Le Tigre live at Primavera Sound: massive tunes, radical politics and a skipping rope

Like punk Teletubbies, in a really good way

Primavera has a zip about it this year. If 2022 was all about long lines, crowded spaces, and endless trudging, the organisers have decided to bring back the classic Primavera vibe. They’ve made some smart changes, reducing the size of the festival site by a third, bringing the stages closer together, and creating a layout that feels like a thrilling race track circuit. And let me tell you, these adjustments have elevated the entire experience. Now you can grab a beer in no time, fans swarm around happily and hot-dog stands are more abundant than ever. And Le Tigre got the memo. 

Embodying a renewed sense of vitality, the three-piece band burst onto the Ron Brugal stage like a football team stepping onto the field for the second half of a crucial semi-final. It’s quite remarkable that they’re here at all: Kathleen Hanna‘s eight-year battle with Lyme disease meant they haven’t embarked on a full tour since 2005. But here they are, dressed in vibrant Day-Glo colours, and bouncing around the stage like the opening sequence of Teletubbies and blasting into a rapid, three-song salvo of ‘The The Empty’, ‘TKO’ and ‘FYR.’ 


Suddenly, the vast open concrete space of Parc Del Fòrum is transformed into an intimate DIY show. In stark contrast to the “polished” festival performances, the band opts for a refreshingly raw approach, relying on Hanna and Joanna Fateman’s wiry guitars and JD Samson’s quirky electronics to create their sound. Even the band’s visuals, mostly filmed in Hanna’s bedroom, feel like an exercise in stripped-back economy, resembling pages hastily ripped from old fanzines, with the lyrics of each song stamped onto each frame like a karaoke video.

Dazzled by the vibrant colours and infectious noise, it’s easy to forget that this energetic façade is a clever disguise for a fiercely political punk band. In certain ways, Le Tigre’s philosophy of positive solidarity and radical feminism may be more mainstream in 2023 than 2003, but the band’s message feels just as fresh and vital as ever, perhaps even more so. It’s been nearly two decades since Hanna rebelled against George W. Bush on ‘Seconds’, but as the band introduces the song tonight, they’re quick to point out that many of the issues still persist. 

It’s fitting, then, that Le Tigre save a last burst of energy for the grand finale, ‘Decepticon’, a powerful anthem that mercilessly exposes the misogyny and self-righteousness often found within the punk scene. Hitting like a crack of a whip (or the skipping rope that Hanna begins jumping over as the set closes), it perfectly encapsulates why bands like Le Tigre remain so important. In the past 20 years, society has undoubtedly achieved great milestones in terms of representation and LGBTQ+ rights; but the fight is far from over. In a world that still needs fighting words Le Tigre has plenty. It’s great to have them back.

Photography by Christian Bertrand