Primavera, which has been taking place in late May/early June since 2003, can perhaps best be described as the "anti-Coachella." Its stern arena is almost prison-like in appearance, augmented by avant-garde industrial architecture -- hardly the image conjured by the description "on the water," but located on the Mediterranean nonetheless -- with nary a costume, day-glo headband or obnoxiously sconced goon in sight.
The festival sprawls across the city for most of May, popping up in various palm-lined plazas, clubs and bars, culminating in the three-day binge at the Forum, which most recently featured sets by the reunited Afghan Whigs, Godflesh and Refused; dance heroes Scuba, Jamie xx and Mattias Aguayo; black metal kings Mayhem, Wolves in the Throne Room and Liturgy and headliners The Cure.
Watch M83 Perform "Midnight City" at Primavera Sound 2012
Although Bjork was unable to perform due to a throat malady, festival-goers were treated to outstanding performances overlooking the water, with sound that was expertly mixed and never too loud to converse (with the exception of Godflesh's earbleeding riffs). There were few scheduling clusterfucks, and the festival's exemplary late programming, which began at 3AM and ran past sunrise, featured John Talabot, the Field, Erol Alkan, Rustie, Matias Aguayo/Rebolledo, Benga, Aeroplane, Jackmaster, Oneman, Deadboy, Scuba and Pional.
The programming in general was top notch, featuring stages sponsored by Pitchfork, ATP and Vice, frequented by an international, music-minded crowd. Memorable performances included M83, Beach House, Refused, Wolves in the Throne Room, Trash Talk, Washed Out, Jamie xx, Scuba and Godflesh, whose punishing set actually grew louder the further we inched from crowd. And of course, there was the inimitable Greg Dulli and Afghan Whigs.
Watch Afghan Whigs Perform at Primavera Sound 2012
To continue our North American festival comparison, the food was good by any standard, ranging from fresh quesadillas, empanadas, hummus and salads to hamburgers made in homage to Spiritualized and Godflesh. The drinks were affordable, and the lines were virtually nonexistent. During Beach House's outstanding set, we were able to bum tobacco, find a bathroom and return to our group, all before the band finished playing "The Hours," without missing a second of the song.
Upon finally exiting the Forum's grounds on Sunday morning (June 3), after Scuba closed out the festival with banging basement vibes, we took a moment to relax on the beach, sitting by several groups of neon-wristbanded festival-goers, quietly taking in the sunrise. We sat there, marveling at our experience, staring at the sky, and as the others slowly drifted off in pairs, they revealed an American couple, fresh from the nearby beach clubs, copulating awkwardly, unaware of the incredible musical experience which had taken place just inches away.
Chagrined, we mounted our bikes and pedaled back, to return to America, our home, which had somehow found a way to intrude on our Primavera reverie.