Expanding steadily and rapidly, the festival is now a brand unto itself and has forged its own template of being a haven to big names and cultivating an immaculate, laid back atmosphere. But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. The festival was originally slated for 2020, but Covid put paid to its Californian debut for over two years. Despite the extra prep time, there are typical first-year teething problems, mainly around the sale of alcohol. Planned as a 21+ event, Sunday’s headliners Arctic Monkeys would reportedly not play unless it was 18+.
Primavera’s growing pains aside, it’s the Sheffield indie four-piece who carry the festival. Now built for occasions just like this, Arctic Monkeys easily draw the biggest crowd of the weekend. As soon as the twanging opening chords of “Do I Wanna Know?” land, there’s an explosion of movement before a greatest hits offering from a band clearly at the peak of their powers. Yet there’s still room for some deep cuts, as Humbug’s brooding “Pretty Visitors” and Favourite Worst Nightmare’s “Do Me a Favour” make welcome appearances.
Over 15 years into a career in that they have been festival headliners since minute one, first topping the Glastonbury bill in 2007, the band have hardly put a foot wrong. Matt Helders’ impeccably precise drumming cuts a slinky, meandering tone while Alex Turner prowls around the stage like a horny house cat. The crowd lap it up and during the slow intensity of a sublime “505” Turner gives the gathered masses his best come-to-bed eyes.
Despite Arctic Monkeys’ gargantuan popularity, not all of their material is made for the festival circuit. Only two tracks from 2018’s Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino find their way into the setlist, but the jacuzzi jazz of the title track allows the quintet to flex their musical muscles if nothing else.
Still, it’s a reminder that despite their status, the Arctic Monkeys are not the kind to shy away from unexpected left turns. Whatever comes next, they’ve built up such a bank of barn-storming singles it almost doesn’t really matter – they will always be made for nights like this.
But every main event needs its supporting acts. Just like the original Barcelona festival, the line-up here is varied, from the bleached-out summer pop of Lorde’s Solar Power-heavy set to Bicep’s accessible techno, which comes complete with the best light show of the weekend.
Elsewhere, there is a strong show of crowd support for guitar bands such as the frantic jam sounds of Squid. LA’s very own Warpaint stepped in at the 11th hour to replace Low, and the late-evening cool air feels perfect for the band’s spacious blend of desert rock that they’ve honed over the past decade.
For its first time, Primavera’s Los Angeles debut was nearly flawless. See you at the same time next year?