An invite to the first music festival outside the UK was enticing particularly with the calibre of line-up on offer at Primavera Sound 2018. The festival has built up a reputation for delivering stellar line-ups and now in it’s eighteenth year and getting bigger every year, it takes place in the almost guaranteed Barcelona sunshine at the end of May. This is it’s eighth year at the Parc Del Forum offering twelve stages, delivering a blend of top acts doing the festival rounds, smaller up and coming artists and local names to delight an international crowd in attendance.
The opening concerts on the Wednesday evening are free for all, a lovely touch and thank you to the people of Barcelona without tickets to come and see what it’s all about. The full festival site isn’t open but the Primavera Apple stage provides turns from Mena’s family friendly Chilean pop, Canadian rockers Wolf Parade and Scots folk-pop Belle and Sebastian. Straight away something for everyone on the bill.
For the first time this year also the Auditori Rockdelux situated alongside the festival site was also offering concerts. The highlight today being a set from Spiritualized accompanied by an orchestra and choir. Sadly the required tickets to gain entry to this 3000 capacity auditorium were sold out by the time I had made it to the Parc Del Forum. The lesson being – get there early if this kind of event is on the bill again!
Arriving at 4pm for the main gates to open there was a long queue already formed but we were in quickly and smoothly although bemused by not being allowed to take in an un-opened bottle of water with the cap on. A helpful American explained to me it’s in case I want to lob it at someone full of liquid as they also take them from you at American football games too. Once through the gates there was a great range of merchandise on sale including Adidas tees, the brand being one of the main festival sponsors and stalls selling original one-off Flatstock posters, vinyl and music t-shirts. Having a wander I found myself in the biggest food court I’d ever seen catering for all tastes. Thee were around twenty outlets with kebabs, burgers, pizzas, tapas, ramen, baos and fish and chips amongst those on offer.
I make my way to the Xiringuito Aperol stage, a new stage this year on the beach where Four Tet, Daphni and Josey Rebelle Champion were back to back playing perfect sunshine beats for the daytime start to the party. Unbeknown to me this had started at 12pm with access via another entrance. This stage is part of the Primavera Bits area of the festival devoted to electronic music and situated over the bridge from the main festival areas. The Xiringuito Aperol stage has music from 12 – 6pm and the beach area alongside has areas to chill, sunbathe, swim or eat paella before the entertainment moves to the two stages in the area, Desperados Club and Bacardi Live.
Next I find the Hidden Stage, indeed hidden behind one of the main stages where Lee Fields and the Expressions are about to play. The hidden stage acts were all announced in the days leading up to the festival so weren’t a surprise on the day but still lead to some speculation and excitement as to who would play. The Expressions introduce Lee on stage and he wows the crows with his soulful voice in the style of the old soul singers of the sixties complete with sequinned blue suit jacket, an elegant showman working the crowd.
Then it’s to the Ray-Ban stage to catch the last half of Ezra Furnam’s set. The stage is set at the bottom of a makeshift auditorium with a bank of steps leading down to the main area allowing for those who want to sit and watch from afar. Ezra is on firey form going through his set barely stopping to greet the crowd but ensuring they knew this is a political concert before ripping of his shirt to show his chest emblazoned with what looked like “Queer Pout” in red lipstick. Hits such as Love You So Bad and Suck the Blood From My Wounds show his Lou Reed/Iggy Pop cross-dressing rock persona off and gain a few new fans.
The next two headliners I plan to see are playing opposite each other in the huge field housing the Seat and Mango stages. Only one stage plays at once and it’s a masked Bjork up first performing songs from new album Utopia and her previous release Vulnicura whilst also throwing in a version of nineties hit Human Behaviour much to the crowd’s delight. Her set is visual treat intoxicating on the eye.
Then it’s all to the other end of the field for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds with an intense performance made all the more so by the audience’s hushed attentiveness. Opening with Jesus Alone from latest album Skeleton Tree and then launching into a greatest hits set delving into his back catalogue. Nick draws everyone in as he prowls and delivers his powerful voice, it was near impossible not to take your eyes off him and become emotionally entwined by his lyrics. A stage invasion initiated by Nick in the final song Push The Sky Away, a fitting way to end the set and feel close to the legend.
Next it’s the turn of Nils Frahms on the Primavera Apple stage with his pianos, keyboards and synths wizardry mixing classical with electro. Another act which can hold a top spot at this festival just perfectly his sound floating across the Parc being just what the audience wanted. I then wander back to the Ray-Ban stage on the way to the exit, where Four Tet is again on stage with a harder electro set than earlier in the day, perfectly fitting the mood of 4am before calling it a day and heading off home.
First up today after chilling on the beach in Primavera Bits is Seth Troxler doing a disco set in the Desperados Club venue. A palm tree oasis with areas to relax if need be. It sets the day off nicely and lines up Peggy Gou on the same stage who ups the ante a bit with some tech house electro eighties tinged tunes mixed with some classics such as Laurent Garnier’s The Man With The Red Face and others which had us shazaming a few trying to ID them. After I find myself helping an Irish lad at the Desperados mobile phone recharge zone, where there’s useful lockers, points at which phones can be charged. For a returnable Euro they can be plugged in and left while you go off for a bit returning when you want, meaning no ridiculous queues to charge your phone.
I then head over to the Bacardi Live stage to catch a bit of Superorganism having super fun with their bubble gum pop in their raincoats which seem a little odd in the Barcelona sunshine before heading to see ThunderCat blast out his jazz bass on the Rayban. Charlotte Gainsbourg is on the nearby Primavera Apple stage so I sit on the grassy verge behind the stage to watch her. Single Sylvia Says rings across the field bringing delight to all and her songs sung in both English and French suit the warm Spanish evening and international crowd wonderfully. I’m then back over the busy interconnecting bridge to Primavera Bits and the Baracrdi Stage to see Mike D of Beastie Boys fame. Playing a mix of hip hop classics and rapping over Beastie Boys tunes reminds everyone of how great this band were and still are. And then back to the Apple Stage for Ty Seagall and the Freedom band, a fairly large stage for the LA lad and band but one he commands in true rock star form. His version of Everyone’s a Winner, cover of the Hot Chocolate original, sounding great.
I’m then in the mood for more dancing and fortunately Confidence Man are there to deliver. This Australian four-piece are up for a party with co-ordinated dance moves, stage aerobics and accompanying outfits delivering the fun tunes with heavy dance beats. Whether they are taking the piss or not, it’s fun danceable tunes, even the one that sounds a bit like Aqua. The hooded drummer and synth keyboard players add a little mystery and their musicianship should be applauded. The Black Madonna then keeps the party going as only she can do, being always up for it, for a little while longer to finish the night while I stumble off to find the metro station.
The final day is here and I arrive later at the Parc Del Forum, three days of partying starting to take their toll. But after a little wander and some lovely Venezulean food from one of the food trucks in Primavera Bits, its time for Slowdive who play to a packed Apple stage. Sitting on the grass verge, the power of their sound fills the field, a great start to the evening as the sun is setting.
It’s then over to the other end of the site where a large crowd is already forming for The Arctic Monkeys at the Mango stage even though Lorde is playing on the stage opposite. By the time they are about to come on it’s possibly the largest crowd I’ve seen over the last few days. Alex Turner et al come on to loud cheers and the epic crowd don’t let down, singing every word to the old loved tunes whilst also hearing the new album for the first time live. I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor three tunes in is a definite highlight for me, having a sing along with the Spanish fans knowing it word for word.
And it’s then time for more dancing as I head to see Jon Hopkins back over on the Bacardi Live stage. His show is outstanding and has everybody up and jiving. Tracks from new album Singularity and the 2013 album Immunity merge together nicely. As so does Lindstorm who is playing shortly after at the Pitchfork stage down by the Barcelona water’s edge. Showcasing his first album in six years It’s Alright Between Us As It Is and the kind of melodic sonic beats which have given name to a Scandinavian sound favoured by himself, Todd Terje and Prins Thomas.
Finally, as all the other stages finish for the night everyone heads in droves to the Ray-Ban stage where DJ Coco has taken to the stage to close the festival as is now tradition. Every year he plays a mix of dance and indie and it’s one big party to end the party.
Apart from all this there were till still other areas I never made it to – The Warehouse with the Bowers and Wilkins soundsystem, the Night Pro stage, The Auditori Rockdelux and all the stuff happening in the city during the day and in the clubs at night.
It was an amazing few days spent in the Barcelona sun seeing so many fantastic and varied acts at a festival where the audience respect music as a creative discipline and more importantly each other whilst still having a great time.