If You Can Only Make it To One: Presenting Your Music Festival Power Rankings

03/06/2012 12:00 PM |

Primavera Sound
May 30-June 3, Barcelona, Spain

Ticket cost: 3
Taking into account what Google says is the U.S. dollar’s current exchange rate, the 190€ ticket to Primavera comes out to about $250 (plus what Spaniards charmingly call “booking fees”). Divide that by the 145 bands playing the fest, including those bookending with pre-and-post shows on May 30 and June 3, and that’s a measly $1.72 per band &#8212 remarkably, the cheapest of the lot. Europeans, man, they know how to live. More good news! Children 14 years and under accompanied by a legal guardian are granted free admission, so if you look young and have a friend who looks old, good luck with that. As good of a deal as this seems, though, we hesitate bumping up the score to four, as camping is a no-go in this setting, and therefore sleeping accommodations are not included in the ticket price…

Travel expenses: 0
…Which means this isn’t going to be pretty. Chalk up $919 for a round-trip flight to Barcelona, meals on a weak U.S. dollar, a buck or two for a postcard, and, yikes, hotel reservations. The festival lays out several options for that last point, the cheapest of which comes to around $164 (125 €) per night for either a single or double room. It’s called Hotel Front Maritim, is about a 15-minute walk from the festival site, accessible to the airport via public transportation, looks clean, and has palm trees out front. Let’s just say it’ll be pricey week, but also an awesome one.

Location: 5
The obvious upside to this is hanging out in a city where siestas are a thing and famous buildings look like drip sandcastles. Barcelona marries the old world with the cosmopolitan and the exotic, making for a musical excursion unlike anything back in the home country. As an urban festival, the crux of the shows take place in the Parc del Fòrum, a plaza of open spaces and auditoriums resembling a souped-up Williamsburg Waterfront; here, facing the Mediterranean.

Headliners: 3
In what’s perhaps keeping with an European communist mentality, Primavera typically lists bands alphabetically on promotional materials, therefore obscuring clear-cut headliners (a detail I personally wish more festivals would copy). Someone has got to play last, however, and a perusal of the lineup reveals that this year’s heavy hitters &#8212 Bjork, The xx, The Cure, Wilco, Jeff Mangum, Justice, M83 and Franz Ferdinand among them &#8212 offers New Yorkers a healthy batch of bands that haven’t made their way to our coast too recently (scratch Bjork and Mangum, but we have a feeling you’d see them again if you could). Downside: We’re not over Justice yet? C’mon, guys.

Lineup: 5
Primavera excels at cherry-picking talent from all phases of hype, allowing for on-the-verge breakouts to share the stage with the just-broken-out and those who paved the way. Balancing out Pitchfork’s curated stage of upstarts (The Weeknd, Danny Brown, Real Estate, Iceage, Trash Talk, AraabMuzik, no way, Grimes is playing) are those in it for the long haul (Melvins, The Afghan Whigs, Death Cab for Cutie, Archers of Loaf, Refused, Spiritualized), plus some steadily going standbys (Girls, Atlas Sound, Kings of Convenience, Black Lips). New Yorkers in particular are treated to those routing in from the European festival circuit. No St. Vincent or tUnE-yArDs here, but Saint Etienne and The Olivia Tremor Control make for more unique options. Add in Brooklyn newbies Friends, Milagres and The Men for a taste of home (and Kleenex Girl Wonder, because they’re just good) and a dose of foreign-language acts, and the end result is an impeccably curated picture of indie-rock.

Atmosphere: 4
Though annual attendance is 100,000 strong (bigger than Bonnaroo, if you’re keeping track), the urban setting avoids making concert-goers feel like they’re corralled into a pen, despite the mass amount of people. At the hands of the Europeans, it feels a touch cooler, more sophisticated, than a lot of the big camping festivals in America. An entry on Primavera’s FAQ webpage asks, “Can I buy cigarettes on the festival site?” Why, yes. Yes you can. Hey, here’s a glass of red wine to sip while watching Spiritualized with the sea breeze gently ruffling your hair.


2 Comment

  • What about Benicasim? It’s probably the best festival on the planet.

  • While not personally an indie guy, and therefor not a Sasquatch! attendant, I still love the nod to the greatest venue at which to see a show. Having seen many fantastic bands (Phish, The Dead/Allman Bros, DMB, among others) for multi-night stands, and live only 2 1/2 hours away, I take every opportunity to vouch for “Heaven’s Ampitheatre”(-Dave Matthews). The overall package of setting, sound, and atmosphere I’ve not experienced anywhere else. Not to mention the convenience, cost effectiveness, and party-hearty expanse that is the venue campgrounds (post-show rage fest!). This place is everything they say it is and then some, further supported by outranking bigger festivals with more space, stages, fans, and bands. Trust me when I say that while maybe not as “epic” in scale, 20K people is a lot more comfortable and enjoyable than 80K, and 1 stage in 1 majestic location is far easier and more enjoyable than 5-10 spread out over multiple acres. My basic point is if you live for live music, whether for a festival or single/multi-band tour, get to this venue. If you haven’t, it deserves a high ranking on the bucket-list….