Primavera Sound is one of Europe’s biggest indie and alternative music festivals. Held each year in Barcelona, the festival attracts the continent’s hipsters due to its varied lineup of everything from alt-rock to underground house and techno.
2016’s lineup was topped by none other than Radiohead, while the festival was also blessed with LCD Soundsystem’s revival, PJ Harvey and Tame Impala, who all touched down on its sun-drenched coastal setting for a weekend that spanned decades as well as genres. But it’s not just about the big names festival-goers should expect. The festival strides to provide a platform to smaller, more underground names, making it one of the world’s biggest influencers when it comes to the indie and alternative music scene.
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.
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.
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 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.