Spain’s Primavera Sound Kicks Off Europe’s Music Festival Season With Mirrored Lineups in Barcelona and Madrid

Primavera Sound, the 22-year-old music festival based in Spain, is more than a FOMO-inducing lineup kicking off Europe’s festival season. It’s a marriage between the festival and the cities in which it takes place. This used to be a monogamous relationship with its birthplace of Barcelona, where the three-day festival is staged in the middle of town — uncharacteristic for an event that has a daily draw of over 80,000.

Since 2012, however, Primavera became polyamorous, extending to a sister festival in Porto, Portugal, with a pared-down version of its signature Barcelona event. This year, Primavera pushes the boundaries of its polygamous liaisons by launching an almost identical version of its Barcelona festival (which falls on the first weekend in June) in Madrid a week later, the same weekend as the Porto festival.

More from Variety

“Maybe we are cannibalizing ourselves, but the festival demand was growing,” says Primavera’s co-director, Alfonso Lanza. “Last year we did double weekends in Barcelona, and it was a complete success. Now it’s the time to have a mirror festival in Madrid that will bring the possibilities of the festival to new audiences from the rest of Spain, and also from America, because it’s very easy to get to Madrid. It’s a growing market in terms of the music and entertainment industry, but also as a tourist destination.”

Unlike Barcelona, and other cities upon which Primavera has left its mark, the Madrid edition is roughly half-an-hour outside of town. This makes Primavera’s set times that run until 6 a.m. a little less invasive for the city’s residents. The trade-off is the accessibility of the Barcelona edition at Parc del Fòrum, one of the city’s public parks that backs up to the Mediterranean Sea.

The convenience of the location for festival-goers, is not lost on Primavera’s organizers, who return the favor to the city by hosting a free (subject to capacity) “welcome day,” which this year features the Pet Shop Boys. Headliners for the main event include Blur, Depeche Mode, Halsey, Calvin Harris, Kendrick Lamar, New Order and Rosalia.

“When we sell a ticket to the Barcelona festival or to Madrid, we’re selling a ticket to the city,” says Lanza. “We feel like we need to pay back the city at some point. The welcome day is like a celebration, and we invite the whole city to come. There are people who can’t afford a ticket and can have a piece of the festival for free. It’s very important to us to make the festival accessible for everybody. It’s something we owe to the cities that host us.”

The welcome days provide a good sampling of the cutting-edge, cross-genre, gender-balanced lineups Primavera is known for that have as many international up-and-comers as marquee artists—without repeating names that appear on countless other festival flyers. This year, there are heavy hitters like Depeche Mode, Rosalía, New Order and Halsey as well as Beth Orton, Beak> (Geoff Barrow of Portishead’s experimental project), Sevdaliza and Om Unit.

“We decided years ago to make the difference with the most obvious part of a festival, which is the lineup,” says Lanza. “In Europe, almost all the festivals have the same lineup. It’s how the routines of the artists are made. We try to be different by having artists that others don’t have. But, that means taking some risks in terms of booking because if you try to bring someone that is not routine that season, there’s more risk for cancellation.”

Some of the artists that converge in Barcelona and Madrid for Primavera also perform in small venues around the city ahead of the festival as part of its Primavera a la Ciutat program, not unlike Lollapalooza’s side gigs around Chicago. Festival tickets include entrance to these venues, again, capacity allowing. Individual tickets are also available for purchase for those not attending the festival. Additionally, there is a DJ-led closing party, for which separate tickets can be bought. This year the party features Diplo and CamelPhat, among others.

Bundled into the days leading up to the Barcelona festival is Primavera Pro, a comprehensive music conference. This year’s program hits all the hot-button industry topics including AI, Web3, mental health, sync and licensing, and pop music analysis including a conversation with multiple Grammy-winning artist/songwriter/producer Jack Antonoff and Variety‘s own Shirley Halperin.

Primavera Pro, which has been running since 2010, developed organically because of the number of industry professionals on-site during the festival. “A lot of people were speaking in each other’s ears on the grounds in the middle of the shows,” says Lanza. “These people need a proper place to talk, to do business, to express themselves. Industry loves to come to the festival so it’s a lot much easier to gather the people together.”

Primavera’s thoughtful programing draws audiences from around the world, which over its two-decade existence has developed into a strong community. In 2022, the festival brought the Primavera experience to its global audience, hosting festivals in São Paolo, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Los Angeles. This year, Primavera will do another South American circuit in November and December, once more landing in São Paolo and Buenos Aires, and adding Bogotá and Asunción.

Says Lanza: “When you start a new destination and see how fast the community is building, the social networks and you do a pre-sale without saying a word about the lineup and you start selling tickets, there’s something there. People are buying the brand.”

Although the Los Angeles edition last year went well, the city will miss out on Primavera this year for a couple of reasons. The European and South American editions are booked within a close timeframe, trading artists across two to three weekends. The Los Angeles date in September happened in isolation event, which proved to be a booking challenge for the festival organizers. Furthermore, the American market is saturated, according to Lanza, which led to the decision to skip this year to reassess how to move forward.

In the meantime, if popping over to Spain for Primavera isn’t doable for you this year, you can experience the Primavera livestream on Amazon Music. The festival will have two channels, one focused on what’s happening on the multiple stages, and another taking viewers behind the scenes.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.