The ultimate Primavera Sound 2016 guide
On Barcelona’s waterfront, up at the far northern end of the city, you’ll find the Parc del Fòrum. Despite its label as a park, it’s not a particularly green place – instead, it’s an urban space designed for hosting some of Barcelona’s larger events.
During much of the year, it’s occupied by trade shows, conferences, industry forums and other such things that probably wouldn’t normally catch the eye. More famous than any of them, though – more beloved by Barcelona’s residents, and far more alluring to travellers from abroad – is Primavera Sound.
Primavera isn’t Barcelona’s only festival, but it’s the biggest, loudest and, if you ask anyone who’s ever been, probably the best. Every June, over 30,000 music fans from around the globe pour through those gates to revel in the sunshine (and well into the night) in the company of some of the world’s greatest acts.
Now entering its 16th year, it’s as clear as ever that adolescence has been kind to Primavera, and the festival today never fails to astonish newcomers and veterans alike – thanks, in large, to a consistently stellar line-up (look to this year’s unfathomably awesome roster of headliners for proof; you won’t find Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Sigur Rós, PJ Harvey and Suede sharing a stage anywhere else), a stunning seaside setting and the sort of parties that only the Spanish can throw.
…a smorgasbord of truly electrifying new acts. It is, in a word, unmissable!
In the following article Chris Heasman will prepare you for what’s shaping up to be this summer’s best music festival.
- Primavera Sound 2016
- Getting There
- Where To Stay
- Eating and Drinking
- Primavera Sound 2015
- Festival History
Primavera Sound 2016
Even standing next to previous years, 2016’s line-up is something special. The announcement of the full roster back in January, via this nifty little animated video, was a moment which shook the world’s festival scene just as it was gearing back into action.
Prior rumblings and announcements meant that the appearance of the two biggest names at Primavera this year – Radiohead and LCD Soundsystem – may not have been huge surprises, but that didn’t make the sight of those names on a poster, especially right beside each other, any less thrilling. Beyond the headliners, though, the festival this year has been blessed with the mother of all undercards.
A range of classic festival staples that seem as if they were hand-picked just to go hand-in-hand with that gorgeous Spanish weather – Tame Impala, Beach House, Animal Collective, that sort of thing – sit beside a handful of once-in-a-lifetime inclusions (check out Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds in full or a live set by John Carpenter, of Halloween and The Thing fame), as well as a smorgasbord of truly electrifying new acts.
It is, in a word, unmissable! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the sheer quality of the line-up, even by Primavera’s standards, means that you’re never going to not run into something fantastic.
It’s not the biggest festival in the word, either – getting from one end to the other can be done in no time at all compared to some other festivals (we’re looking at you, Glastonbury) – so you’ve got no excuse for missing out. That many quality bands and acts condensed into that small of a space means that if ever a festival were made for discovery, this is it.
Obviously, your biggest obstacle with getting to Primavera is getting to Barcelona itself. The city’s status as a popular destination for British holiday-goers, however, does mean that it’s actually one of the easier European festivals to reach.
This is your best bet, since flights arrive into Barcelona from pretty much everywhere in the UK. If you’re coming from London, you’ll want to head out from Gatwick or Heathrow, with EasyJet and Ryanair being your cheapest options. Prices fluctuate frequently, too, so if you find yourself looking at an expensive fare, just try again another day – or alternate your dates slightly. You really shouldn’t be needing to pay more than £100 for a round-trip, and prices can go far lower than that as long as you don’t leave booking too late.
EasyJet also run flights from Bristol, Liverpool, Southend and Newcastle, whilst Jet2 operate from Glasgow, Leeds/Bradford and Manchester. Flights also run from Birmingham, Edinburgh and East Midlands with Ryanair.
Apply a little bit of brain power to your bookings and, like London, you shouldn’t really need to break the bank to reach the festival. Once you’re there, you’ll need to travel up through the city to reach the festival, but taxis are cheap and an express bus service runs all the way from the airport into the city centre.
Travelling to the festival via train isn’t really the most time or cost-effective option, since you’re going to have to come through France if you’re departing from London. The journey will take up to 10 hours and might make a bit of a dent on your wallet, too.
That said, Spain’s trains can be of use – if it’s looking like you’re going to be spending too much on a direct flight to Barcelona (if you book Last Minute Primavera tickets, for example), it might be worth researching the possibility of flying to a far cheaper city – such as Madrid, where demand for flights will be less and so the flights themselves should be cheaper – and then catching the train to Barcelona. You’ll still end up forking out at least £100 for the whole journey, but if you’re unlucky enough to be faced with high prices on direct flights to Barcelona, it might turn out to be the better option.
Getting to the Parc del Fòrum
Getting to the Parc del Fòrum itself is a doddle – Metro Line 4 goes through much of the city, including the City Centre, Gothic Quarter, Urquinaona, Barceloneta, Jaume I, Girona and Verdaguer. You’ll be wanting to get off at El Maresme I Fòrum Station. A few bus routes (the 7, 41, 141 and N6) also have stops right by the Fòrum.
Where to Stay
Primavera isn’t a camping festival, so you’ve got a few options here.
The most expensive choice, sure, but probably the most luxurious. Barcelona’s a big place, so obviously the city is chock full of hotels of all levels of quality. Of course, the closer you are to the festival the better, but a lot of the nearby hotels are going to fill up very quickly. If you’ve got a bit of money to splash, give the Hotel Barcelona Princess a go – it’s right opposite the festival site, isn’t half-comfortable (at 4*) and, thanks to its location, is probably where most of the festival’s acts are going to be staying.
If you’re after the sort of place where you might run into James Murphy in the lobby, that’s the one for you. Otherwise, the festival itself works in partnership with some of Barcelona’s hostels and hotels to offer festival-long stays at bargain prices. Check them out! No matter which you choose, though, we’d recommend something not too far from central Barcelona or the festival site – you’ll thank yourself later when you’re stumbling home at 5am and only need to cross the street to get there.
AirBnB: what would we do without it? The latest trend in budget travelling is practically made for times like this, so if you don’t require hotel luxury (or want something a bit nicer than a hostel) then this is your best bet. Prices can go as low as £20 per night and, brilliantly, nicer places never get too expensive as long as you’ve got enough people to split the cost with. This is a decent selection of AirBnB accommodation near the festival site, but obviously the further you go out the cheaper they’re likely to get.
Eating and Drinking
There’s a dedicated area in the Parc del Fòrum during Primavera for food stalls, and the festival offers a range of food, including meals suitable for vegetarians and vegans. A lot of these stalls can, however, get quite expensive.
Luckily, Primavera allows outside food to be taken onto the festival site!
If any of the stalls seem a bit pricey, head to a nearby supermarket and grab a picnic or some light food, then take it in and enjoy it with the music. Don’t forget that you’re in Barcelona, too – if you find yourself with some time to spare, try venturing out to take in some of the city’s rich gastronomic scene.
You won’t regret it. Outside alcohol isn’t allowed on-site, sadly, but there are a range of bars around the festival which serve drinks at prices that are, generally, a little better than at UK festivals. If you bought one of the VIP tickets, you can even get your booze at a discounted price at one of the VIP bars around the site.
Primavera Sound 2015
You don’t need to go back very far to find evidence of Primavera’s high worth in the world of festivals. 2015 was a year as pleasant as any other (you won’t find the mud and gloom of Glastonbury’s darker years here), with that fine weather accentuated by an unsurprisingly fantastic line-up.
The Black Keys, Ride and The Strokes (who whipped their crowd into a heck of a frenzy, even by festival standards) took the headline slots, all delivering sets as masterful and refined as you could ever want from headline-worthy bands.
Watch highlights from Primavera Sound 2015
The rest of the festival saw acts as well-loved and renowned as Patti Smith (performing Horses, natch), Alt-J, Interpol and Underworld meet others as diverse as Sunn O))), tUnE-yArDs and Ariel Pink to deliver a line-up as weird as it was wonderful; as legendary as it was novel.
Props in particular to Patti Smith for making an anti-establishment speech worthy of the history books, to Caribou for giving a gorgeous night-time performance equally as worthy of a place in those history books (in a different section though, maybe) and to Californian psych-rockers Foxygen for just generally being really, really cool.
In all, it was a festival with as many life-changing moments as there were life-changing performances – and why should this year be any different?
The staggering heights Primavera has reached today seem all the higher considering what the festival once was. Back in its first year, in 2001, it was a one-day event which took place in the Poble Espanyol, an architectural museum in Barcelona, with a small handful of gigs by local bands and a smattering of DJs to back them up. By 2003, the names on the posters had begun to look more recognisable, with Sonic Youth, Belle & Sebastian and 2ManyDJs taking to the stage at the Poble Espanyol.
By the time the festival moved to the Fòrum, in 2005, it had New Order, Sonic Youth (again) and Iggy & the Stooges topping the bill, and was even playing host to some up-and-comers on the international festival scene, including a not-so-little band called The Arcade Fire – back in the days before they dropped that definite article in their name.
Over the following years, the festival went from strength to strength and hosted hundreds and hundreds of truly astonishing acts, with line-ups including the Flaming Lips, Pulp, Grimes, Bjork, The White Stripes, The National, Blur, The XX, Florence and The Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies, Pavement, Lou Reed, Aphex Twin, Bloc Party, Phoenix, Neil Young, Ghostface Killah and a whole shedload more.
If you’ve got a favourite band or musician – one that you hold up above all the others – there’s a really good chance that they’ve played Primavera. If you don’t, just stop by the festival sometime – you’ll probably have one soon enough.
Watch the stunning Primavera Sound trailer