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REVIEW: Primavera Festival

Arcadia Molinas review of Primavera festival delves into the experience of music as a spiritual journey, highlighting diverse acts that range from ethereal vocal performances to reggaeton. She paints a portrait of Primavera as a vibrant tapestry of music, culture, and personal introspection.

Photography: moonchile

This may seem like a quaint, or naïve thing to say, but attending music festivals is a profoundly spiritual experience. Amidst throngs of people and climactic, thunderous music enveloping my entire body, I often find myself reflecting on the nature of humankind. The thing is, there is no other art medium, no other cultural experience, that moves masses to the same degree music does. When you’re in a crowd, composed of a couple of thousand people, you feel so small, a single person surrounded by so many others. You feel your own individual smallness acutely, while simultaneously experiencing all the other smallnesses of everyone else – you realise how multiple life and humankind is. And when speakers – a good set of speakers – are blasting, the physical effect it has over your body is total. Music, sound, furrows itself into a very real place in your body, it wriggles around your chest, your stomach, until your limbs, your shoulders, they’re shaking off the beat that’s wormed its way into you.


We arrive early on the first day and after a calibrating stop at the press area, we swiftly head over to the first concert of the season, the Asturian band Viuda, who we will refer to among ourselves as ‘the witches’ from then on, in the Steve Albini stage, named after the late musician and producer. Dressed in all black and singing in a mix of Asturian and Spanish, their songs ring like incantations – the perfect start to the 3 days of music and debauchery that are about to follow.

We quickly head to see the opening set of the Boiler Room x Cupra stage, presided by the almost impossibly young Kaidara (who is just above legal age). This stage boasted of kilometric lines to get in for the entire duration of the festival so this was my one chance to experience the music from the inside – a bubbly, bouncy set punctuated by Kaidara’s crew of friends bouncing and twirling all around her. I’m ready for what’s ahead. Once Kaidara makes her exit, following a roaring applause and a somewhat cringy (but endearing) chanting of her name, DJ Negro comes in and starts to crank it up with some good old reggaeton throwbacks. I’m in my element, my derriere is swivelling, but there’s little time to spare as the Freddie Gibbs and Madlibs set is starting, all over the other side of the festival grounds, at the Estrella Damm stage.

Watching the set, celebrating the ten-year anniversary of their first collaborative album Piñata, I can’t help bemoan how men can sometimes get away with doing the bare minimum – Gibbs potters around the stage, with a static visual plastered on the back, punctuating his songs by asking the audience to repeat “fuck police”. However, the audience beckon him back three times for an encore, so it’s evident this cult defining album and artists are well alive in the cultural imagination, and as equally loved. 

Anyway, straight to Blonde Redhead at the amphitheatre Cupra stage. There I meet up with my brother and his friend Shariff (my sibling is dressed in a butterfly print waify shirt, chains dangling with silver butterflies and butterfly gems spattered over his face – this will be important later). The ethereal vocals of lead Kazy Makino and the indie rock vibe the Italian twin duo bring is exactly what I need in this moment. The dash of white hair on the twins is the cherry on top of their rockstar look that enthrals me as I sway about. But no time to waste as billy woods, Femi’s favourite, is playing on the Plenitude stage.

“He narrates his life, his experiences,” Femi explains to me, sparkly-eyed as we wait near the barrier for the concert to start. DJ Haram and woods step out, the rapper immediately asks for the lights on stage to dim, “I want it to get real sombre in here, get the lights as low as you’re legally allowed”. Snippets of the cult classic The Killer of Sheep play in the background as woods & Haram deliver a top-notch performance. Elucid, fellow member of the Armand Hammer ensemble together with woods, steps out and Femi gives a single, but resounding “whoop”.

A giggly Femi (is that a tear in the corner of his eye?) turns to me and exhales loudly.

A quick pitstop to see DJ Haram’s follow up set at the Warehouse x DICE stage, which quickly becomes my favourite stage for its closed, sweaty, musty vibes that emulate a warehouse in an otherwise massive, open-air space in a set that compelled me less than the beats she lay for woods. 

The night starts to dwindle to its close with a stop at Deftones, which is bringing nu metal paradise with its aggressive red and white visuals and Chino Moreno’s delightful screams. Not long for Peggy Gou to send us off on the Amazon Music stage. Gou is effortlessly cool, and let me tell you, the way she turns those knobs on her decks, bringing in the beat with a crunch of her shoulders as if she’s just snorted a fat line, sort of Gary Oldman style in Leon the Professional, is beautiful in its almost caricaturesque portrayal. ‘I am the ultimate DJ’ is what she seems to be eschewing. In her two-hour set, Gou doesn’t let up, and when she brings Villano Antillano out, the two combine for an explosive dance fest that sends me shuffling back home with sore feet but my heart in a frenzy.

It’s a long way back home, and this has just begun.


It’s a rude awakening, of that I give my word. But there’s not much time to spare, Iife goes on, and so does the music. After a quick pit stop at Sharrif’s house, where my brother and I get bedazzled and glitterfied and my brother dons his, yes, fluterry butterfly wings that are attached to his thumbs and spread out in a glorious armlength wingspan when he throws his hands up, the metamorphosis is complete, and we head to Parc del Fórum once again.

I flock in through the gates with the gaggle of gays that are my brother’s friends, and we immediately head to the Troye Sivan gig, playing at the Santander stage. My brother, a Troye-sceptic, is looking on with squinty eyes at the dimmed stage, but not for long. Fast forward thirty minutes, and his eyes are wide in disbelief. Is this the horniest performance of all time? Very well could be. Sivan’s energy is amazing, his words to the crowd sound sincere, and when he brings out Guitarricadelafuente whom he collaborated with on his latest album, I personally let out an adoring yelp and the gaggle of gays around me all ogle at him. “Who is that!?” they drool. Spirits are high and so are a lot of the people around me. Sivan dances alongside the hottest dancers I’ve ever seen, delivering on performance and choreography, proving what a roster of bangers he’s got under his belt. As I would discuss later with my friend, he could very well and truly be The Idol.

No rest for the wicked however, in fifteen minutes, the stage right next to Sivan will hold the main event of the festival: Lana del Rey. There are so many people here, a considerable jump up from yesterday, so many flower crowns and other miscellaneous Americana memorabilia. Unfortunately, the diva is an entire twenty-five minutes late, which is not uncharacteristic (there was that whole Coachella kerfuffle this year where she was late and then cut off), but still annoying. During the wait, I see two people collapse and get very swiftly attended to by the festival’s medical staff. The diva graces the stage at last with a cohort of ethereal dancers who flutter ribbons and hoops and gymnastic balls around as the queen of indie mewls her songs. There are few words to describe the feeling of singing along to songs you’ve copied lyrics down to in your journal with an equally devoted crowd. You feel less alone is all I can say.

After a well-deserved break, where my brother and I refuel on drinks, which to a Londoner like me, seem incredibly cheap (5 euros for a beer!), we head out again, the night is very much just getting started. And everyone is on their gremlin mode tonight, there’s no denying it. 

Barry Can’t Swim at the Cupra stage is exactly what we need to lift our spirits after Lana’s melancholic set. “Barry Can’t Swim but he sure can dance!” my brother yells at me euphorically, head banging in full effect.

Swiftly though, we topple into my veritable highlight of the festival, which was the glorious set by Mica Levi at the Warehouse X DICE stage. Mica Levi scored the cult Under the Skin by Jonathan Glazer as well as the unforgettably haunting The Zone of Interest – with it’s equally unforgettable score. What I witnessed for that hour and a bit in that musty, sweaty warehouse was a sonic voyage. Levi is laser-focused on the decks, manipulating them sparingly but to incredible effect. I’m rooted to the spot, transfixed. The sounds reverberating in that room are haunting, the blare of what sounds reminiscent of alarms, sirens, interspersed with heavy drums; it felt post-apocalyptic, but then the beat breaks and the entire audience is bopping, the fans come out and heads are banging. The eerie green visuals, Matrix-adjacent, combine heavenly with the nuclear-plant sounds. What a privilege to experience such musical delight.

Stumbling out of the warehouse, Arca is in store at Amazon Music. I’m incredibly excited for it. Not only do we share a name, and believe me, that doesn’t happen often, but I’m excited to listen to well-loved songs live at last! Let’s go Arca! Her set starts off magnificently, El Alma Que Te Trajo rips the speakers. The middle is a bit bland, too esoteric for what I’d expect an Arca set to be. But she ends it on a high with other high-spirited bangers. And my friends at TraTraTrax are about to blow the lid off at the Cupra stage, so I’m in for a treat. The collective is represented by Verraco b2b Bitter Babe b2b Nick León and they bring delicious Latin beats and exquisitely mixed electronic music to the eager late night/early morning crowd. My brother and I see the sun come up through the throng. “The more you dance the slower the sun raises!” my brother screams as his butterfly wings flutter in the wind.

After a raucous applause as the Tratratrax ensemble shut it down, we shuffle out of there, a mass exodus. Before we get home, we make a quick stop at a bakery, where we buy local pastries – god bless ensaimadas– and a huge chicken sandwich. I collapse on the bed.


It’s the last day and it’s another big one. My brother doesn’t have a ticket for today so after I decorate my face with gems for the final time this week, I embrace my sibling, clip on my bum bag, and get on the metro towards Parc del Fórum for the last time.

When I arrive, 070 Shake is playing on the big stage, Estrella Damm, where Lana del Rey had performed the day before. I don’t know much about the artist except that my best friend had told me to go see her, saying she’d be bound to be great live. And she was not wrong. I sit near the back, with a clear view to the big screens and a small 070 Shake stomping from one side to the next and watch on as she and her shag of hair scream at the crowd to “ábrelo!” (“open it up” – the mosh pits are non-stop). She looks impossibly cool up there, commandeering, addressing the crowd in Spanish, her music melancholic, angry, mournful yet so full of energy. I’m smitten.

I join up with Femi and we go towards the Cupra stage together for one of the concerts I have been most looking forward to the entire festival: La Reina del Sur, Spain’s best trap artist, La Zowi (puta). We squeeze to the barrier! La Zowi comes out, with a shock of pink hair that makes her look like Karol G, and soon, Femi is smirking, and my arms are up in the air. Soon, however, it starts raining. I tie my cut-off cardigan to my head and don’t let that stop me from enjoying the reggaeton and trap beats blasting inches from my ear. The four dancers and La Zowi are Shaking Their Asses and so am I, clinging on to the barrier for dear life. By the end, we’re all pretty soaked, which seems fitting.

To seek refuge from the rain we catch some of Phew’s set at the Warehouse. Phew is rocking the cunty bob as well as the transition from song to song. I’m coming to associate the Warehouse to sonic voyages. But we don’t have much time to dally because, 070 Shake is playing her second set of the day at Red Sound Studio by Etnia Barcelona, and after what I saw earlier today, I do not want to miss it. Our press passes get us into the small, intimate, circular dome where a large rug sprawls out in the center. It feels like we’ve stepped into the set of npr’s Tiny Desk Concerts. The keyboard is an arm’s length away from me. 070 Shake and her band step out and they perform more mellow tracks than their main stage gig, Guilty Conscience and an unreleased song called In Your Garden that the artist makes us all sit down for, a song that she says is about and for her girlfriend, the actress Lily Rose Depp, who stands proudly a couple of steps away from us. 070 Shake’s swagger is ocean-deep – the intimate set up of this stage allows her to hold hands with fans, pass them the microphone so they finish the lyrics off, and look at almost everyone in the eye.

It’s time for SZA at the Santander stage – Femi’s moment. My feet are protesting pretty loudly at this point. The high priestess of new R&B saunters out, in a fabulous frilly white dress and big mane-like hair, and the level of frenzy skyrockets. There are legions of people propped up on shoulders, screams and googly eyes as those tender lyrics pierce everyone there.

A quick pit stop at the press area where Czech Adam fills us in on the Pusha T set we missed that was apparently one for the books, and we’re off to the Warehouse to catch none other than DJ Fart in the Club, who Femi and I know little about but whose unmissable name had already caught my attention the first time I ever took a look at the lineup. Turns out, she’s not only the fart but also the shit (eek). Sucking on a vape, the techno is doing wonders for my soul and Femi keeps on going “oooffff!”. I have to peel him away so we can get to the Amazon stage on time for the one and only Charli XCX.

Listening to Von Dutch live is as close as I’ll ever get to levitating. The fear that strikes your heart when you hear that chorus with its siren sounds is so exhilarating and every single person around me is feeling it too. Of all the concerts, this is by far the one where there is most visible excitement. The bad news? She ended her set 20 minutes early. But, you know what? What she gave was so good I can’t even complain too much.

To close the whole affair is Teki Latex at the Cupra stage, “France’s baldest export” as my best friend described him to me. However, I’m disappointed, to say the least, when I go there and listen to remixes of Frozen and him pressing mute on the decks for the crowd to sing along. Not my cup of tea (at all) and the idea of ending this glorious experience on such a flop is out of the question! I head to the Warehouse for one last hurrah. It’s Woody92 on the decks. I look around me and think I’m safe, I think these are my people. I belong here in this space.

There’s a bittersweetness walking back home. A sadness in knowing the best is now behind us. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any more bests to come, yet leaving one behind is always sad. Of course, in this case, you can always say, see you next year Primavera.

by Arcadia Molinas

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