Yesterday at 5pm, music rang out over the Parc Forum for the first time since 2019, three years to the day since the last edition of Primavera Sound signed off. As crowds flooded back onto the strange concretopia that comprises the festival’s site, the abiding vibe was the now-standard post-pandemic cocktail of joy, catharsis and coiled-spring anticipation, but a little apprehension hung in the air, too: a sense that the Primavera faithful were still regaining sensation in their legs after far too long spent lying on the sofa.
Cutting across that trepidation and blowing out the cobwebs one heavy, heady wizard-rock riff at a time was Richard Dawson and Finnish stoner-rock legends Circle, who took to the stage beneath the Forum’s giant solar panel looking like some woodland band of misfits from a fantasy novel in matching green neckerchiefs and every permutation of heavy-metal grooming, and rollicked through Henki, their collaborative album from last year.
This kind of music – beardy sludge riffs and widdly-widdly solos with melodramatic vocals – normally goes one of two ways, and both the self-serious capes-and-dragons nerd route or the arch, post-ironic almost-mocking cosplay can be fairly cringy to behold. Dawson and co, though, find a third way here, plotting a path that leans hard into the Warhammer-convention geekery while also clearly acknowledging the gleeful and often hilarious theatricality of the music they’re playing, and concurrently grooving, hard, as only a band who really know what they’re doing in this genre can.
Accordingly, Dawson introduces one song, as being “from the point of view of a 32,000-year-old seed”, with a rye smile, and the call-and-response of ‘Cooksonia’ reverberated off the concrete walls of the arena with suitable density but also silliness: you haven’t experienced true post-covid joy until you’ve been in a crowd that’s been away for three years singing “a-woo, a-woo, a-woo” in unison while doing synchronised waving.
As the final song descends into drone feedback chaos, the septet arrange themselves into a human pentagram around the drum riser, all guitars and aloft and bull-horns hand-gestures agogo, and the daftness and magnificence are unbound. It all adds up to the perfect curtain-raiser for Primavera 2022: beardy, weirdy, and lots of fun, it makes a lot of people glad to be back.