Siobhbán Kane’s epic roundup of this year’s Primavera Sound festival
In many Romance languages, primavera means ‘spring’ and in so many ways, part of Primavera Sound’s appeal is its own sense of spring, a feeling of renewal, and its environs which incorporate balmy weather, proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and a festival which brings some of the most interesting musical talent from all over the world.
This was my second year, and though last year’s festival was overwhelming for many reasons, it seemed natural to go once more, as soon as some of the line-up had been announced. Part of its charm is its location and its usually good facilities – much has been made of the unfortunate situation this year with the festival’s card scheme, which affected elements of the first ‘official’ day, and access to tipples, but it would be hard to get too upset, considering the scale of its operation. It is almost charming that a festival of its size could get something so wrong, it seems more human, somehow. One thing learned from last year was, if possible, to go for as long as possible, not simply for the festival.
Barcelona is such a lovely city to discover, whether it is visiting the Sagrada Família or La Catedral, or to marvel at Gaudi or Cadafalch’s architecture, to do it by bicycle is a recommended way to get around (www.barcelonarentabike.com), and is also a great way to get to the festival if you are not staying close to the main site. This is also recommended, for example the old fishing area La Barceloneta, a beachy enclave (featured in Cervantes’ Don Quixote) with tucked away, windy streets that are replete with elderly people, often a good sign (for me, anyway), and hidden gems of restaurants, bakeries and little bars (Absenta, Sant Carles 36,is a particularly sweet one). There is something quite therapeutic about cycling out by the beach to Parc Del Forum and then cycling home when the sun starts to rise and the beach is completely empty and as nature intended (it is to be avoided at peak times).
The festival itself doesn’t just claim Thursday through to Saturday, there are many Primavera-related concerts all over the city for most of the week, from the Monday through to the Sunday, but main events take place in Parc Del Forum and Poble Espanyol. This year as we cycled up the hill on the Wednesday to the castle on the hill, we were greeted with the sign ‘esgotat’ (sold out) for Caribou, and out of breath though we were, there was a sense of delight at simply being there, and to have the alternative to whizz back down the hill and on to a sea of rioja at any of the great eateries Barcelona houses. It also meant an earlyish night to get ready for what would become an operation of almost military precision, something my company mocked, but it is the only way if you want to get the most out of the astonishing array of brilliantly talented musicians who have also made the pilgrimage.