Primavera Sound turns 15

Franz Ferdinand, 2manydjs and others recall their experiences of the Barcelona festival

The Primavera Sound festival.
The Primavera Sound festival.Dani Canto

The moment has come. Over the next four days Primavera Sound is celebrating its 15th birthday with The Strokes, Patti Smith – performing her classic Horses album – as well as a reunion with former riot grrrl pupils such as Sleater-Kinney, Babes in Toyland, and Kathleen Hanna with Julie Ruin.

You will have to memorize many more names if you want to be able to drag your friends from one stage to the next, program in hand, but we leave the homework to you. Today we are here to celebrate the birthday of the Barcelona festival, which has already officially begun but concentrates the bulk of its programming from Thursday onwards in its Fòrum venue. And we are doing so based on the testimony of some of the special friends who have played there over the years.

We celebrated Barcelona’s Champions League win with one of our best festival performances ever” Mogwai

Fifteen Springs, sang a group of mariachis at the presentation of the 15th festival a few months ago. But five more need to be added if you include the event’s first incarnations in the Nitsa and Savannah clubs back in 1995. That embryonic moment brought the first Spanish indie groups together as a scene. Florent, of Los Planetas, remembers it well: “It was an unforgettable experience. There were groups there like Minema, La Buena Vida, and Moving Pictures. Aleix Vergès, the guitarist with Peanut Pie, who still wasn’t known as DJ Sideral, had a sticker on his guitar with our name on it. It was the first time we were aware that a new musical movement was underway throughout the country. The feeling of community generated was something special. And it was all due to Gabi [Ruiz, the director of Primavera Sound], who was the one who brought us together in a venue for the first time.”

Over the years, the electronic scene has played a bigger and bigger role at Primavera Sound thanks to the performance by brothers Stephen and David Dewaele, aka 2manydjs, in 2000. “The first time we played Primavera, in 2000, all the groups on our stage were delayed because of sound problems,” they remember. “There were Peaches, Michael Mayer, Le Hammond Inferno, and LCD Soundsystem, who almost didn’t get to play. Poor Erol Alkan was due to DJ just after us, and as people were starting to leave because it was already six in the morning, he didn’t get to play a single record!”

The author with Australian electronic group Cut Copy at Primavera Sound.
The author with Australian electronic group Cut Copy at Primavera Sound.

Franz Ferdinand also performed several times. “I remember the first time we played,” recalls guitarist Nick McCarthy. “It was in Poble Espanyol. What a weird place. The Fall were playing, and I was with a friend of mine from Barcelona who played the sax in an improvised percussion group. His car was filled with stolen radio cassette players. ‘It’s to earn a little extra money,’ he told me. As surreal as Dalí, don’t you think?”

As Primavera grows and crosses borders – see the Touring Party and its alliance with the UK’s All Tomorrow’s People – and sets up its own well-meaning initiatives, such as the El Segell record label and the La Botiga club, it remains at the top of many artists’ charts.

For example, Scottish group Mogwai: “It is one of our favorite festivals. Our most incredible memory is that Champions League final Barcelona won in 2006, moments before we went out to play at the Escenario Rockdelux. Do you remember Gerardo? You were in a hurry to get us to our own concert on time and we refused to move until the game was over. Ha ha, ha! In the end we celebrated Barcelona’s win with one of our best festival performances ever. Visca Barça!” Yes, sometimes the groups give those who work with them a hard time, although we forgive them everything if they later give a great performance.

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Primavera is always changing, but there are things that remain the same: the closing sessions by DJ Coco, an essential part of the festival. Dorian singer Marc Gili describes the scene ecstatically: “The sun is going down on the horizon, yesterday’s hits, one after another, and happy faces, sometimes radiant, sometimes distorted, that reflect the satisfaction of having lived through something close to total happiness. Then the last song is played and a rowdy diaspora makes for the exit. At those times, I think we have lived, for a few days, a dream that is close to the utopia of a world without conflict, without meanness, without hate, without baseness.”

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