A whimsical woodland setting adds a touch of magic to the Vida festival.
Made plans for summer? If you’re staying in the city, you won’t be alone. It should come as no surprise to most that Barcelona is fast transforming into the go-to destination for festival lovers, given Catalunya’s covetable combination of youth culture, great weather and an increasingly diverse concert circuit. Add the fact that it’s far more affordable than many of its European counterparts, and you have the makings of a musical mecca. So if you’re looking to expand your horizons whilst staying put this season, here’s a small taster of the events taking place near you, from big-name gatherings to boutique takeovers…
June 1st–5th. Parc del Fòrum.
Set in the coastal playground of the Parc del Fòrum, Primavera Sound is arguably the most unmissable date in the European music calendar. Since its inaugural one-day edition at Poble Espanyol in 2001, the festival has gone from strength to strength, with its generation-spanning lineup capable of setting the mood for the music season to come.
In 2016, this eclectic festival is set to be no less impressive with headliners including Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Animal Collective and PJ Harvey, and with Brian Wilson performing The Beach Boys’ seminal album Pet Sounds (1966), it’s no wonder this year’s edition sold out in record time. But don’t be too downhearted if you missed out on full festival tickets—day entries for Thursday are still available, a schedule of complimentary gigs will be taking place at the CCCB’s parallel-running Primavera al Raval and there’s a free opening night concert courtesy of Suede in the main venue.
Our tip: La Botiga del Primavera Sound (Ases 1) stocks vinyl from all the festival’s featured acts; handy for getting to know the more under-the-radar artists.
June 11th–July 16th. Jardins Palau Reial Pedralbes.
From its regal setting to the Michelin-starred catering on offer, Festival Jardins de Pedralbes raises the tone of Barcelona’s musical gatherings, with its series of high-profile, al fresco concerts stretching across a full month. With the palatial facade of Palau Reial de Pedralbes serving as a backdrop, up to 2,000 people a night can enjoy multi-genre music in the open-air auditorium, with additional events, such as a food festival (from SoundEat) and a family day (by Minimúsica), supplementing the consistently impressive bill.
This year’s opening concert comes courtesy of The Cranberries, followed by gigs from names as varied as José González, Joan Baez, Tom Jones, George Benson, The Lumineers, Charles Aznavour, James Morrison and Milky Chance. However, watching Raiders of the Lost Ark brought to life by the Vallès Symphony Orchestra is set to be a particular highlight in 2016.
Our tip: Ticket prices vary considerably, ranging between a wholly reasonable €16 and an eye-watering €228, but we’d recommend splashing out as much as you can to secure a superior seat.
Festival Jardins de Pedralbes
June 16th–18th. Fira Gran Via & Fira MontjuÏc.
Still going strong after 22 years, Sónar’s cerebral approach to partying has been a hit with the countercultural masses since the early days when it held court at the CCCB and Apolo. Over the years the event has moved venues on several occasions, before settling down in its current home shared between the Firas of Montjuïc and Gran Via.
Split between the family-friendly Sónar by Day and the not-so-family-friendly Sónar by Night, the gathering has made its name by showcasing boundary-pushing artists from the worlds of dance, electronic music and digital culture, with its creative and sensory series of activities appealing to an intellectual crowd as well as glassy-eyed party people. From dance to disco and electro to pop, this year the festival’s roll call flits between the emerging and the established, with the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre, New Order, Fatboy Slim, John Grant, Anohni and Santigold all making the cut.
Our tip: Off-week events run alongside the festival, so if you don’t fancy parting with too much cash, you can still dip into the Sónar party atmosphere.
June 30th–July 3rd. La Masia d’en Cabanyes. Vilanova i la Geltrú.
Whenever someone tells you that a festival “isn’t as good as it used to be”, they probably mean it used to be a bit like Vida. Now in its third year, this young upstart is still small enough to provide an intimate experience, yet is well on its way to becoming a firm feature of the summer circuit, thanks to its offbeat lineup and whimsical woodland setting.
By day, you’ll be soaking up the sun with a soundtrack of local bands and DJs down at the beach, before hopping on a complimentary bike up to the centuries-old Masia d’en Cabanyes to listen to international and local acts including Wilco, The Divine Comedy, Villagers, Manel, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Balthazar.
At the heart of the family-friendly venue is an enchanted forest strewn with fairy lights and art installations, ideal for those looking to fill up their Instagram feeds, whilst opting for a Wildside ticket bags you access to a stylish VIP area with free beer, wine and cocktails. Sounds good? We think so, too. Go while it’s on the ascent.
Our tip: Camping facilities aren’t great, so you might want to take the specially arranged train back to Barcelona.
July 8th–10th. Parc del Fòrum.
Eclectic at its core, Cruïlla has emerged as one of the region’s most diverse festivals, offering a multi-genre mishmash of artists over three days in July. And whilst sharing the same setting as Primavera naturally sets it up for comparison, Cruïlla doesn’t seem that interested in competing with Primavera’s massive lineup. Instead, it prefers to go its own way with a smaller, yet similarly discerning schedule, which over the years has included the likes of Iggy Pop, Snoop Dogg, Jack Johnson and Kendrick Lamar.
When it comes to variety, 2016 is no different, with broad-ranging acts such as Robert Plant, Crystal Fighters, Damien Rice, Fermin Muguruza, Alabama Shakes and Cat Power on the roster. To complement the soundtrack, there’ll be local food trucks to guarantee a good feed between shows, whilst massage, game and graffitti areas provide alternative, non-musical activities. However, one of the most unconventional elements has to be the inclusion of LED-adorned castellers—now you don’t get that at many music festivals.
Our tip: Cruïlla was one of the first festivals to introduce cashless technology and it’s worth requesting a pre-paid electronic bracelet beforehand to save carrying cash.
Festivals Further Afield
Want to step outside the region? There’s plenty more to pick from if you venture further afield.
DOWN THE COAST
Beach-bumming it by day, partying by night, this consummate feel-good festival ticks all the summer boxes.
- When? July 14th–17th
- Where? Benicàssim
- Who? Muse, Kendrick Lamar, Bloc Party, Jamie XX, Massive Attack, Disclosure and Hinds.
Benidorm might not be known for its hugely artistic appeal, but this indie gathering tries to dispel assumptions with its cool, cultural lineup.
- When? July 29th–31st
- Where? Benidorm
- Who? Belle & Sebastian, Hot Chip, The Kooks, Peaches, Love of Lesbian and Los Planetas.
A sun-soaked, beachfront celebration of sound with great glamping options and a bargainous entry fee.
- When? August 4th–7th
- Where? Borriana
- Who? Two Door Cinema Club, Kaiser Chiefs, The Hives, Crystal Fighters and Manel.
HOT IN THE CITY
Terrible name, excellent atmosphere; Madrid’s musical extravaganza draws big-name artists to its city-centre location.
- When? June 16th–18th
- Where? Madrid
- Who? Neil Young, The Who, The Prodigy, The Kills and Bastille.
A hipster favourite with a breathtaking natural backdrop and an exceptional lineup of indie/alternative artists.
- When? July 7th–9th
- Where? Bilbao
- Who? Arcade Fire, Hot Chip, Foals, Pixies, Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett.
Bid the warm weather adiós at this superb end of summer festival, taking place on the lawns of the Universidad Complutense.
- When? September 10th
- Where? Madrid
- Who? Eagles of Death Metal + more TBC (last year’s edition featured Suede, Sam Smith, Foals and The Vaccines).