Words: Adrian Choa
Over the years I’d always heard whisperings of “Primavera, Primavera” in the air, mainly from older industry types saying that it was the best week of their lives, every year. I’d also been told that it was one giant stage in a car park in Barcelona, so I spent much of my 20s saying “whatevs” to that, I’m going to put a pinger up my arse and go to Dimensions instead!” Thing about it is, I’m grown now and the whisperings of “Primavera, Primavera” have steadily risen to the point that they’re deafening in my ear canal. This year I thought, “fuck it, I’m going to that carpark, and I’m going to bloody well enjoy myself!!!”
Arriving on the Thursday, I was immediately hit with the realisation that it is in fact not a single stage in a car park. It is in fact many stages, spaced across an extremely long, beautiful seaside venue. These stages played host to a massive line up, running the eclectic gambit from Erykah Bardu, Solange and FKA Twigs, to Interpol, AJ Tracey, Rosalia and fucking Miley Cyrus. In an impressive and progressive move, they had managed to make the lineup a 50/50 gender split, something the UK is only aiming to achieve by 2022.
I arrived straight to the dulcet slacker tones of Clairo, a Massachusetts-born artist who blew up with the lo-fi hit “Pretty Girl,” and has gone on to feature on big producers tracks such as SG Lewis, whilst refining her own solo projects. Having been an avid listener for a hot minute, I was confused by her quite forced “sexy” stage presence, combined with a whisper of a voice that the Prima sound men had not adjusted to. Regardless, she was met with an enraptured crowd who sung along to every lyric, and I’m sure she will hone her live presence to match the hype.
From here I went to see Sigrid, the Norweigan pop monster who seems incapable of not releasing wall-to-wall bangers. Sliding effortlessly through her set which ranged from effervescent disco to moody fist-in-the-air anthems, her consummate professionalism was a stark contrast to Clairo. For the night’s grand finale, I hysterically ran to the amphitheatre which saw the one and only Nas bless us with an Illmatic-heavy set.
The thing about Spanish culture is that they like starting shit really late. This is great, because as the festival starts at around 5PM, you can pretend to yourself that you’re going to spend the day seeing Gaudi buildings and eating Octopus, rather than the reality which is you sleeping in until 3PM and then spending an hour decrepitly crawling across the floor of your hotel room trying to make it to the water tap to soothe your arid, arid mouth before discovering that drinking from the Barcelona taps is in fact really not recommended. At least that’s what I heard. Another result of this late start is that it does something quite wonky to the schedule. Whereas we’re used to seeing bands early and DJs late, I found myself that night seeing Charli XCX at 3am, followed by FKA Twigs at 5am. And it was great!
So the next day, after waking up at 3PM and completing my bleak and humiliating water mission, I made it back onto site hoping to find an excruciatingly wanky festival experience I had been promised by the PRs. Yes there is a Soho House area at Primavera, and fuck you I’m going to it.
Imagine this: you are at a festival and you know what, your calves are starting to burn a bit from all the constant standing and your late 20s back pain is starting to settle in. But then, like an oasis in the desert, you see a beach club with a pool, glistening Aperol Spritzes, poke bowls, and fucking masseuses. WYD? You of course go, and I won’t hear any bullshit from you. Another bonus was watching influencers in shiny silver puffer coats in the 30 degree Barcelona heat fighting for the prime photo position on a tiny bridge above the pool also.
From here I went to see Snail Mail, the 19-year-old Maryland-native who has been serving up fat slabs of slacker garage to critical acclaim. I was surprised to see her scoring a very decent crowd at the 5.30PM slot. Who says guitar music is dead!
I am completely unashamed to say that I went to see Carly Rae Jepson and had a very nice time. It was pure unadulterated jubilance, with a predominantly gay, cultish crowd literally crowd-surfing to Call Me Maybe. Couple people kept trying to knight her with a giant inflatable sword, which I’m told is a #thing in the Carly Rae community. Sign a bitch up!
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this performance was followed by Miley Cyrus. Yes “Party in the USA” obviously bangs, but this show was unfortunately extremely tragic. It began with a 2-minute video of her fingering an orange, and when she finally came on she played songs with introductions like “this song is about drugs!” and “this song is about my vagina!” The sad thing is, that no matter how many embarrassing attempts she tries in order to make herself seem adult and risque, including riding a giant swinging wrecking ball, she’ll still be Hannah Montana. You’re Hannah Montana m8, chill out!
As the encore deep cut “Can’t Be Tamed” started to ring out, I realised suddenly that I needed to be as far away as possible ASAP, so I pegged it across the bridge to the other side of the site. I almost wanted to jump into the sea after witnessing a single minute of Kate Tempest’s slam poetry about melting polar ice caps, but was soothed when I stumbled upon AJ Tracey’s set. It still, like many other live rappers, smacked a little bit of soulless karaoke, but when his new garage slapper “Ladbroke Grove” came on I was definitely! Having! A! Good! Time!
I saw out the festival with Peggy Gou, the South Korean techno/house DJ/Producer/FashionDesigner/Model who is riding a mental wave of popularity rn. The first 10 rows of the crowd were filled with somewhat hysterical, horny dudes who lost their minds when she started throwing “Just Gou It” t-shirts into the crowd. Yeah this behaviour felt a bit Electric Daisy Carnival, Vegas, but also I kinda wanted one of those Tshirts.
Having just been to Field Day 2019 – dubbed London’s Fyre Festival, where an hour of acts had to play to no one because of some wind, and people rioted, breaking down barriers trying to get to the warehouse stage – I have to say something I really appreciate is a well-organised festival. And Primavera is that: a slickly curated, well-oiled machine with a die-hard clientele who return year after year for its superior product. It’s not just a stage in a car park. It is much more than that, and I hope that you all go. You’ll love it.