About This Festival
Primavera Sound Barcelona was founded by Pablo Soler with the idea to bring a variety of independent artists from across a wide swath of genres, along with established artists, too, to an urban environment in spring; primavera means spring in Spanish. The first iteration, April 2001, with four stages and 19 artists including Armand Van Helden and Los Planetas, attracted 8,000 people. From that point forward, Primavera has been the definition of experienced explosive growth: to 18,000 people in 2002; 24,000 people in 2003, and 40,000 people—the size of a small city, mind you—in 2004.
Growth = New Venue
The growth, exponential and fast, led organizers to abandon their initial site, Poble Espanol, an open-air architectural museum. Since 2005, Primavera Sound has set up camp at the redeveloped swath of land facing the Mediterranean, Parc del Forum, in the northern part of the city. In 2011, a record 170,000 people attended to experience more than 200 acts across 8 main stages and 8 stages of parallel programming across the city. Genres run from folk and jazz to metal, experimental and electronic, with pop, hip-hop and indie thrown in the middle somewhere. It’s a behemoth of a festival, running into the wee hours—and that’s just the music.
Spain's Indie Scene
After one glance at the roster and a consideration of its ethos, Primavera garners easy comparisons to Pitchfork Music Festival. Both are dedicated to presenting an eclectic, far-reaching program of music with superstars of alternative rock along with scores more on the domestic and international fronts who are independent, progressive, or just generally envelope-pushing. (Plus, Pitchfork has presented programming at Primavera, and vice versa; they also share the incorporation of a record fair and the touring poster art attraction, Flatstock.)
The average American festivalgoer may not know much about the Spanish indie rock scene, but don’t let that stop you. It’s Barcelona in the spring—it’s gorgeous, warm, and sunny. The beach is there. You will likely hear singers vocalizing in different languages—at the very least Spanish, Catalan, English, and Portuguese.
In the past, stalwarts of the independent alternative music scene are known for creating a buzz at Primavera, whether it’s Dinosaur Jr., Blur, or Wu-Tang Clan---and that’s just last year’s festival. Whereas other music festivals might have one standout moment where something unbelievable happens on stage possbly among band members who have buried multiple hatchets in order to appear together again or who have otherwise called it quits or gone on hiatus, Primavera is chockablock with these transcendent moments. Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, the Smashing Pumpkins, Neil Young, Pavement, the Breeders, the Cure, Pulp, Primal Scream, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, New Order and many more have all performed there in the past.
This spring’s festival boasts headliners including Arcade Fire, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, the National, Pixies, Kendrick Lamar, Disclosure, Caetano Veloso, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Volcano. It also features the reunion of the U.K. gauzy rock band Slowdive, playing its first gig in more than a decade.
Mucha Primavera: So Much to Do, So Little Time?
Quick! How much time do you have? This operation has tons of tentacles. In order to really experience its full range of programming, it’s advisable to come early. Take advantage of Primavera als Clubs—bands and performers across the city during the week. The festival proper starts the 29th, but there’s a free concert the night before. Those traveling with little ones—or thinking about it—should investigate minimusica. That’s the interactive, kid-friendly programming portion.
Music junkies who love movies won’t want to miss In-Edit, a mini-fest within Primavera that showcases music-related documentary films; it is likely to run ahead of the festival proper. Side note: did you catch the very meta promotional experience called Line-Up? It’s a trailer of the short film Line-Up, which announces the 2014 festival lineup via title cards. It also happens to be a legitimate, 26-minute film directed by Alex Julia that starts in a record store in Detroit streets and whose subject, a clerk at the shop, receives a mysterious package.
If you’re in the music biz, as is common with many music festivals of this size and scope, it presents (for a separate fee) a daytime conference-like component, PrimaveraPro, geared toward industry professionals, producers, thought leaders, musicians, progressive types in general who work in the business of music, technology, or the arts in some capacity.