Oysters, Feedback and Soccer
As Indiana Jones memorably put it, “it’s not the years, it’s the mileage”, and 15 years is quite a milestone for a festival and its makers. Especially when it’s done with such heart and soul as those good people at Primavera Sound in Barcelona.
It’s rare to find the organisers so busy with every little detail of a festival, down in the pit of the concerts, bringing together masterful organisation skills and the passion of real music lovers. Thomas Venker had the pleasure to be around for most of those 14 past Primaveras and opens his very special photo book as he joins co-owner Pablo Soler for a little chat about the past, present and future of Europe’s finest festival.
Pablo, do you remember how Primavera got started?
Pablo Soler: My memories are a little blurry as things usually happen so late at night. We took an existing event that had been going on and off since the early 90s and powered it up. We wanted to make the festival we would like to go to, musically radical.
Did you guys have something like a master plan?
Oh yes – the plan was to earn a little bit more than what we spent. Our aim was to build line-ups that were more challenging for the festival goer than the ones existing at that time.
Is the status quo we have in 2015 something you had in mind?
It’s hard to see from my point of view as I don’t think we’ve changed so much. Most of the decision making is done the same way as we did in 2001. There are more people involved and things are more technical now, but most of changes have been improvements we have implemented on the work we were doing which is essentially the same now.
I reckon if we could have foreseen this moment of the festival back then we would have been happy enough.
It would take you too long to name your highlight moment of each of the years, but maybe you could drop three very special moments and the stories behind to identify that very own Primavera feeling of enthusiasm and dedication.
One highlight moment is definitely happening this year as it’s going to be a very special festival – it’s our 15th anniversary – and I’ll be able to attend with my daughter Palmira for the first time. She’s still a baby but I’m really looking forward seeing her reactions to it all.
Then, from the social perspective, my favorite moment is the huge conga line that spontaneously aroused in the audience at the Pet Shop Boys show in 2009. A festival is great for socializing and creating those special moments you share with friends that will always bring a smile when you revisit them.
And our special reward every year is that final moment when we gather everyone in the office at the Dj Coco set on saturday night. After months, tension is released and there’s collective moment of joy. I have to say we are lucky to have so many people with great working ethics at the office truly committed to the festival. Is something we are proud of.
And regarding bands, what were your three outstanding performances and why?
If I had to name three: LCD Soundsystem, The Moldy Peaches and Neil Young.
LCD Soundsystem’s first appearance was a very rowdy show, one of their first ever, and they smashed the smaller stage at the festival in 2003 in front of 200 people. That same year Moldy Peaches had an awesome gig at a much more crowded tent. I loved it and the fact they split so early made it very special.
Neil Young played on a Saturday, just after FC Barcelona won the Champions League against Manchester United in Wembley. He went onstage with a Barcelona scarf and played for almost three hours. A beautiful show, Cortez the Killer included.
Regarding the lineup I am always surprised how well old school bands on their reunion tour and the fresh young bands of the season fit together in your schedule – something other festivals never seem to find so easy. What do you think is the magic behind Primavera to combine different genres and eras that easy?
Our bookers have a very wide music knowledge and historically our line-ups have always included a wide range of artist ages so I guess Primavera seems like the right festival if you are reuniting your bands.
Which acts are high on your list for this year. Whom do you have to see and why?
There are not so many opportunities to see The Replacements and Ride at the same festival, so you should use them. I’m also looking forward to see HEALTH, Der Panther, Baxter Dury, Death From Above 1979 and Battles to name a few. I don’t know how much will I get to see though.
From my perspective the festival’s crowd has become more and more international over the years. I am sure you have deep insider stats on the audience..?
We have indeed grown as an international destination in the past few years. Our line-ups appeal to an global audience and of course Barcelona is a bit of a strategic asset for us. We have detected buyers from 72 different countries. About half of the international audience at Primavera Sound come from the UK, then Italy, France, Germany and Ireland and USA follow from the distance.
Primavera will never be about looking back. As a festival it stands it always seems ready for the future. For the last 3 years you’ve had a little sister festival in Porto. What is the experience with that so far and what are your hopes there for 2015?
The Porto branch of Primavera is a scaled down version of Barcelona’s festival with a selection of the most interesting acts in a friendlier environment, the very green Parque da Cidade at the Atlantic seashore. It’s cheaper and awesome if you want to have a more relaxed music experience. The festival is developing well, its got an excellent reputation and a very good position amongst other Portuguese festivals. We are going to try to keep on taking the best music quality to Porto as well as Barcelona.
Pablo, thank you for your time, I am looking forward to dancing with you to DJ Coco’s set.