Primavera Sound Brought Many Musical Memories to Barcelona Over a Week of Performances
Where do I even start when it comes to summarizing Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023? With a week of performances by artists from all over the world and at all different levels of industry maturity – not to mention, this was my first trip to Europe so of course, my first European festival – there is so much to reflect on. I still feel like I missed out on a lot, but I’ll cut myself some slack given the sheer size of the festival grounds – I was warned, but definitely unprepared. Ten stages sounds like a lot and it definitely is, but when you consider the close to 200,000 person attendance, it seems a little bit smaller. Just kidding, those are some large relative numbers! Anyways, on the to review.
As I mentioned in the pre-coverage leading up to the festival, this truly is a multi-genre festival that defines what a multi-genre festival should look like. There were artists present from all across the spectrum: electronic (with a heavy focus on drum’n’bass), post-punk, art rock, indie, R&B, K-pop, rap, alternative (and every kind of hyphenate), techno, pop…the list is truly endless and there really was something for every type of music lover out there. This slew of artists attracted fans from everywhere – I even met a mom who traveled from Florida with her daughter specifically because Red Velvet, an innovative K-pop act, was performing. With music happening literally every minute from 16:00 to 6:00, you could readily find an artist that you may not have heard of before if you were willing to go the distance to travel to another stage…and man, was it always a trek, unless you decided to camp out at Estrella Damm and Santander which were right next to each other – no shame, I did that on the last two days for some of the later sets. I was incredibly impressed with how they managed traffic flow, however. With that many people in one space, regardless of how many stages there were, I thought there would be more traffic jams but the organizers did a great job of stationing workers to direct attendees to avoid any bottlenecks.
There were so many notable moments throughout the three-day event that made for a very special experience for the crowd. Ghost set up a confessional for fans to atone for their sins of heavy metal, and there was always a decent line at it whenever I passed by. But if we want to talk lines, I mean…the Boiler Room x Cupra collaborative stage probably had the longest line I’ve ever seen for one stage – people were rearing to dance in a 360 setting. TURNSTILE started the first mosh pit; Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem performed together on stage for a true family affair; Skrillex literally set the stage on fire (nobody was hurt, thankfully, and the show did go on); Japanese Breakfast managed to walk over the audience; Depeche Mode honored electronic pop; Halsey debuted a new rock-filled set; Charlotte de Witte had us feeling the true late night techno energy. And of course, we can’t forget about Rosalía bringing her hometown swagger to the big stage on the final night of the festival. She gave audience members in the front row a moment in the spotlight when they sang into her microphone, a feat that I personally could never see myself doing, so I have nothing but respect for those who did. Throughout the weekend, I found myself constantly drawn to the Pull&Bear stage. It was close to Estrella Damm and Santander and also constantly had music playing and lasers blazing, and I was able to find so many new electronic artists from it. Now if I had to choose my favorite set of the weekend, and this may not be a surprise to anyone who knows me, I would have to say Fred Again.. because he’s been at the top of my bucket list for a while now. His music always puts me in a mental place of peace and reflection and being in the crowd at his set was nothing short of joyful.
Now if you decided you wanted a break from the music, there was no shortage of sponsor booths to choose from. You could do a quick glam check at Maybelline or check out some merchandise from Pull&Bear. If you were looking for a new phone – maybe you accidentally dropped yours – then Google Pixel was on site to help with that. Did you catch someone’s eye at the festival and want to take things to the next level? The Flower Power House, hosted by Swatch, was just the thing for you. And if you wanted to take a break to replenish all the calories you burned on the dance floor, there were food (and drink) vendors spread out across the festival grounds. It was really nice to not have it all concentrated in one area because the lines were much shorter than what I’m used to and you didn’t have to travel far to re-up your energy. I really appreciated the plentiful vegan vendors, as well, because it made me feel safe from cross-contamination, which is the last thing I want to deal with at a festival.
As previously mentioned, this was my first European festival and there were definitely some differences from the US festivals that I’m used to, primarily the time at which everything went until. Since the sunset after 21:00, the grounds started to get full closer to 19:00, which was fine considering how far into the morning the sets went. I barely made it past midnight on the first night – jet lag and the time difference didn’t do me any good – but was able to make it past 4 AM the next two nights, even walking home as the sun was rising on the final night. I was honestly surprised to see how many people made it that late, but I heard it’s the norm. The festival fashion wasn’t nearly as flashy, but that’s not to say there was a lack of personality. I could still see people’s identities shine through their clothing choices and I loved seeing the groups of friends who were dressed similarly or had similar accessories, which is a constant across the ocean as well. At the end of the day, though, the love for music remained constant and there were so many different kinds of people there to enjoy the various kinds of music. Overall, I would recommend this festival to anyone who wants to get the most bang for their buck when it comes to seeing artists. Just make sure you wear very comfortable shoes and plan accordingly about which sets you have to catch and factor in the travel time between stages! And if you’re visiting from the US, do yourself a favor and give yourself some time to acclimate to the time difference as well as extra time in the city.