PRIMAVERA IN-DEPTH FESTIVAL REVIEW

PRIMAVERA IN-DEPTH FESTIVAL REVIEW

by Big_Al / Jun 20, 2024 / 0 comments
Date: 
Wednesday, 29 May 2024 to Sunday, 2 June 2024

Day 1

By complete coincidence, I found myself in Barcelona just as Primavera was about to kick off. Having never done a foreign music festival and always wanting to, I put the wheels in motion to make it happen. Scrolling through Twickets on the Wednesday before the main event, I started sending out offers to pretty much every listing before finally getting an acceptance for one ticket at a steal of £120. Once the transaction was completed, perhaps in celebration, I broke my finger. Being a Brit abroad, I hadn’t taken out any health insurance, so I ran to the nearest pharmacy and taped a piece of metal to my hand to get by. I also paired this with some very painful sunburn from a day at the beach. At the age of 32 and with the complexion of someone who has never seen daylight, I should know by now that sunscreen is actually quite important in a hot country. With a portable fan on full blast pointed at my blistering legs, I felt ready for a day in the sun, excessively drinking and watching a load of bands I’ve never heard of.

Although one ticket was sorted, I did need another to bring my girlfriend (J) along with me. As day one hit and no Twickets offers were being accepted, they were all taken down as doors opened too soon. This is always irritating, and I think the website should make it clearer to the sellers that this will happen. Maybe then they would accept some offers rather than being stuck with a ticket and no way to sell it.

Being the great upstanding boyfriend that I am, I left J at the hotel and went to the festival alone. It’s very easily accessible by tube, where you are essentially dropped at the door. Check-in was quick, taking no more than five minutes. The security checks are not the most thorough I’ve ever experienced, with my search being a light pat on the stomach before being sent on my way. They have a weird policy where you are allowed to take in a water bottle as long as it has no lid. This provided a very easy booze-smuggling operation as you can just fill them with vodka and walk straight through.

On-site, after going for a quick walk around, taking in the excellent views of the sea and blue skies, I went over to the main stage to see whatever was happening there. While there, I checked out the facilities, and the toilets were the best festival toilets I’ve ever seen, arguably better than the one at my house.

Meanwhile, while searching for another ticket for J, I joined the Primavera Discord server and found someone looking to sell a weekend ticket for £110. There were a few red flags with them being based in LA, but I’d already had a couple of drinks, so my guard was down. Transferred through PayPal, and luckily, the ticket was transferred immediately to my partner. This put me in a fantastic mood, so I drank some more vodka while watching Derby Moretas Burrito Kachimba, a great name for an okay act.

I didn’t stay with Derby and his burritos for very long and went most of the way across the site to see Balming Tiger on the Pull & Bear stage. There is a ton of advertising at this festival, with stages named after brands like Amazon, Santander, and Cupra. I found this annoying as I’m used to Boomtown and Glastonbury, where they aren’t trying to sell you stuff as soon as you walk through the gates. I got to the Tigers a couple of songs in and was immediately hooked. There were dance routines, great costumes, and what felt like rap battles—a proper festival band and it won’t be the last time I watch them this summer.

Next up was Mannequin Pussy, who I was looking forward to thanks to their recent album being excellent. Unfortunately, I felt very disappointed from the off. I believe they had some significant sound issues, and I left around four songs in. Apparently, the issues were later resolved and the rest of the set picked up big time, but I can’t comment on this. Instead, I saw a queue for the Boiler Room stage and joined that while my vodka supply was rapidly depleting. After 20-30 minutes in the queue and making some new British best friends, we finally got in, headed straight to the bar, and made plans to see loads of acts together across the weekend. After getting our drinks, we then left the stage immediately due to hating the music and parted ways. One of the longest friendships I’ve ever had.

This is where I wish I could provide a food review. Unfortunately, my decision-making was entirely fueled by alcohol at this point, and instead, I got another drink. Running on an empty stomach, things get very blurry here. On consulting the Clashfinder, I have absolutely no idea what stage I went to next prior to planting myself at Amazon Music to be close to my favorite band on the bill, Deftones. J arrived just before they started to find me with grazed knees and blood running down my legs. I can only assume this was from knee-sliding over to Amazon Music out of sheer excitement to see Chino for the first time in a decade. With memory now working again, Deftones absolutely delivered. They have definitely still got it, and I was singing every word, even the ones I didn’t know. A fantastic setlist from an incredible band who still deliver since initially forming in 1988.

After Justice, we called it a night, hopped in a taxi back to central Barcelona, and fell asleep immediately, regrettably not having any food along the way. I don’t usually like to leave a festival until all the music has completely stopped, but there was no way I was making it to 6 am. This thing starts late compared to everything in the UK, and as such, it runs late—something to take on board for day 2.

Day 2

Waking up on day two, I have definitely felt more spritely. Analyzing the injuries from day one and deciding the best course of action was to power through, we went for food and a beer. It feels weird being at a festival where I have a hotel, I’m not permanently on site, and there are no main stages until 5:30. Luckily, Barcelona is one of my favorite cities, and there are great bars and restaurants everywhere.

I got to the site early, and it was much busier than day one. It was Lana day, and her insane fanbase was already hugging the barrier six hours before she was due on stage, something I will never understand, especially in the roasting Spanish sunshine. Once again, my vodka trick worked, and today I was determined to pace myself and make sure I got some food. I watched a bit of Ethel Cain, which was a nice way to ease into the day, then headed over to the Cupra stage for The Last Dinner Party. The guys are posh, really posh. They put on a good show with a couple of recognizable songs, but it’s not really my vibe. However, the adoring fans closer to the stage seemed hooked.

Next, I wandered over to the Plentitude stage to secure the barrier and do some stanning of my own. The really great news is I got a hot dog on the way—a lesson had been learned from yesterday. It was about a fiver, and it was absolutely fine. From the barrier of this stage, I could also watch the Steve Albini stage since they face each other and alternate times. I managed to catch female-fronted hardcore punk band Scowl, and they looked great with a small collection of adoring fans crowdsurfing over the barrier. I was here for a different reason—A-list celebrity spotting.

Keanu Reeves took to the stage with his band Dogstar, and a plethora of photographers arrived. As soon as the band was on stage, they clearly had no interest in photographing anyone on stage besides Keanu, and I have never been so star-struck in my life. Keanu looked a bit nervous as they started, but quickly resolved with some crowd energy where he settled in and clearly started to enjoy himself, particularly when they played a cover of "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure. I have been a massive fan of Keanu's movies since a very young age, so it was a big moment for me being so close to a childhood hero. Also, they were actually pretty good.

Going back over to the main stage to see Troye Sivan in his supporting slot for Lana, I think it’s a tough slot to have since I feel like the criteria to be a Lana fan is that you can only like Lana and no other artist in the world. Troye was, however, excellent, with the crowd a bit further back having a blast. The show should have probably come with a parental guidance notice as there was lots of grinding, thrusting, and interesting outfit choices (I don’t think I could pull off crotchless jeans, but Troye managed to).

Next up, Lana and a very large crowd of largely insufferable people. I was excited to give her another go after very strongly disliking her performance at Glastonbury (turn up on time if you don’t want to be cut off). 21:45 hit and she wasn’t there. Here we go again. I have a massive problem with artists that arrive late; it is extremely disrespectful to the fans that have been standing there waiting all day, and it is not hard to turn up on time. Her excuse at Glastonbury was that she was doing her hair; she didn’t have one this time. Thirty minutes later than she was meant to, she arrived on stage, and I wish she didn’t bother. Whispering down the mic and arrogantly walking around the stage, the fans at the front were trying to convince themselves it was the greatest performance of all time. During the show, a few people passed out. I think there is a good reason for this. It’s not healthy to stand outside in the Spanish sunshine not eating or drinking just so you are closer to some musician who doesn’t care about you. The stan culture needs to stop, as I’m seeing this more and more at shows. Gigs are hot, packed, and you are on your feet for very long periods; people need to look after themselves much better (coming from the guy with extreme sunburn, a broken finger, and grazed knees). After spending the whole show trying not to fall asleep, she finished with "Young and Beautiful," which was actually pretty good, but this could have been enhanced by my excitement for her leaving the stage. I won’t be giving her another chance if I see her on a festival bill. It’s also annoying as I’ve been told Clipse on one of the other stages were excellent (and on time).

After the main stage pretty much completely emptied, The National was up next. I have always called this band very boring on record and never been interested in seeing them (divorced Dad music). I was, however, very quickly won over. Maybe it was due to only just running out of vodka (great pacing today), or it was the high of seeing anything that wasn’t Lana Del Rey, but I found them to be genuinely great. I’ll be revisiting their music off the back of that performance, and clash dependent, I would watch them again at a festival.

After a bit of random wandering and being a responsible adult, I got more food. This time it was a very raw burger for around £10 and no sides. Obviously, I ate it regardless and we went to check out Barry Can’t Swim. Unfortunately, we left this far too late, and the place was packed. This was predictably going to happen with his recent success, so I only have myself to blame for not being able to watch it. We went back over to the main stage to watch Disclosure with their first live performance in eight years. They looked like they never left, and I was quickly reminded that these guys had a lot of very big dance hits back in their day. The stage turned into a massive colorful club with great visuals and loads of energy. The highlight for me was "Tondo" towards the end, where they brought out a wind ensemble. This got the whole place jumping. The lowlight for me was when they made the crowd do the crouch down and jump up thing. I swear most crowds hate this, and acts should stop doing it (except Slipknot).

On the way out, due to running out of energy early again (I blame the Spanish heat more than anything), I got another very average hot dog, and we watched a bit of Arca from a distance. Someone I had never heard of before, but the locals seemed to love it. We stuck around for longer than expected.

Getting home today was much more of a challenge thanks to the increased headcount. With massive queues for the taxi rank (all of whom were charging 60 euros to take you 10 minutes down the road), people scattered around bus stops which didn’t seem to have any buses arriving, and a big lack of signposting or stewards to help. In hindsight, I would have done a bit more research on getting back to the city center before going, so I have to take some blame for this. After lots of wandering and failed Ubers, we decided the best course of action was getting the first tube at 5 am. Unsurprisingly, it was rammed, but they were punctual, and eventually, we got home (later than we would have if we just walked the whole way). My key takeaway from this is to just power through until 5 am at the festival (or do some research and get the tram, as apparently this is very easy).

Day 3

Waking up on day three, I felt much better. The lineup for this day really didn’t have much on it that I would like to see, so we were in no rush to get to the site. Plenty of time for napping, as I’m old now.

We got there for a band called Royel Otis, who I thought were a Manchester-type Stone Roses-esque band on first glance, but when they spoke, it was clear they were Aussies. They aren’t my typical kind of music being indie, but this was exactly the type of thing you need when you first get to a festival and want to ease into things. Obviously, the vodka water trick had worked again.

After going for a walk around the site, spending 10 or so minutes in the Boiler Room watching IceMorph and trying to find the Auditori Rockdeluxe (again, there is barely any signposting at this festival. Definitely a skill issue from me as I’ve since been told how to get in there and it’s not hard). We went back to the main stage to watch whatever was on.

This was, for me, the ‘I was there’ moment at Primavera. We saw 070 Shake (who I knew nothing about), and it was the worst set I have ever seen at a festival (and I’ve been to quite a lot of them). The bass levels for this were insanely high to the point you couldn’t hear anything else. 070 was walking around the stage with what looked like some really forced attitude, throwing the middle finger at the camera while mumbling something or other into the microphone. So cool and edgy. Not to be the old guy, but it really did just sound like noise, not music. She continued with her edgy coolness by deliberately playing over schedule in a clear bid to get cut off. When this finally happened, and she was looking really pleased with herself, the crowd cheered in delight that this horror show had finally ended.

Now the weather took a turn for the worse, and it started raining—in Spain of all places. For us Brits, it wasn’t much more than a bit of drizzle, but speaking with someone from Barca, apparently, when it rains, they just cancel all plans. The site was full of people seeking shelter wherever they could, and the stages emptied. We went for a walk to watch whatever grabbed our attention, and while standing at the bar near the Pull & Bear stage, my ears pricked up to some funky beats and a small crowd going nuts. A band called Liberato were playing, complete with full black costumes, and the locals were loving every second. I didn’t understand a single word but was bouncing along immediately. It looked like that one Eurovision act every year which everyone wants to win but will inevitably lose to some ice-skating singer or similar. I absolutely loved these guys and immediately took note of who they were. They would go down a storm at a UK festival, and it made me think that our lineups sometimes suffer due to our reluctance to listen to music in languages we don’t understand. A dream Truth (or whatever it’s called now) stage booking at Glastonbury in the early hours.

With the rain now picking up beyond a light drizzle and my shirt soaked, I made the executive British decision of going shirtless and drinking to stay warm. Almost immediately, someone in the crowd waiting for Mitski rolled their eyes and asked me if I was English. Probably deserved. Mitski came on to a depleted crowd as the locals were still hiding under shelter and put on a pretty interesting and arty show. It was coupled with fairly regular lightning in the background, which really added and got a ‘oooo’ out of the audience on every strike.

SZA was on next, who I was intrigued to see based on her Glastonbury headline booking. It seems fairly certain she was bumped up after Madonna/Stevie Wonder dropped out, and it’s a booking I’ve questioned since I don’t like the music. Her stage show was massive, with a good amount of backing dancers and props appearing throughout. I actually had a good time, which I never saw coming, and the set really picked up when she played "All the Stars." It’s definitely an impressive show, but I was always going to stand there considering how it will go down on the Pyramid stage. I still think it will be pretty flat. The great news is it stopped raining.

Having eaten a questionable burger from somewhere, drank all my alcohol, and accidentally ordering some doubles at the bar (don’t do this in Barcelona), things get very blurry again. I had to ask J if we managed to see Charli XCX as was the plan due to my memory function switching off. We did, but left after a couple of songs due to my request. I remember I was very sick getting out of the taxi, which is unusual for me. I’ll blame the dodgy burger, not the excessive drinking.

Key takeaways/What have I learned:

  • - On writing this, I’ve realized I’m 32 and still have trouble pacing the drinking. Festivals are a lot better with a decent buzz and having memories to take away from it.
  • - Do research on travel options home from a city festival and don’t just expect readily available taxis.
  • - Try to get on the festival sleep schedule. When doors don’t open until 4/5 pm and it runs until 6 am, try to get some sleep in the day so you don’t crash out early.
  • - At a foreign festival, try and see the big local acts. You may not understand any of the words, but the atmosphere is electric, and you will absolutely be won over.
  • - Use sunscreen.
  • - Buy medical insurance abroad.
  • - Primavera keeps a mighty clean toilet (near the main stage).
  • - Festival advertising is really annoying and a bit of a buzzkill.
  • - I have an iPhone 15 Pro but can’t take a decent photo to save my life.
  • - The Spanish really don’t like rain.

Verdict

All in all, Primavera was a lot of fun. It’s a long way away from my kind of lineup, but I seemed to enjoy a lot of what I watched, and I found the crowds to largely be very good besides Lana day. I was lucky to not need to pay for accommodation, making this a very cheap abroad festival for me (around £500, including ticket, flights, food, and drink). If I needed to pay for somewhere to stay, this cost would have well over doubled.

I would absolutely go again, and if I did, I’d try to watch more acts I don’t already know, in particular ones which are popular with the locals. I’d recommend it to anyone considering an abroad festival without having to deal with getting camping gear there.

Rating out of 11: 
9