Primavera Sound is the Spanish music festival that seems more like a fever dream that’s an impossible journey away, rather than a very real music gathering that’s a quick (enough) plane ride from the East Coast. It beats Coachella—the largest music festival in the U.S. and Canada—in attendance by a cool 75,000 people. And yet crowd control and stage division are immaculate. Sure, you’re going to feel squished and mildly claustrophobic during the headliners, but you’ll be able to quickly escape if that’s your MO. For example, during Arcade Fire’s set, I successfully ran away from a gang of roving Hawaiian-shirted men in 10 minutes flat. That much flamingo print isn’t safe in close proximity for anyone, even if you are 100 feet from the sea.
Placed on Barcelona’s subtropical coast, the festival curves along the Mediterranean Sea, so close that during Seu Jorge’s evening set—Seu Jorge being the beautiful Brazilian guitar maestro who sings David Bowie’s hits in Portuguese—mist blew in from the water, coating fans who were already choking back communal love for the late rock star in a salty spray to match their tears.
Another claim to fame for Primavera is that the programming is consistently solid; headliners this year were Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, and The XX, with Frank Ocean (of course) canceling last-minute. But, as any music fest veteran will tell you, it’s the acts accidentally found during downtime that can make or break a festival’s booking prowess.
For the 17th edition of Primavera, it was reported that attendees came from 125 different countries. The artists playing came from similarly varied home countries. We caught up with three such acts, each traveling in from vastly different parts of the world, to chat about connecting with international audiences while on tour, the idea of home as an illusion, and finding balance while contrasting message and musical composition.