Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival feels like nothing short of a decathlon, and by now many of us deserve a medal. With 12 stages scattered over Barcelona’s enormous coastal reserve at Parc del Fòrum, and three more downtown in the city’s Gothic Quarter, Primavera Sound has developed a reputation as one of the most massive and comprehensive festival experiences in the game. The festival attracted fans and music professionals from around the globe with a reported attendance of over 200,000 people this year, and somehow, it all went down without a hitch.
The main draw of the festival is the three-day Parc del Fòrum event, but proceedings start earlier in the week with the Primavera Pro conference. Artists, bookers, label heads, journalists, and fans pile into the Centro de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona to attend workshops, networking meetings, and free showcases led by top industry names. The Pro conference featured talks by Solange, Imogen Heap, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Pitchfork president Chris Kaskie, and showcased delegations from an array of countries, most notably Brazil, which hosted seven acts that owned the Day Pro stage on Sunday afternoon.
Bands playing at the city’s Day Pro event were also booked to play the Night Pro stage at the Forum. São Paulo duo FingerFingerrr brought their bone-crushing garage punk to Primavera, barreling through an explosively demented late-night set complete with moshing and cheers of “Fora Temer,” a direct call to Brazil’s current chaotic political state echoed by all Brazilian acts at the festival. Soulful sensation Liniker e os Caramelows were likely the biggest hit of the Pro stages, with a funky and energetic set that left the crowd reeling. Liniker has become a beacon of trans and black visibility in her native Brazil, and her message of inclusivity was present both in the crowd and the stage in what was likely the most diverse and joyful show of the festival.
Liniker was not the only one spreading black girl magic on Primavera audiences. Solange delivered a powerful, minimalist headlining set filled with lush costumes and cinematic lighting, whereas Grace Jones chose the opposite direction for her show. The legendary singer, actress, model, and socialite cavorted on stage, completely naked except for a corset, in her famous Keith Haring body paint and a parade of wild headpieces.
But a truly magical being took the stage at the Auditori Rockdelux, just outside the limits of the Fòrum, when 79-year-old Brazilian samba queen Elza Soares performed her stunning album A Mulher Do Fim Do Mundo. Mixing tragedy with resilience, Soares led a foreboding singalong of “Maria de Vila Matilde,” a tale of domestic abuse where she swears revenge on the man who’s beaten her. And for a rendition of her classic “A Carne (Negra),” where she sings, “The cheapest meat at the market is black meat,” she ended with a rousing minute-long chant of the phrase “Sou Negra!” which left the crowd roaring in approval.
The indoor auditorium stage played host to intimate and conceptual performances by the likes of The Magnetic Fields and The Zombies, but for young Spanish flamenco singer Rosalía and her producer, guitarist Raúl Refree, the auditorium allowed them to fully unfurl the raw beauty of their album Los Angeles. The duo was sensational, morphing their festival appearance into a hybrid flamenco tablao and ritzy night at the opera.
The last show I caught before collapsing from exhaustion on Saturday night was Clubz, all the way from Mexico. The pair’s 3:30 a.m. show was packed as they flew through their stylized synth pop catalog, dancing around the stage and suggestively writhing on the floor. The Monterrey band’s onstage chemistry and crowd’s enthusiasm to dance until sunrise made this a perfect final burst of energy for a weekend that defines creative exuberance and the power of global music connection.
Check out more photos from Primavera Sound 2017 below.