2015 was my first experience of the 'European Coachella' which trades palm trees and desert mountains for sea views. It takes place in the vast Parc Del Forum, built in 2004, with largely concrete, not grass underfoot. The site creates a dichotomy between the characterful smaller stages and the two main stages, separated by a distance that makes sampling the main acts difficult, hampering discovery. With such natural beauty, there's little attempt to replicate the art installations at Coachella, a missed opportunity, particularly at night, where little attempt was made to add visual interest to the main stage area. Yet, the sheer scale of the festival allows risks to be taken with the line-up, and I particularly appreciated the inclusion of world music. Crucially, the sound was excellent, some of the food options were of great quality (although not the limited selection within the VIP areas), and the atmosphere was relaxed. The city location, without onsite camping but with a wide selection of hotels in walking or public transport distance, attracts a relatively mature international audience of music lovers .
Yet, in a country with 25% youth unemployment, the free events in city parks, and on the main site during the evening before the festival begins are inclusive. Where Primavera is less progressive is in its environmental efforts: the ocean side site was awash in waste plastic, thanks to the absence of recycling bins from the stage areas and a ban on reuse of bottles (I wasn't allowed to bring an empty container into the festival, and there were no water refill stations). It's also depressingly corporate in the prominent sponsorship of many stages, and the intrusive beer advertising on the plastic cups defacing the site. It's some consolation that this allows the cost of VIP ticket to be less than that of a GA one for Coachella, and for a meal with wine to be less costly than a single margarita in California. The weather's also more temperate than in the desert, especially as Primavera doesn't get started until early evening, and the party carries on until sunrise. I certainly intend to return, and it's highly recommended for the depth of programme, atmosphere and amazing location in a fascinating. beautiful city.