While the lineup of day two of Primavera Festival is strong all around, there was a definite buzz over the night’s headliners. As Trent Reznor explained midway through the performance, Nine Inch Nails agreed to do Primavera Sound Los Angeles back in 2019 when the new festival was announced. COVID had other plans, but the band stood by their word. When 2022 rolled around and it was finally safe enough for festivals to happen again, NIN were there at the top of the bill.
Photo credit: Nicole Ditt
Their tour de force set on Saturday night showed why they’re one of the biggest rock bands in the industry. They played crowd favorites like “Closer” (which saw Reznor playing sax at one point) and “Head Like A Hole,” but peppered in older classics like “Wish” from their debut EP. Newer material from their critically acclaimed but less commercial era was also present, with “The Lovers” and “Less Than” making up a mid-set block.
Nine Inch Nails were crisp yet aggressive, artsy without being pretentious. Reznor spoke to the audience frequently between sets, a big smile on his face. The band was having fun on stage and the crowd ate up that energy in kind. The sludgy “Reptile” was accompanied by on-theme green hues in the background.
Later in the set “The Perfect Drug” and its drum and bass industrial dance energy pulsated out from the crowded main stage viewing area. The band kept the audience’s exuberance snowballing with another uptempo track, “Copy of A.” Reznor and company ended on an emotional note, choosing their now-iconic piano ballad “Hurt.” Festival sets are always tantalizingly short, even for the headliners and this was a case where 16 songs just didn’t feel like enough.
Earlier on the main stage, the colorfully-attired Tierra Whack was hyping up the early birds with a call and response of “When I say ‘Whack,’ you say ‘Whack.’” Her set was frenetic, stop starting and many of the songs simply being a few verses and a hook. Some of the songs she performed included “Pretty Ugly,” “Flea Market” and “Cable Guy.” Her DJ/hype-woman was just as active between songs, encouraging the audience to get moving with a surprisingly gruff delivery.
Across the way at the mid-size Tecate Alta Stage British post-punks Fontaines D.C. blasted through 13 songs during their 60-minute set. They opened with ferocity on “A Lucid Dream” and didn’t relent until the closing moments of “I Love You.” There wasn’t a ton of stage banter between vocalist Grian Chatten and the audience, but in those few moments he seemed to connect with the crowd. They just released a new album Skinty Fia in April, so the bulk of their set consisted of songs from the album, “How Cold Love Is,” “Roman Holiday” and “Jackie Down the Line” to name a few.
Khruangbin filled the role Stereolab provided on Friday, a chill twilight soundtrack of unique tunes. While Stereolab is more of a psych band, Khruangbin was all funk. They kicked the set off with a few of their tunes like “María También” and “Dern Kala” but a mid-set medley was the most memorable moment. Just a few of the iconic songs that were covered include “Genius of Love,” “Regulate,” “Ain’t Nothin’ But a G Thang,” “Got Your Money” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” They closed out the set on a powerful note with “People Everywhere (Still Alive).”
Low was scheduled to be the last act before Nine Inch Nails took to the main stage, but unfortunately couldn’t perform. Not to despair — Primavera Los Angeles attendees got a special treat with local icons Warpaint filling for an intimate set at the smallest stage of the festival. They started things off with “Champion,” the opening song from their new album Radiate Like This. The intricately arranged and emotional “Love Is To Die” was a mid-set highlight, while “New Song” with its poppy chorus and bubbly instrumentals, got the crowd bouncing around.
Day two of Primavera was a very top-heavy program, with a can’t-miss performance from Nine Inch Nails. Warpaint saved the day with an impressive set of new and older songs, and Khruangbin offered the perfect balance. Day three concludes with a conundrum: a headlining set from Arctic Monkeys right up against what will certainly be an electric set from James Blake on the Tecate Alta Stage.
Danny L Harle
Nine Inch Nails
Photo credit: Nicole Ditt