Primavera Sound Festival Madrid 2023

When we think of European summers and the festivals that define each month, drenched in sunlight with the heat on our skin, one such festival that joins ranks beside the northern titans like Dekmantel and Glastonbury is Primavera Sound. Initially beginning its legacy in Barcelona in 2001 and now for the first time in Madrid, the festival has become a pioneer in the events space, becoming one of the largest and most-attended festivals in Europe. Boasting headliners such as The xx, Tame Impala, Kendrick Lamar and Patti Smith, but also spotlighting smaller, local artists, it’s a place where creatives big and small come together and revel in the Barcelona heat.

With a focus on gender equality and their role in the sustainability of the location, this year’s Primavera Madrid debut is an opportunity to reexamine their track record of eco-conscious achievements and active gender equality efforts. In this interview, I chat with festival curator Joan Pons about the music scenes of Spain, TikTok-era festival etiquette and the broader subjects of inclusivity and sustainability at Primavera.

Is there a specific moment in time or influence from the music or creative scene that inspired you to get into the curation game? Were you an experienced raver or partygoer all along, or rather somebody more behind the scenes?

Of course. We have always explained (almost taking on legendary dimensions) that the idea of the festival was born from four friends, who at the beginning of the century wanted to bring the alternative and electronic music artists of that time who were not touring in our country. We believe that this initial idea remains: we still consider ourselves music fans and we still want to bring our favourite artists of our present to our home. More than a raver, personally, I consider myself what I said before: a music fan who has been to many festivals, of very different music styles and each one of them is enjoyed in a different way. Some are for dancing, others for sitting and relaxing, others for a singalong, others to surprise you and others to provoke new sensations. I think Primavera Sound, in the end, is a festival where you can find all these kinds of possibilities. In other words, we have made the festival in our own image and likeness.

When considering the rave and music scenes, Madrid and Barcelona might not immediately spring to mind for many. What is it about these cities, specifically the Spanish and Catalan music scene, that might draw more people to these places to rave? Is there a stark difference between the two?

I would like to politely disagree with the apriorism from which this question arises: Barcelona and Madrid are two cities that, at least in this century, have been very important places on the map through which almost all relevant artists and tours have passed. Proof of this is our own history – if we did a festival, it was because there was demand from the public, artists and industry. Also, international interest – for years now, more than 50% of our audience has been from abroad, and 30% from the UK. So we understand that if you say Barcelona, for some people, the first thing that will come to mind will probably be the football team, but for music fans or those with cultural interests, it will probably be Primavera Sound. Obviously, this cultural vibrancy and musical life make cities a hotbed of club scenes, concert halls, music scenes and important artists. Some of them were maybe born around the festival, performing their first steps and finally being headliners, like this year’s Rosalía.

You’ll often see on platforms like TikTok the discussion of festival etiquette, and that many partygoers have ‘forgotten’ how to behave or act respectfully during concerts and events. This was most likely borne out of the Covid lockdown, with a lot of Gen-Z’ers experiencing their first nights out and festivals without the ‘practice’ of partying in their later teens. With Primavera focusing on sustainability and inclusion at its core, how does the festival foster the environment of making people feel free to experience the music in their own way, while also recognising the need for respect and care of the artists and organisers?

The Primavera Sound public is very abundant and diverse, and there will be both aware and escapist people – you can’t tell. What we can say is that the festival is aware and doesn’t want to be a bubble detached from reality, and if some of our gestures, decisions and actions in this sense can help the public that attends the festival to be so too, then that’s perfect. We have done visibility actions and we’ve been involved with both Open Arms and Greenpeace. We also believe that by moving forward on the path of sustainability we are raising awareness among our public (such as the reusable cups, with the almost total elimination of plastics), with tarpaulins explaining the UN programme of 17 sustainable development goals, of which we have been part of since 2019, because the organisation itself made us aware that we were complying with many of them.  There are also pioneering initiatives such as Nobody’s Normal, which was born as a protocol to prevent, inform and act in the face of sexual aggression and is now a plan for the promotion of sexual and gender freedom. 

Finally, there are our identity decisions, which may seem artistic, and also speak of the reality surrounding us with an inspiring and transforming spirit: the parity poster, increasingly inclusive and diverse because reality is also increasingly inclusive and diverse, not by chance. We believe it is a duty to our time and our reality, and this is what our assistants have told us with very positive feedback that we did not expect after the first year of implementation. They said that they were finally at a festival where they felt free, safe and comfortable to show their sexual identity. So in the end, maybe we do have an aware public.

Primavera boasts a 50/50 gender and pronoun lineup from 2019. With the fact that many bigger industry names feature in Primavera each year, how do curators ensure that smaller artists, some of whom might be LGBTQ+ or gender non-binary, also get the spotlight, as well as financial support? What is the process for research there?

We believe that there is no small print at Primavera Sound and that every name on the line-up matters. If it’s at Primavera, it’s because we love his/her/their music, that’s for starters. Each artist fulfills their function, whether in terms of artistic balance or diversity. The truth is that there is not much mystery in creating an inclusive and gender-balanced line-up, you just have to want to do it – once you have that in mind, it almost works itself out. We also feel that the smaller names actually get the same exposure as the big names because the line-up comes out with all the artists at the same time. They share the spotlight with each other. Also, we create individual assets for each and every one of them and promote all of them equally. It would be disrespectful if that weren’t the case.

I would like to think that this year we have made progress in the gender-balanced lineup, because it’s no longer 50%, and we have taken into account 10-20% of artists who do not identify with a binary separation of gender. We believe that percentage will get higher and higher because, in reality, it will also be higher and higher. If in some way we manage to make this aspect visible through our artistic programming, we can only be proud.

The festivals obviously draw thousands of partygoers each year. In cities like Madrid, where there are issues with heavy tourist flows and the pollution and impact on the local residents that come with it, how does Primavera ensure that the residents of Madrid are not negatively impacted by this large presence of festival-goers?

We believe that our impact on any city that hosts Primavera Sound does not have to be assumed to be negative. In fact, in economic terms, it is highly positive for many sectors (public transport, restaurants, hotels, museums and leisure). In more intangible terms, it brings a cultural value to the life of the city, which during the days of the festival becomes more vibrant and with the eyes of the whole world on it. 

On the other hand, we don’t believe, based on our studies and attendance data, that Primavera Sound festival-goers are an annoying type of visitor to the city. In fact, when we talk about it with the institutions of each city, we tend to consider them as cultural tourism.

Primavera has renewed its partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Goals Campaign. With pledges like gender equality and education on the docket, does this alliance inspire Primavera to become a leader in this sustainability and inclusion space – what are you hoping to inspire with this alliance? Do you see yourself as an example in the festival scene?

We like to think that if we are really so insistent on the issue of inclusion and gender equality, it is because Primavera Sound is such a popular festival with so much media attention that we believe in and defend this policy. With this, it can be inspiring for others and ultimately transformative. Whether it really is, I can’t say. But it definitely would NOT be if we didn’t do it. About sustainability – although we received the A Greener Festival award, we know that it is a long road, a process which we will improve little by little. So, if we are an example to anyone, it is to ourselves: each year’s progress should be a benchmark to be beaten in the next edition.

Credits

More info · Primavera Sound Festival Madrid
Special thanks to Chris Cuff (Good Machine PR), Joan Pons and Henry Turner (Good Machine PR)

Sónar Lisboa 2023

For the second edition of Sónar Lisboa, a music and visual technology-driven art festival and sister event of Barcelona’s annual happening, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer, I had the opportunity to interview Gustavo Pereira, the main curator of the Portuguese team. With years of experience in the music industry and as a well-known DJ and promoter in the city, Gustavo closed the festival with a b2b DJ set alongside the legendary Rui Vargas, delighting the dedicated dancers.

As the festival season opens in Europe, it is fitting that it begins in Lisbon, one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities of Europe, which is also undergoing the most dramatic gentrification on the continent. Festivals have the potential to shape the cultural and social landscape of a city, and in this interview, we explore their responsibility to consider their impact on the local community and create a more inclusive city. Together with Gustavo, we discuss how responsible and inclusive programming of influential cultural organisations and promoter groups can impact the development of cities, gentrification, and support for local artists.

In our conversation with Gustavo, I am curious about Sónar Lisboa’s mission to promote forward-thinking culture, technology, and lifestyle while shaping the authentic side of the Portuguese edition, preserving Lisbon’s diversity and tackling homogenization. We also discuss Sónar’s approach to featuring local talent and its role in supporting the local music industry in the face of gentrification challenges.

As an experienced raver yourself, what changes have you seen in the Portuguese scene in recent years? And what inspirations and influences from the other scenes and cultural spaces have become more prominent here? 

I’ve been going to parties and live shows ever since I was really young. First, I went to live shows with my parents, then around 13/14 years old, with my brother, and later on my own. When I started clubbing, I mostly went to clubs and raves around Portugal and Galicia in Spain. I’ve seen lots of live shows, clubs, and nightlife in different genres and settings. Nowadays, I feel we’re going through an identity crisis because of the massive amount of music available today. People get used to that and look for all kinds of music and events, which, of course, is not a bad thing. In a way, it was easier to identify who listened to what, and that’s not happening anymore. 

Portugal is a melting pot for diversity and influences from other countries and cultures, and that reflects in the number of amazing artists we have nowadays producing incredible and extraordinary music from what’s been heard before. There is also a lot of respect for the origins and the music foundations. Personally, I try to get a nice balance between the old school and the new school: experience and creativity. 

What direction and guidelines in the curation do you share with Sónar Barcelona? And what makes Sónar Lisboa unique and worth travelling to? 

We work together on the line-up, but it’s always very important to present a balanced line-up with local talent, live shows, advanced music, and a contemporary vision with a touch of the foundations. Just the fact Sónar Lisboa is happening in a different city makes it unique and gives it a different touch. The local talent flavour, the gastronomy, the venues, and the experience are different here. Barcelona is the sanctuary, of course, and you can’t compare both. Just assume our differences and make it also special.

Lisbon is going through heavy gentrification, people are being pushed outside of the city, and young local creatives can hardly afford to live in the city, which is, of course, a significant loss for the city’s cultural development. Is there a way for Lisbon’sLisbon’s music industry to have a say in this development and think together with the city about how to make this situation fairer for the locals (I noticed the festival had been supported by Turismo de Portugal, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, and Turismo de Lisboa, so I assumed such conversation might be a part of the discussion within your team)? 

There’s no interference in the work of those institutions from Sónar Lisboa. We have main concerns, and of course, we try to fight to promote the local culture and give everyone some voice and promotion as much as possible. It’s not an easy task, but the support from these institutions is also essential for our job here and shows their interest in it. At the moment, only the Lisboa city hall is supporting us, and we really appreciate it, but of course, the initial support from the other institutions was really important for our kick-off.

Due to its long history of immigration and colonisation, Lisbon is home to a diverse and vibrant mix of cultures, contributing to the city’s unique cultural identity. The city has been a port of entry for people from many parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Gentrification can lead to a homogenization of the city’s culture, making it difficult for underground creatives to find audiences and venues for their works. How can Sónar, as an establishment for a forward-thinking culture, technology, and lifestyle, contribute to preserving the city’s diversity and tackle the problem of homogenization? 

Sónar Lisboa is part of the private cultural sector that helps promote and disseminate multicultural and diverse artistic talent. We have in our backbone the will and passion for exploring the heterogenization of national and international culture as much as possible, especially in the music and visual sector.

The Portuguese artists featured on this year’s Sónar line-up, such as DJ Nigga Fox, Rui Vargas and Gusta-vo, Violet and Photonz, and Sensible Soccers are significant to the local club scene and also made an essential impact on putting Portugal on the global map, and thus, of course, are essential to be a part of your booking. Yet, from some recent conversations with friends from the underground music scene in Lisbon, I learned that the smaller collectives feel underrepresented by the big festivals in Portugal, such as Sónar, that could potentially offer them financial support and opportunities to build international audiences and gain recognition. How do you, with your curatorial team, approach featuring the local talent in your program? 

We try to balance our work and actions as an organisation as well as possible. Of course, some of the names are already recognised but new and fresh names from smaller collectives as well. We keep our ears and eyes open but unfortunately don’t know all of them as we wish, and also, we don’t have slots for everyone all at once. We try not to repeat many artists from one year to another to give space to different artists to be part of Sónar Lisboa.

One of the central features of this year’s program of Sónar is the AI-generated image campaign. The fast-growing advances and use of AI technology have caused considerable anxiety in creative communities. There’s a growing sense of the digital and physical becoming blurred and reality becoming increasingly subjective. What role does the discussion on the AI influence in the music and visual art production play within your team and the scene you represent?

The discussion makes the intangible more tangible, and the conversation allows an ongoing dialogue within a community that can help regulate, find solutions, and even integrate responses to problems from our everyday life.

Sónar focuses not only on music but “Music, Creativity and Technology.” In your view, what trends and developments are driving the evolution of electronic music? 

Definitely machine learning is interacting with all forms of music and visual development in this industry. A lot is being done with new ways of processing these two separately and in an integrated way.

There’s been a growing competition among fast-emerging artists, many of whom are becoming popular over social media. Social media is also a result of technological advancement, but it often exploits its consumerist side more than its unlimited possibilities for creativity. Sometimes the artists who mostly invest time in developing their production and DJing skills find it hard to keep up with the artists who are more affine to social media and know how to keep their audiences entertained on Instagram or TikTok. Considering these developments, how can creativity be encouraged and nurtured more evenly in the electronic music industry today?

Social media occurs on and by the use of platforms, and they can allow us to show creativity to an amplified audience. You can see that on the best brands and pages you follow, so we should condemn the vehicle but the way we use it or not to showcase our creativity and talent. Of course, there’s social interaction at a bigger scale, but I believe that we can input social media with our best craftsmanship and use it in a good way. In a non-paid setting, it’s a recreational space for the electronic music scene.

How do you see Sónar Lisboa grow in the next few years? Are there any specific themes or new formats you want to explore, such as networking events, workshops, discussions, etc.?

I believe Sónar Lisboa’s growth and evolution will be dependent on the core of its context, and by that, I mean the team that makes it happen, Lisboa’s own evolution and growth, and the way the industry evolves we will mirror our own perception of this reality and try to keep things interesting for our audience.

Credits

  1. Luisa, Sonar Park, Lisboa 2023. Courtesy of Pedro Francisco
  2. I hate Models, Sonar Club, Lisboa 2023. Courtesy of Pedro Francisco
  3. Sofia Kourtesis, Sonar Club, Lisboa 2023. Courtesy of Pedro Francisco
  4. Conference, Plaça de Barcelona, 2023. Courtesy of Neia
  5. Entangled Others, Clothilde, Sonar + D, Lisboa 2023. Courtesy of Pedro Francisco
  6. MetaAV, Sonar + D, Lisboa 2023. Courtesy of Pedro Francisco
  7. Peggy Gou, Sonar Club 2023. Courtesy of Neia

    For more information visit Sónar Lisboa
    Special thanks to Rosalie De Meyer

X100

Untamed storm of Iannis Xenakis at Berlin’s X100 

X100 at Berlin’s Kraftwerk celebrated the obsession with Iannis Xenakis, a man who broke the laws of time and space, leaping far ahead of his generation. Over three nights, commissioned acts by popular experimentalists like Lee Gamble, Puce Mary, Bill Kouligas, Kali Malone, Pan Daijing, Dreamcrusher, and Powel, high-energy percussion performances of Xenakian classics, and a cappella ensembles filled the cavernous halls, with abrupt staccato and drastic light travelling through the former power plant. Xenakis’s revolutionised approach to composition and architecture has been admired across cultural circles for decades—from early adopters of computer-assisted music production to the Iranian Empress Farah to today’s multimedia enthusiasts to Berlin Atonal’s team. At X100, they fulfil Xenakis’s dream to bring the masses into one space beyond elitist art circles, holding them in awe with a multisensory experience. 

Our conversation with X100’s curators starts with an anecdote about Xenakis’s annual trips to Sicily with his family. They’d sail the island on kayaks, camp, and keep moving. During the storms, Xenakis would count the seconds between lightning flashes, grab his kayak and throw himself into the storm to embrace nature’s mayhem. This fascination with the laws of nature laid the foundation of his work as a composer, architect, and mathematician. For LABOUR (Colin Hacklander and Farahnaz Hatam) and OUTER (Laurens von Oswald and Harry Glass), organising X100 was like travelling in their own kayak through the divine chaos of artists and visions inspired by the ground-breaking legacy of Iannis Xenakis.

How did you select Xanakis’s pieces to be presented at X100?

Harry Glass: There aren’t so many electro-acoustic pieces, and only a few that are really available. We worked together with Sergio Luque who was one of the experts in presenting this work, and he’s very scholarly about it also (Sergio Luque is a composer, researcher, and expert in Xenakis’s legacy who supported the team in the curation and production process and diffused the pieces). 

Many of Xenakis’s works are not made available in a final form, and there’s a lot of controversy and politics regarding how these works should be presented. When Xenakis was composing, it was challenging to document things properly—he was making these recordings of his electro-acoustic pieces on tape at that time.

And today, if you want to present or perform his works, you receive digitised files from a publisher that have been made available. But when you speak to some experts, they often say that the way the files were prepared is wrong or a tape is recorded backward. So, it’s often the case that people are usually clapping when these pieces are performed, but they’ve just heard the thing completely upside down. [Luckily] there are these obsessives among musicians, academics, and architects who study his composition techniques and know all the details. So there’s a whole discourse around it, and people who have different perspectives. But there’s also many people who represent misleading perspectives.

Laurens von Oswald: I sometimes think that this ambiguity is kind of baked into the work itself in an interesting way: one of the piano pieces that was presented on the first night was written to be physically impossible to perform (Mists 1980)

— so, the interpreter has to make a decision (Prodromos Symeonidis). They can’t do it all, so they have to say no to some things to be able to say yes to other things. And that’s built into this space, built into the work. So this kind of idea of the ambiguity – that it’s contested somehow, is not just a super-phenomena, but it’s kind of in the stuff itself in some way. 

One of the most notable tasks in your work was to transform the enormous space of the former powerplant into something different than what you’d expect from a music festival. Experimentation with space, light, travelling sound, and stages was even more remarkable during X100 than with the previous editions of Atonal and Metabolic Rift. The audience had to move between two floors confused and excited about where the next performance would break out. 

LO: From early on, we wanted to make it feel less like a conventional festival—with a lineup and a stage where you’re waiting and there’s a changeover and you go to the bar and have a beer and come back to see the next act. And we did that by splitting the staging up, having eight speaker stacks in a space that get used at different configurations for every performance, and somehow that’s our kayak in the storm. Trying to reference this obsession of the Xanakis to kind of be situated within something bigger—some sort of chaos that is going on around.

Along with the Xenakis’s pieces, a number of popular experimental artists performed their new works commissioned specifically for X100. Puce Mary, Bill Kouligas, Pan Daijing, Lee Gamble, Rashad Backer, Moritz von Oswald, Powel—the names affiliated with your initial annual festival, Berlin Atonal. How did you approach the commissions and did you have any specific Xenakian ideas in mind when approaching new artists? Did you want specific techniques or mindsets to be interpreted in these commissioned performances? 

HG: One of the cool things about our curation was that we didn’t know that our internal obsession with Xenakis was so widely shared by other artists around us. An artist would be like, ‘My cat’s called Xenakis!’ or ‘Oh my god, Xenakis was my first massive musical experience!’

You don’t often get an opportunity or a context where you can freely associate your work with somebody else’s, be it techniques or anything else. But it makes sense in this context because it’s directly related to his pieces. For example, Powell is obsessed with specific mechanisms that Xenakis used in his compositions, although Powel’s music doesn’t sound like Xenakis’s.

Another example is Pan Daijing’s [opera pieces,] which don’t sound like Xenakis’s music. Yet, there’s a direct correlation between using voice in the way Pan does, the emotional effect, and the situational aspects [developed by Xenakis]. 

And what about Lee Gamble, whose music influenced many post-club movements on the dancefloors and Discord communities today and questions consumerist violence, seductions, and capitalist impulses? 

HG: There’s so much in Lee’s practice that can correlate to Xanakis’ work — patterns, rhythmic structure, and synthesis techniques that are pretty wild and hard to tame. And short compositions — aiming to not only get a dance floor moving but also create listening situations. 

Colin Hacklander: On the one hand we’re inspired by a number of quite specific techniques as far as synthesising all the sounds that we’re using—for our music [as LABOUR], for example, we’re using supercollider, which is an algorithmic sound synthesising environment. Xenakis was very ahead of his time, as, for example, mapping out these algorithmic ideas in the digital realm and also developing massive audiovisual spectacles. The modern-day audiovisual show that we’re used to seeing is really indebted to Xenakis. On a broad level it’s this idea of developing new systems, architectures and new ways of thinking about music. Xenakis was always coming in on a meta-level of music. Schönberg, for example, deconstructed harmonic music tonality, and then Xanakis just comes in and he’s so post-tonal from the beginning. 

Haswell & Florian Hecker used a technique where you draw sound, which Xenakis developed (UPIC Diffusion Session # 23). And so we use a graphical tablet that’s then digitised and made purely manipulated sound synthesis. Also, Schmickler in Particle/Matter-Wave/Energy was doing a lot of things in terms of diffusion. 

I believe it’s also not common to hear these complex pieces in such a democratised environment with a very diverse audience, from sound designers to artists to ravers to families with toddlers. I can imagine that the academic world holds on to their agency to present and listen to such new modern music. How challenging was it to bring these pieces to Kraftwerk?

CH: The way that the diffusion centre was set up in the festival made it possible to do those pieces. It’s true that they are normally done in a really academic environment, like orchestral halls, and are served in perfect listening positions where the audience is always seated. And what’s special about Kraftwerk and this particular situation is that it’s young audiences—they’re probably not privy to his work or practices from before. They can move around freely in the hall and get different perspectives on the sound itself. Kraftwerk is just a massively beautiful building to do something in. So I think it matches how amazing Xenakis’ works are, how spectacular they are, and how much they work with space and shape that space.

Your piece ‘Sungazing’ (by LABOUR) was one of the central and most expansive performances of the festival, where performers appear among the audience and the audience becomes a part of the action. You started with this approach in your work Hit of Enlightenment (بیگانگی) presented at Metabolic Rift (also organised by the Atonal team) in 2021, right?

Farahnaz Hatam: The first time we played with a group of drummers was at the Atonal festival back in 2018. Next time, for Metabolic Rift, was where we included the peripheral drummers. This piece was magnified more because we started working more with noise and different percussion instruments that we were a bit careful with before because we weren’t sure they’d work in such an expansive space. And actually, when you move people as a cluster and act like a moving cloud, this density allows you to work with instruments that, maybe by themselves as individual instruments, would not be loud enough to be used. This was a beautiful way of incorporating all of the space and the periphery and going outside the speakers’ field. 

This collective act draws inspiration from ancient Zoroastrian rituals involving sun and fire. In Sungazing, strings, percussion and voice, drum sets, light arrangements, dancers, and electronics disperse through the space like molecules—one of the natural phenomena Xenakis studied and implemented in music composition. How do you translate this Xenakian approach in your work?

FH: Xenakis was very interested in natural phenomena and analysed them in terms of probability functions: the way gas moves, birds move in flocks, or people move in a crowd. With Sungazing, we were interested in experimenting with super-imposing stochastic systems, unleashing systems, and then layering on top so that the drummers are moving around, the instrumental is moving around, and the electronic sound is coming in—coming in with their voice. There are moving fabrics through the space in a line, these constant things. 

It’s redrawing space and disrupting the audience. Usually, it’s a very separate zone, and we were very much interested in actually being in that zone, moving through the space, and bringing the proximity of sound much closer to the audience—in an acoustic way and not just through the loudspeakers.

CH: Exactly, not just through the loudspeakers. And this juxtaposition of amplified and un-amplified sounds is a fundamentally different space to be in when we’re listening to just the acoustic sounds in the room. You listen differently and become more aware of the multi-dimensional space and sound organisation. So the listening becomes more active, and your ears have to reach out and look for the new details. Plus [the experience is amplified] by the lights. 

The audience was well familiar with the majority of the artists invited to X100, and many went to a specific night to see a specific act. The great thing about well-curated festivals is that there’s space to discover new artists. JJJJJerome Ellis was a new name to the experiments-pampered X100’s audience. His poetic and luminous performance softened the concrete severity of Kraftwerk with the mellow sound of his voice and his sax, with his character freezing and melting in time and travelling between generations, dressed in lace and embroidery. How does his work translate into the ideas behind your curation? 

HG: One thing we are attracted to in his practice is the continuity between him as a person, his lifestyle, and what he does artistically. For me, it was very special meeting him and discovering that the glimpses one gets of his self-understanding expressed through his music also appeared in his personality. The way he conceives his performances is deeply personal, reflecting on his own experiences. 

And what about Dreamcrusher— the noise, industrial, nihilist queer rebel from Brooklyn, who performed at Kraftwerk for the first time? Pure punk as they are, they invited the audience to loosen up in this ‘arty-farty’ setting at the beginning of their performance. And honest as they are, Dreamcrusher finished by saying, “People who invited me here have been really nice to me, and it doesn’t always happen with alternative musicians who are not white.” 

HG: That was super sweet of them to say—I wasn’t expecting that, but it’s touching, nice, and very human in the context of a festival that could be quite ‘inhuman’ in some ways. Both their and Jerome’s interventions were quite human, and it was also something we were trying to balance out. It also goes for Pan [Daijing]— to avoid getting lost in this abstract world of techniques, computer music, etc. 

Dreamcrusher’s act was one of the most ‘vocal’ ones at the festival, radiating a different energy of experimentsation, more common for hardcore concerts, rather than what’s expected from Xanakian vocal interpretations, like Pan Daijing’s experimental opera or an a cappella piece sung by the PHØNIX16 ensemble. How does Dreamcrusher’s approach to music correlate to the ideas behind X100? 


HG: A part of our job and our journey is trying to look for people who fit a certain idea, and with this project this idea was a little bit different to what we normally do in that it had this specific slant. But that in a way made it easier to find the things that we wanted to identify and the artists that we wanted to bring. One great thing we learned from Sergio [Luque] is using the word ‘energy’ as a musical word, in a technical sense. Instead of saying ‘loudness’ or ‘harshness’ Sergio would say the energy here, the energy in this range, the energy from that speaker. I think the way in which this translates into a human body and a bodily performance is nicely expressed in what Dreamcrusher is doing. And that for sure is something interesting for us.

Credits

Photography · Frankie Casillo and Lisa Wassmann
Special thanks to Berlin Atonal and Modern Matters

Primavera Sound Festival Barcelona 2022

After a two-year hiatus, Primavera Sound returns to the Parc del Fòrum in Barcelona this weekend. That, in itself, is a reason to celebrate. For sure, the very idea of a live festival is music to the ears of many after the coronavirus pandemic saw the cancellation of summer events in two consecutive years. Last year would also have marked the twentieth anniversary since Primavera Sound launched back in 2001. In its first edition, the festival was a much smaller ordeal and took place at Barcelona’s Poble Espanyol. But the likes of Sonic Youth, The Kills and The White Stripes all performed there – setting the precedent for the festival’s line up each year, as music icons and legends from around the world return descend upon Primavera’s stages each summer. Of course, the festival has grown considerably in size, popularity and reputation since then, whilst managing to retain something of a “local” festival feeling. But perhaps there’s no greater testament to Primavera’s global influence within the music world than the fact this year’s iteration has been promoted to a two-weekend line up. Whilst Massive Attack, Tame Impala, The Strokes, Gorillaz and Tyler, The Creator (to name just a few) are set to headline this weekend’s events, the likes of Dua Lipa, Lorde and Megan Thee Stallion will also perform next weekend. 

The addition of this second line up to Primavera’s programming is part of the festival team’s response to the pandemic. As Marta Olivares, Primavera’s affable Head of Communications, tells NR over Zoom, COVID was a moment for pause and reflection – especially as, she says, it was a time when the “whole ecosystem proved to be so fragile.” For Primavera co-founder, Pablo Soler, this couldn’t have been more apparent; the pandemic didn’t just reaffirm the importance of live music, he says, “it has revealed it;”

“Without festivals, we realised that we were missing a part of our lives that was the collective experience.”

The communal aspect of a festival goes without saying – it’s about the excitement and the emotions that are experienced with other people that, Pablo says, is crucial for creating a state of happiness. The idea that the festival is nothing if not for the people is crystal clear, as Marta explains that having this year’s events spread out over the course of two weekends (with a week of indoor performances in Barcelona in between, no less) was made possible by the fact that last year’s ticketholders “overwhelmingly” decided to keep their tickets. As a result, Primavera 2022 is an amalgamation of three years’ worth of acts in some ways; Beck and Pavement, scheduled to headline in 2020 will, for example, make a much-awaited appearance in Barcelona this weekend. But over the course of the pandemic, Marta says, we’ve witnessed;

“so many artists creating amazing stuff, working so hard and releasing incredible records.”

In that sense then, Primavera 2022 is an ode to music in the lead up to, and over the course of, the pandemic – especially when popular acts from today might have flown under the radar back in 2020. 

Given that the festival will be a de-facto twentieth birthday celebration, this weekend’s events will be both a moment to look back on Primavera’s journey so far, whilst also looking towards the future. In fact, part of the festival’s events will take place at Poble Espanyol – something that Pablo thinks the team can be justifiably sentimental about. “Over the years, we have played concerts at this venue outside of the festival,” he notes, “but going back there with Primavera Sound is even more emotional.” It will be, Marta says, a kind of homage to that tiny festival that was first unveiled. But as much as Poble Espanyol is part of Primavera’s legacy, the festival team’s outlook is to keep moving forward. In fact, in the midst of the pandemic when the Primavera team were figuring out their bid for survival, the answer was, perhaps surprisingly, to grow bigger still – though “sustainably” as Marta puts it. “It felt weird to stay put,” she recalls adding that there was a need to pivot somehow. As in previous years, the festival will head to Porto for the weekend (which will occur at the same time as the Barcelona edition’s second weekend). But satellite festivals will also take place in Los Angeles, Santiago, Buenos Aires and São Paulo later on in the year. “It was [a case of] go home or go big,” Marta notes of the decision to grow the festival in this way. “Definitely we’re going big.” For Pablo, the new locations explain the festival’s future-facing outlook in themselves: “we are a festival that any country would want to have.” And with an insatiable international appetite for Primavera as it’s staged in Barcelona, it perhaps makes sense to take the music to the people. So how does the essence of Primavera translate to these new locations? Marta notes that the festival’s Barcelona location is part of its draw – close to the city, near the sea, and with a lot of cultural pull as well as music. “That’s something we want to be careful with,” she says of the other locations – noting, for example, Porto’s luscious green backdrop near the coast at the festival’s site in the Parque da Cidade. But as Primavera looks outwards and globally, it’s also turning back inwards, too. Earlier this year, Primavera Sound Madrid 2023 was announced – a way for the festival to continue its newly-established tradition of two back-to-back weekend events in Spain. There is, it seems, an exciting path ahead for Primavera over the coming years, but first: this weekend. 

“We are always the first festival of the season,” Marta explains, adding that this particular edition means that the weekend will be something of a test run for the string of European festivals that follow on.

“I want people to come to Barcelona and celebrate life, to express themselves and to feel safe and alive again”

Marta says. Pablo concurs; “seriously speaking, we have learned that we have to live in the moment – seize the day – because we are all more vulnerable than we thought. If we should take this twentieth anniversary party as the party of our lives, then so be it.” But what should Primavera punters expect when they’re there? For Marta, it’s the unexpected – recalling Arcade Fire’s impromptu performance on a boxing ring-esque stage at the 2017 festival. This is, of course, not an indication or confirmation that such an event might occur this year, but possibilities and chance encounters are certainly part of the Primavera fabric. To that end, Marta describes the ideal standard that the Primavera team strives for: “at the perfect Primavera;”

“you would be able to enjoy a show from your favourite band; you would go to something that challenges you; you would see someone you don’t yet know will be your next favourite act; and the fourth would be something you really had fun at.”

And with a line up as glittering as Primavera’s is this year, it’s almost guaranteed to be perfect.

Credits

More info · Primavera Sound Festival Barcelona
Special thanks to Chris Cuff and Henry Turner (Good Machine PR)