Soul Glo live at Primavera Sound: state-of-the-nation hardcore and a very wholesome circle pit

"There's no freedom in the United States" – Pierce Jordan

“Can I see a show of hands; who’s heard of us?” says Soul Glo frontman, Pierce Jordan, interrupting their set to scan the crowd, shielding his eyes from the blazing Barcelona sun. As a few hands timidly rise, he nods with a mix of curiosity and satisfaction. “That’s interesting… That’s interesting…”

The past year or so has been a whirlwind for Soul Glo. On paper, this Philadelphia hardcore powerhouse should be riding high; their debut album for the iconic punk label Epitaph, 2022’s Diaspora Problems, was hailed as a genre-defining masterpiece, rivalling Fugazi’s legendary Repeater. Staying true to hardcore’s core elements while venturing into new sonic territories and embracing introspective rage, Soul Glo seemed to be the band leading punk into the future. Yet, as the acclaim poured in, the wheels began to wobble, as long-time guitarist Ruben Polo exited amidst serious allegations of sexual misconduct. After months of soul-searching, the band decided to forge ahead without him, but it’s undeniable that they lost some momentum along the way.

As they take the stage this afternoon, it quickly becomes clear that the Philly quartet is building their fire once again. With an explosive start, they crash into ‘Rolling Loud, Hear My Cry,’ igniting a frenzy in the front row. The kids push back the crowd, creating a circle pit that quickly becomes a glorious mess (and a pretty wholesome one too – as much energy is spent half-running, half-frolicking around in a big circle as is it moshing into one another). Shirts are ripped off, backpacks are exchanged between friends to accommodate more bodies diving into the fray. Soul Glo relentlessly launch from one track to the next, keeping the energy levels at an all-time high.

On record, Soul Glo are ferocious, but live, they transform into a different beast entirely, with any vestiges of subtlety thrown out the window. Jordan, in particular, commands attention. Pacing the stage, he exudes the vibe of a stern personal trainer, barking orders and calling for more and more effort. Occasionally, he jumps down from the stage to glare into the faces of the people pressed against the barriers, ensuring that the intensity ratchets up as the show goes on.

Unlike their peers, Soul Glo aren’t big on stage banter. Instead, they punctuate songs with ethereal fragments of electronic noise. Only near the end of their set does Jordan address the crowd “People love to talk about freedom, but there’s no damn freedom in the United States. Not from death, not from violence. Without that, there is no freedom.” With those words hanging in the air, the band launches into their final song, ‘Gold Chain Punk (whogonbeatmyass?).’ It’s become their anthem – a blistering track that encapsulates everything they stand for. Bludgeoning riffs collide with lyrics that kick against institutional apathy and gun violence plaguing their home state.

The best hardcore has always intertwined the personal and the political, exposing how brutal systems breed brutal mindsets. But Soul Glo seek to transcend all that. They’re not just holding up a mirror to society, saying, “Look how messed up everything is.” They’re asking, “Why the hell is everything so messed up?” As the last chords reverberate through the air, Soul Glo leave an indelible mark, not just as a band, but as people demanding change.