Although three years have passed since its previous edition, Primavera Sound has not stood still. The world was paralyzed by a global pandemic, but those responsible for the festival worked to make it the macrofestival of macrofestivals with tentacles that reach Porto, Los Angeles, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. This growth translates into money and gives the company a power that allows it both to create its own circuit without thinking about competition and to demand conditions from institutions under the threat of taking the music elsewhere. Literally.
This year, the festival celebrates its twentieth anniversary in Barcelona after two years postponing the party due to the health crisis. And it has thrown the house out the window with a poster that hosts 672 performances spread over 16 stages in the Parc del Fòrum and 14 in different spaces and venues in the city for ten days. According to estimates organization, the number of attendees will reach half a million from 139 different countries. In addition, in this edition there are five VIP areas (the one managed by Soho House has a swimming pool, although it cannot be used) and it allows you to pay with cryptocurrencies due to an alliance with the Binance platform, which also sponsors a stage. And the owners of a subscription are also owners of a Primavera Sound NFT courtesy of the house.
A shed of this caliber has great advantages such as the economic impact of 300 million euros that, according to the organization, it will bring to Barcelona and the 7,000 direct or indirect jobs that it will generate. But there are also inconveniences related to the inhabitants and managers of the city, who see in it a model of mass tourism similar to that of the large cruise ships that arrive at the port every day. The attitude of the co-director Gabi Ruiz in front of the City Council, with his threats to move the event to Madrid because he does not feel “the support of the local authorities”, does not help either.
In addition to the statements he made about it on the Tuesday before the festival on his own Radio Primavera Sound, on the first day the attendees came face to face with a recreation of Dimitri Vrubel’s famous 1989 illustration, in which he portrayed Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing on the mouth. The organization (there is no more information about the authorship) replaced the protagonists with Ada Colau and Isabel Díaz Ayuso but kept the phrase in Russian painted on the original: “My God, help me survive this mortal love.” Yet another way of putting pressure on the Barcelona City Council, curiously similar to the one used by Vox in Asturias against the government of the Principality regarding the official status of Asturian. The mayor of the city attended on Thursday the 2nd, but she canceled her planned attendance for the following day, without giving any explanations.
Day by day: Thursday June 1
The musical offer of this edition is unfathomable. There are so many bands that performances overlap and moving from one stage to another takes time so someone who wants to see many bands will have to walk briskly around the 160,000 square meter venue to get there on time. From the Estrella Damm and Pull & Bear stages (yes, they are all sponsored by brands), which are right next to the ones that are crossing the bridge that leads to Sant Adrià del Besós, it can take half an hour or more to walk. In fact, the organization offers the possibility of renting an electric scooter to save time on the catwalk.
But after three years of hiatus, people want to party and these factors are not very important. Those that did have it were the failures of the first day of the festival, which unleashed an avalanche of complaints from attendees on social networks: waiting for an hour to get to the bar, impossible queues for the bathrooms, funnels of people to access stages and three free drinking water fountains for the expected 80,000 daily attendees.
These problems took away much of the prominence of the day, but the public –which was not stuck in a queue or a traffic jam– also enjoyed groups from the old guard of indie like Dinosaur Jr, Pavement or Yo La Tengo and new additions to the group such as Tame Impala, one of the bands that brought together the most people on stage. It wasn’t all guitars and distortions, because at the Auditori you could also hear Maria del Mar Bonet and great stage divas like Charli XCX and Bad Gyal also made their audience vibrate. Rodrigo Cuevas also acted in the middle, with his cabaret reinterpretation of the zarzuela and the poperos Carolina Durante.
Friday June 2
Primavera Sound took note of the downpour that fell on the networks, apologized and I declare that he was working tirelessly to “solve them so that we can all enjoy the coming days as we deserve”. They added three sources of free drinking water to the three that already existed (a little scarce for a capacity of thousands of people, but less than a stone). They added more staff at the bar, they fixed the Wi-Fi problems that had also slowed down the service the day before, and the security team was in charge of directing the attendees when entering and leaving the stages to avoid crowds.
However the community manager (they have even dedicated a song to encourage him) had to deal with a new avalanche of protests. To the list of previous cancellations –Bikini Kill, Girl In Red, Bestia Baby, Afrikan Sciences, DJ Black Low, Girl In Red, Kehlani, Georgia, Pa Salieu, Rapsody and Lingua Ignota– Friday morning was joined by The Strokes. The band was already in Barcelona, but one of its members was infected with covid and they had to cancel their scheduled performance for that same day.
The concert has been moved to next weekend and those affected by the change who only had tickets for day 3 will be able to attend the new appointment without having to do any additional work. But not so for those who had the subscription for this first weekend, which did not sit very well with this group and although the organization filled the gap by adding groups like Mogwai or Caribou to the grid of performances, they did not calm down completely
The day, much more fluid, began with performances such as Cariño, who made the audience dance and sing hits like Bisexual, I’m not your fucking tamagochi either crying on the sidewalk. Shortly after, on the Ouigo stage, he played the Australian group Pond, who have exchanged members with Tame Impala and move in the same universe of psychedelic guitars. Helado Negro pocketed his audience with the honeyed cadence of songs like cloudy country, Outside the Outside either Running. But the big names of the day were Fontaines DC, who got pogos in the crowd and, of course, Beck.
The already veteran musician from Los Angeles gave those attending his performance a good string of mythical songs to dance to –Devil’s Haircut, Girl, Dreams, The New Pollution, Guero–, get excited –Morning Phase, Lost Causeor The Korgis version Everybody Has To Learn Sometime– and chant loudly with, of course, lose. It was the first concert that Hansen gave after the pandemic and he gave it his all on stage, dressed in a white seventies-style suit and accompanied by his new band.
More or less at the same time (here is an example of overlapping schedules), Amaia performed some of her best-known and best-valued songs, such as the impossible life, Yamaguchi or version of Saints that I paint you of the Planets. Another who added a version to her scant but effective repertoire was Rigoberta Bandini who, late at night, performed the The, the, the by Massiel in party key. Of course, they also fell Too Many Drugs, Bitch, Ow mom and got the local public to dance and lose their inhibitions, something that is not easy in Barcelona, the city where nobody dances at concerts.
Saturday June 4
Fortunately, the organization was able to solve the problems of the first day, otherwise Saturday would have been absolute chaos. While on Friday it seemed that the number of attendees had dropped, on the third day of the event there were people everywhere despite the fact that the program that day was not very lively. The headliner was the revered Nick Cave, who is not having the best moment of his life after the death of his son at the beginning of last May, when he was still recovering from the death of another of the descendants of him in 2015.
His exit to the stage was surprisingly powerful. Dressed in a black suit and accompanied, as always, by Warren Ellis and a gospel choir, he intoned get ready for love at full speed with jumps included (we must not forget that he is 65 years old, an important fact) followed by There She Goes My Beautiful World. But after the storm came calm and once seated at the piano he wasted the melancholy that was anticipated. They sounded I Need You, carnival, Red Right Hand Y Mercy Seat among other. It was not a lively concert but it was moving.
The advantage of a festival-buffet is that you can change register just by moving to another stage. A few steps away from Cave, they played Napalm Death with Mark “Barney” Greenway, showing off the resistance of their vocal chords and launching anti-war, feminist and anti-fascist messages between songs. At midnight, the band Gorillaz captured the attention of a significant percentage of those attending the event, with a somewhat stiff Damon Albarn on the stage.
The audience waited until two in the morning to see Tyler, The Creator, possibly the only non-sneaker hip hop musician to have been decorated on a Primavera Sound stage. In the middle of the recreation of a dreamlike garden, he interpreted the themes that have made him one of the most respected artists of the moment, such as See You Again, thanks to those who managed to keep a large part of the attendees active who, as soon as they finished their performance, took the exit road. Until next weekend or until next year, in Barcelona or Madrid.