sampling of the many industry titans that the fest has corralled.
But what about the lesser known artists on the bill? Sure, it might be hard to make time for everyone, unless you truly get in the spirit of things and take in the whole range of programming, which runs from the afternoon until about 6 AM. But for most of us mere mortals, we’ll have to make some big decisions about what artists to make time for and which ones to skip. CoS has studied the Primavera offerings and come up with the following 10 artists that haven’t quite yet reached marquee status. Sure, it might mean missing something a little more familiar to take them in (or staying up until dawn), but we’re convinced that these acts are worth the trouble.
June 1, 6:25 PM, Adidas Originals
A wild guitar band. Yeah, that’s the language that Memphis’ Nots have decided to use in describing themselves. And it’s a lot to live up to when the mind goes to animalistic territory, to places where rules don’t exist, where only nature governs what sounds right and what sounds false. But at its heart, Nots are still rooted in tradition. There’s krauty repetition, psych freak-outs, and garage rock fidelity. What makes it wild is just how full-throttle it all sounds, unafraid to be sloppy or untamed. Maybe this is what rock and roll is all about at its core?
June 1, 8:30 PM, Heineken Hidden Stage
Don’t just take it from Lorde (already a vocal fan) that New Zealand rising songwriter Aldous Harding is the truth. Her performances range from solo folkster to showstopping balladeer, and her theatrical delivery makes the Lorde analog all the more appropriate. Signed to 4AD, her new album’s title, Party, might be a bit of a misnomer, unless your idea of partying includes starkly beautiful compositions and an arresting voice. Different strokes for different folks.
June 1, 4:00 AM, Ray-Ban
Hardly a new kid on the block, Italy’s Manfredi Romano has already lived a couple of lives in music, establishing the label Life and Death, starting Italy’s first booking agency, and working as a manager on the punk scene. But it’s safe to say that his move toward electronic music as DJ Tennis in 2010 has been a successful one, as he has continually built buzz since his first days on the scene. He’s already played festivals like Coachella, and his placement as a day-ending, dawn-welcoming ambassador speaks to his abilities as a weaver of atmospheric dance soundscapes and Italian disco.
June 2, 10:00 PM, Adidas Originals
There is no shortage of great music from Iceland, yet it still feels a bit surprising when artists emerge from the small island nation. Whether it’s something in the water, the isolated nature of the society, or the gorgeous scenery, it’s even more noteworthy that the music that comes from the place spans such a wide range of sounds. Fufanu have virtually nothing in common with Sigur Ros or Bjork, instead opting for a sinister brand of post-punk that looks at its audience with wide, unblinking eyes. It’s the kind of music that wears dark sunglasses inside the club, that smokes in the bathroom, that hides a flask inside its boot. It’s music that knows its cool factor and milks it for every drop.
June 2, 3:00 AM, Addidas Originals
Wand are more than just their prolific output (they put out three albums in their first year of being a band) or their known associations (members have played with Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, and Together Pangea). They are also a band growing and evolving at a startling pace, like something you’d see under the microscope in a movie about a global epidemic. Musically, they aren’t quite as worrisome, instead providing an energetic and cathartic brand of fuzzed-out pysch explosions and stony grooves. Sure, it sometimes gets hard to distinguish between the influx of California garage bands, but Wand use their live shows for just that purpose.
June 2, 4:00 AM, Primavera
Yeah, we know Priests have already seen their debut album receive a ton of acclaim, but they are still newbies to the fest circuit. The Washington DC group do their punk ancestors justice (a particularly hard feat when you are on a legendary label like Dischord), pummeling audiences with a mix of noise and pop melodies, two seemingly disparate schools of thought somehow living in harmony. Backing the aforementioned critical hit Nothing Feels Natural, Priests try to transcend the confines of rock music by reaching for something bigger than themselves, be that feminism-informed lyrics or a live show that refuses to take prisoners.
June 3, 5:40 PM, Primavera
Sure, it will be the last full day of Primavera Sound, you’ll be exhausted from listening to music all night, and a 5:40 PM start time might seem unreasonable. But in Weyes Blood, you’ll get the music that can bring you back to life. A lot of names have been thrown around to compare Weyes Blood’s voice, be it Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez, but maybe most apt for her sound and overall vibe is Karen Carpenter. Her music dares to leap from the pages of folk with orchestral arrangements and fully formed, showstopping moments. If nourishment and healing had a sound, it might sound something like Weyes Blood’s excellent recent album, Front Row Seat to Earth. Is that a lot of hype to get you out of bed and to a show late on Primavera’s last afternoon? Sure, but we promise it will be worth it.
June 3, 9:00 PM, Auditori Rockdelux
There’s something delightfully playful in titling your debut album Jumping the Shark, almost building within yourself a false history that your music can in turn take too far. And that’s exactly what Alex Cameron did on his debut last year. Released by Secretly Canadian, there’s something audacious about a songwriter who dares to both look and sound like Nick Cave, but Cameron isn’t a one-trick-pony either. His music is often as notable compositionally as it is for the performance, betraying an artist who is confident to a fault, who has a distinct vision of what his art can be, and has dared to reach it from day one.
Kelly Lee Owens
June 3, 9:45 PM, Bacardi Live
There’s not much use in posting Kelly Lee Owens bona fides (collaborator with Daniel Avery, bass player for The History of Apple Pie). Her self-titled debut album hardly needs assistance to win over listeners. Owens dips her toes into a range of electronic sounds, putting techno next to kraut and even allowing for Jenny Hval to pop up and weave her dark pop spell. But what makes the Owens album great, and what undoubtedly attendees of Primavera will witness, is how she turns sounds rooted in genre into something entirely her own. It’s hard to say that an artist supporting a debut is already singular, but that’s the trajectory that Owens could be headed.
June 3, 4:10 AM, Pitchfork
Of course, Philadelphia. From The War on Drugs to Cayetana to Kurt Vile to Alex G to Beach Slang to Modern Baseball, the City of Brotherly Love has cemented its status as one of the most exciting towns for contemporary rock and roll. And Mannequin Pussy, despite their explicit name, might be the next band to join that pantheon. The group puts out their music on the trustworthy Tiny Engines, opting to fill a relatively small timespace with as much sweat and emotional velocity as possible (their sophomore album, Romantic, only runs for 20 minutes). Sure, they’ll perform for longer than that at Primavera Sound, but for the fuzzed-out barnburners, no moment will be wasted.