Wednesday, May 30th; 32 degrees in Berlin, 23 in Barcelona. Miracles do happen and whoever decided to board on the plane to Barcelona that day was happy to take a break from the tropical city of Berlin. Even the Ryanair flight was for once not delayed. The long boarding queue was an expected collage of festivalgoers: Björk devotees looking forward to drag up and hit the VIP area, backpacking festival bros looking forward to get wasted and lose their Ray-Bans, colorful indie kids, black-on-black ravers, disenchanted Nick Cave groupies, bookish Father John Misty fans, lots of Doc Martens, tote bags, silly tattoos, and various shapes and colors of bowl cuts. I was in my most orthopedic sneakers and one of my compact, easy-to-wash outfits. I’m also in my thirties and practicality has never been more vital.
The thought of being too old for it crossed my mind a few times there in the fresh-faced crowd, but didn’t last longer than the flight. After seeing the full spectrum of the festival audience, I remembered that this year’s Primavera Sound had all the best shows and everyone and their mother was there because of it. This ain’t California, and Primavera isn’t Coachella – thankfully. Most people were there for the music rather than the haphazard hookups, and the culturally offensive Urban Outfitters festival costumes were nowhere to be seen. Sure, there were some trends that were impossible to avoid. Tropical patterns on every type of garment that swarmed the festival site made me think of Meryl Streep’s line from The Devil Wears Prada (‘Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.’), but it seemed to work on the mindset of the people wearing them. It had to be the most easy-going, non-intrusive festival crowd I’ve ever been in.
No reasons to curse
Aside from the incredible organisation due to which everything worked meticulously to avoid chaos and aggravation (no queues! no annoying cash-token-beer exchange! enough bars and toilets for everyone!), what surely added to the easy-breezy feeling of moving from one stage to the next and sharing a zen experience with the massive amount of people was the spacious location that allowed enough room to relax and enjoy the breathtaking view over the sea. There were little to no triggers for drunken aggression, and for the first time I saw info and intervention points for dealing with harrasment on the site. Last but not least in the list of clever organisational moves were food stalls that showed respect for everyone’s taste – from ‘hamburgeses y patates’ to raw fish and veggies. Well done, Primavera. 10/10 for not making me curse a single thing.
The organisation seemed to match up to this year’s larger-than-life line-up. To people raised on Pitchfork charts, this festival edition gave it all. In theory, at least. One of the things that Primavera couldn’t get quite right was the schedule. It was painfully difficult to decide which of the bands with overlapping time slots were most worthy of your attention – as per usual in festivals of this calibre. On one side, a band you listened to for the last 18 years; on the other, an 18-year-old Youtube sensation whose one great track is all you’ve been listening to for days. One is practically family; other is the new cool friend whose pictures would look good on your Instagram account. Family first – at least on day one when things were still just warming up – and everyone ended up going to Belle & Sebastian. The band treated their fans to a wonderful catalogue of new and old songs and the lead singer wholeheartedly set the mood for the rest of the week. As the days progressed, the atmosphere gradually culminated to the festival’s peak – Saturday night – when major artists such as Ariel Pink, Beach House, Deerhunter, Grizzly Bear, and Jon Hopkins delivered intense shows. The day began with silly dancing and stage diving to Ariel Pink who emulated a cartoonish version of Mick Jagger & Keith Richards with his band member on stage, and ended with Beach House’s gentle lullabies that prompted half of the audience to lie on the grass and slowly descend into dreamland. The in-between was, unfortunately, a futile chase to see a bit of everything.
What will really linger long after the festival and inspire me to see more gigs was Fever Ray‘s powerful, sexy, fun-loving performance with an all-female band in drag. Her exotic sound was custom-fitted for the show to get everyone dancing, and her bandmates channeling Spice Girls with a devilish twist brought fierce feminist vibes to the stage. The festival certainly didn’t have a lack of female artists. It was, in fact, women who delivered the strongest live shows. The wind of change was apparent with big headliners such as Björk, Lorde, Lykke Li, HAIM and CHVRCHES, all of whom looked and sounded more confident than ever. Perhaps it was the reflection of the current state of music industry, but I’ll choose to believe in Primavera’s progressive ‘We care, do you?’ spirit.
That said, Primavera Sound might’ve easily become my favorite, or simply the only festival I will ever give a damn about. Catalans do it right, and I’ll keep coming back to Barcelona for more even if its streets never stop reeking of British springbreakers’ vomit.