10 Things We Learned at Primavera Sound Festival
For much of the past week, Primavera Sound took over Barcelona's Parc del Forum with live music set against the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea. Attracting fans from across Europe and even from across the Atlantic, the annual festival draws over 100,000 people each year. This year's attendees were treated to acts such as The Rapture, Neon Indian, M83, Chromatics, Justice, Beach House, The xx and more. We cruised the festival ground for several days, taking in the sights and sounds. Here's what we came to find out.
1. The architecture plays a big role: Built as part of the Universal Forum of Cultures (similar to a World's Fair) in 2004, the festival grounds at Parc del Forum are made up of cutting edge structures that seemingly redefine municipal design at every turn. Main attractions include a massive monument of solar plates and a beach decorated with cement cubes.
2. Franz Ferdinand can do a top-notch Donna Summer cover: Midway through Franz Ferdinand's Thursday night headlining set, the band sequed from "Can't Stop Feeling" into Donna Summer's "I Feel Love." The Scottish quartet stayed true to the original, while making the song its won at the same time. None of its danceyness was lost, from its pulsating beat to thumping bass lines. Throughout the set, lead singer Alex Kaprano's voice was on the verge of giving out, but when ti came to the lilting falsetto of "I Feel Love," he hit every note.
3. Everyone is from somewhere else: English seemed to be the most common form of communication between various parties of people. Merely walking from one stage to another could yield encounters with citizens of Portugal, Romania, Iceland, Norway, Korea, France, the UK, the U.S. and many more nationalities in addition to many Spanish showgoers. Ordering food in English was a snap, as was ordering cup of San Miguel beer or simply making new friends.
4. M83 perform a set worthy of "Midnight City": From the moment the French-led group took to the Mini stage (that was actually one of the largest of the festival, regardless of its name), it was clear M83 weren't only headliners according to the schedule, but its abilities too. The band entered the stage to the very appropriate "Intro" song, completely with an oddly costumed creature standing front and center looking as though it was from outerspace. Next came their epic lighting that looked like a solar system explosion as Anthony Gonzalez and his female co-vocalist Morgan Kibby began crooning from their mics. Everything about the performance from start to finish was epic and fit for the sizable crowd they drew at 1:15 am.
5. The backstage press beach rules: While much of the general crowd does not have access to the area, all those in the press do. Sponsored by Adidas, the press area featured fresh salt-water pools for the press to swim in between bands, the highest in culinary offerings and discounted cocktails. Blue lawn chairs sat scattered about a cement platform for any and all to relax in and there were even non-porta potty bathrooms (a luxury even bands did not receive backstage). The press area was the place to be, so much so that it was easy to miss bands and just continue to socialize and relax by the water.
6. Chromatics can draw a crowd: While the Portland-based trio often plays it low-key and exists under the radar, it of course has its well-placed fans. Latest LP Kill for Love on Italians Do It Better has garnered quite a bit of attention, the attention they attracted at Primavera was tenfold. The trio took to the stage at 11:15 and the crowd that awaited them spanned as far as the eye could see. The sea of fans for Chromatics easily rivaled the crowd that much more mainstream headliners Franz Ferdinand had attracted just two nights before and really any of the headliners throughout the festival in general. Even though there was well over a hundred meters between the stage and the sea, it barely seemed like enough room to accommodate the thousands that turned out.
7. The xx's Oliver Sim is king of the backstage: Following Chromatics' Saturday night set at the Pitchfork stage, Oliver Sim of The xx began shepherding people from the main area past the black sheathed fence and into the backstage. While security had cracked down on access earlier in the day, Sim knew a way around it. Armed with two extra artists bands, he'd adorn the wrist of friends in plain view, bring them through the gate and then use the same two wrist bands to usher in two more awaiting friends. The comical process continued on long enough for him to amass an entourage prior to Jamie xx's set on an adjoining stage.
8. Sans douchebags: Somehow Primavera festival was able to find itself in a portal that few festivals (if none at all) are able to attain: a plane of reality without douchebags. There were no bros, no shirtless men with tattoos and cargo shorts, no drunken belligerence, no unwelcome shouting or fist pumps. Its a phenomena that has taken over many American festivals, but Primavera was bro-less and in effect, it created a more calm and classy atmosphere of co-existence.
9. Kindness brings a party: The outright jubilance of the Kindness stage show is one to be noted. With a full band and two energetic and well-dressed back up singers/dancers, Kindness put on a full show more akin to a full-on celebration than going the typical buzz band route of simply showing up and playing. When A$AP Rocky performed a while later, the whole band returned to watch from the back of the stage.
10. Unexpected discovery of the fest: While the Adidas stage was nestled into near oblivion due to size and location, a chance walk past yielded the mesmerizing music of Bernhard Fleischmann. With a microphone, turntables and a host of prerecording music, he crafted haunting electronic ballads that enraptured those who had turned out to watch.
Images by Nilina Mason-Campbell