A festival the magnitude of Primavera Sound can be daunting, even for the most experienced concertgoer. Taking over Barcelona’s Parc del Forum every summer for three packed days, Spain’s biggest music festival boasts non-stop insanity from noon to 6 a.m. and over 100,000 attendees all weekend. The festival is known for booking some of the most relevant headlining talent of the day, with a splash of throwback feels, and this year’s announcement did not disappoint. Among the fest’s heavyhitters are Solange, Frank Ocean, Slayer, Aphex Twin, Arcade Fire, and the elusive Grace Jones. Tributes to classic albums by The Zombies and Seu Jorge are sure to captivate the nostalgia-hungry crowd. But you probably already know these names, and as per usual, we’re here to highlight some artists worth discovering at this mammoth event.
The influence of Spain’s musical traditions on our own in the Americas is undeniable, a product of colonialism and pop cultural hegemony. From La Movida to the current state of indie and hip-hop, many young artists and fans look to Spain as a source of inspiration and entertainment. As a Latinx publication, we strive to preserve the space we’ve created for our own community, while also highlighting how many of these artists are in dialogue with music movements in Latin America. This festival preview features exciting local artists making noise on their home turf, as well as Latin American acts trying to make a splash across the pond.
Check out our picks below, and stream our favorite tracks by the artists here:
Primavera Sound hits Barcelona on May 31-June 4, 2017. For the full performance schedule, click here.
Rosalía & Raul Refree
When a prodigy and a seasoned veteran come together, the possibilities can be magical. Such is the case of 23-year-old flamenco singer Rosalía and producer-guitarist Raul Refree, who met two years ago when the young vocalist was performing at a tribute to Spanish singer Maruja Garrido in downtown Barcelona. There was instant chemistry between the two, and soon they began working on what would be Rosalía’s debut, Los Angeles, released early this year. Rosalía belts each song with the conviction and drama of a veteran singer, and Refree’s evocative guitar playing and atmospheric production fill the record with anguish and frail beauty. The pair has received much praise from Spain’s flamenco community and by catching them at Primavera, you’ll be experiencing a mix of authentic Spanish tradition with the yet unexplored potential of the genre’s future.
This crew of Madrid-based MCs have been on and off the scene since 2011, often pursuing solo projects and coming together to drop sleepy, laid-back bars over trap beats. Core members Sticky M.A. and C. Tangana have been dropping mixtapes and hitting the road hardcore, and in late 2016, the whole crew came together to release Siempre, a sleek new album that put them back on the radar of savvy Spanish rap fans. Creatively, sessions for the album started when all five members of Agorazein coincidentally ended up living in the same neighborhood. The album is romantic and loaded with bravado on songs like “Qué Pasará,” while speaking to the long walk to success on single “100k Pasos.” They also stirred some controversy in the local rap scene by embracing auto-tune and reggaeton, to which they responded with upright middle fingers. The Primavera lineup is a bit short on hip-hop talent this year, so Agorazein will offer a delicious palate cleanser in the event you oversaturate on indie rock.
Elza Soares and Seu Jorge
As the vanguard of Brazil’s prolific indie scene dominates at Primavera Pro, the festival’s official conference, Brazilian icons Elza Soares and Seu Jorge will be teaching master classes in the South American spirit from atop the Primavera main stage.
First, Elza Soares, Brazil’s samba queen and a folk hero out of Rio’s favelas, will perform songs from her 2015 album A Mulher Do Fim Do Mundo, which she released at the age of 77. The album’s mix of apocalyptic experimental samba and lyrics about race, injustice, and social strife received international accolades and prompted the octogenarian diva to take her beautiful avant-garde show on the road. Later, Seu Jorge, who rose to fame fronting the band Farofa Carioca and starring in films like City of God and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, will bring to life his soundtrack for the latter film. The album of David Bowie covers sung in Portuguese was originally conceived as a score for Wes Anderson’s quirky maritime docu-romp, but praise from the filmmaker, fans, and the starman himself helped galvanize the record into a modern classic. If you haven’t gotten on the Brazil bandwagon yet, please allow these two incredible and wildly different performers to convince you.
Clubz is poised for glory at Primavera Sound. The Monterrey natives have seen a meteoric rise since the release of their debut EP Texturas back in 2014, after which they relocated to Mexico City and were promptly signed by Barcelona-based label Canada. Part of what makes Clubz’s sound so successful is the freedom with which they collide sounds that have inspired them through their life. The band’s music is synth-pop with smooth bass lines and elements of dark pop and funk, which they continue to embellish on every new release. Their second EP, Épocas, featured only the title track and “Ciclos,” but in those two songs and the accompanying remixes, their newfound polish and growth made it clear this was a band on the brink of stardom. Cut to today – the band has played Festival NRMAL twice, toured all over Mexico and Latin America, even making it to Chilean indie mecca Festival Neutral. Their forthcoming album Popscuro is one of the year’s most anticipated records. Clubz is bringing their stylish plan for world domination to Spain, and you can watch it all unfold on the Primavera stage.
This band from Barcelona mixes post-punk and garage rock to deliver their own unique brand of snarky, light-hearted thrashing. Les Sueques debuted in 2011 with a self-titled EP, and have since released three full-length albums, most recently in February of this year with the excellent Moviment. Like a delightful blend of The Breeders and Las Kellies, Les Sueques’ music is fuzzy but polished, full of high energy and wit. The Barcelona quartet also touts their deep Catalonian roots, composing and singing exclusively in Catalan, giving the band a roots-oriented edge over compatriots aiming for the mainstream by writing and performing in English. Les Sueques have cut their teeth locally and established themselves as hometown heroes, and Primavera Sound will be much deserved vindication for the band. If you’re looking for an authentic taste of Barcelona indie while steeped in festival hedonism, make sure to find Les Sueques and dance to your heart’s content.
Spanish newspaper El País once referred to Soledad Vélez as “the Amazon who came from Chile.” It’s an apt comparison; the Concepción native left Chile when she was 19, first relocating to Buenos Aires, and eventually settling in Valencia in 2011. Vélez began her career making sweet-hearted folk on her 2012 debut Wild Fishing, but her voice as a songwriter and growling vocalist fully consolidated with her follow up album, 2013’s Run With Wolves. In 2016 she released Dance and Hunt, an exciting departure for the singer where she refashioned herself as an electroclash badass, overwhelming listeners with a record of aggressive synth and fuzzy guitar compositions. Everything about Soledad Vélez exudes strength, from her otherworldly voice, to her songs about chaos and nature, and her defiant onstage swagger. This Chilean rocker will plant a riff and expertly crafted chorus deep within your ear, and Primavera Sound is your chance to step into her world.
El Petit de Cal Eril
El Petit de Cal Eril may have one of the most challenging names on the Primavera bill, but he also has one of the richest and most interesting catalogs. Originally from the Segarra district of Catalonia, El Petit de Cal Eril is the stage name of Joan Pons, a musician walking the line between traditional folk songwriting, indie rock, and tinges of psychedelia that make him sound like a Mediterranean Sufjan Stevens. Pons debuted as El Petit in 2007 with an experimental collection of children’s songs called Per què es grillen les patates?, subsequently releasing four full-length albums. 2013’s La Figura del Buit gained him nationwide attention for its lush and effervescent song orchestrations, and 2016’s La Força took a dark turn for the introspective with moody production by Jordi Matas who imbued the record with a eerie, supernatural quality. Considering his ambitious and ever-fluctuating ideas, it’s impossible to predict what dimension Pons’ show will take at Primavera, but in all likelihood it will be unique and wondrous.
Barcelona DJ and producer Sau Poler is making shimmering, crystalline house music. Though he tinkers with hip-hop and deep house, Sau Poler’s strengths lie in his gentle, meandering introspections, which are versatile enough to enjoy at the gym, at home, or on a crowded dance floor. His first EP A Soundless Echo featured such journeys, with the track “Isolated” standing out for its jittery lightness. Sau Poler’s most recent EP, Memorabilia, dropped late last year and received glowing reviews. Seeking to create a trance-like experience, the songs tell full-bodied stories that evoke sunsets, heartbreak, and slow dancing. His song “Gone” is ethereal and wistful, playing out as if vanishing into the horizon.
Rest assured, Sau Poler is no underground punk. He’s already gotten the attention of Festival Sonar organizers, as well as Boiler Room and RBMA. He toured with compatriots John Talabot and Pional at their invitation, and will also appear at Mutek Montreal this coming August. Primavera Sound is an exciting stepping-stone in what promises to be a long and storied career, so make sure to catch Sau Poler before the crazy EDM crowds claim him.