Over the course of its 22-year history, Primavera Sound has reached many milestones. In its early days, it was a local festival in Barcelona, and now it has become one of the largest festivals in Europe, expanding to host events on three continents.
Primavera Sound 2023 marked another milestone for the festival, its first excursion to the Spanish capital of Madrid.
Bringing nearly the entire lineup from its flagship Barcelona edition, Primavera Sound took over the somewhat infamous Ciudad del Rock venue in Arganda del Rey, Spain—about a 30-minute drive from the Madrid city center.
EDM Maniac was in attendance and has the full scoop on the turbulent, yet fun-filled weekend that was Primavera Sound Madrid 2023.
The crowds of Primavera Sound in years past have had a reputation for being largely composed of foreigners traveling from the United States and elsewhere in Europe. Rock-and-roller Julian Casablancas even made a joke about it during his set with The Voidz.
However, we noticed that the vibes around the festival grounds were a beautiful mix of music fans from across the world. We met people from Spain, the UK, Ireland, Denmark, and the United States.
The grounds were full of seasoned pros and festival newcomers alike, and while most members of the crowd were a little more reserved compared to what we typically experience at American festivals, everyone was very friendly and happy to strike up a conversation regardless of where you were from.
Sometimes language barriers proved to be a little difficult, but we actually enjoyed practicing our Spanish and getting tips from locals. Most of all, the universal language of dance was on full display.
Overall, however, in its first year at a generic large-scale venue, we did feel that the Madrid edition of the festival lacked a bit of soul and culture that usually comes with more established events.
Large-scale mixed-genre music festivals don’t always provide the jaw-dropping production that fans have become accustomed to at big-time EDM festivals.
By no means was the production at Primavera Sound Madrid overly impressive, however when it was needed, it shined.
We suspect that many of the headlining and big-name acts at Primavera Sound Madrid brought their own production equipment. We had a blast reveling in Four Tet‘s confetti cannons and Skrillex‘s pyro reached so high that it seemed it could scorch the roof of the main stage.
Stages were stretched far enough apart from each other to limit any concerns of sound bleed and we had no complaints over volume or sound quality all weekend long.
For stages in direct vicinity to one another, performance times were staggered to ensure that not a moment of music was missed and we took particular pleasure in viewing the handiwork of the crews in charge of filming each set. We felt incredibly close to our favorite performers, despite being way at the back of the crowd for a handful of sets.
With a bill that combined some of the best names in indie, alternative, and dance music, we were absolutely wowed by all the performances from the artists on Primavera Sound’s knockout lineup.
Of course, we couldn’t miss the trending talents of Four Tet, Fred again.. and Skrillex, and we enjoyed dancing with the masses to every one of Calvin Harris’ mega-hits.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest talking points from Primavera Sound Madrid was the cancellation of the first day of the festival due to weather. Madrid experienced an atypical influx of rain in the days leading up to the festival, forcing organizers to call off day one.
The typically dry climate in the area can often experience flash floods during unexpected rain. Other than a handful of puddles and a bit of mud, the ground had dried up by the time the festival started up.
We were bummed to miss an entire day of music from some of the biggest artists on the lineup, and though refunds and exchanges were given to single-day ticket-holders, no refunds were issued to those with weekend passes.
Primavera Sound did, however, try to provide ticket holders with something else to do the day the festival was cancelled, opening up free tickets for Blur’s performance at a new venue, as well as a night of clubbing with Boiler Room.
Likely coinciding with reports that Primavera Sound drastically undersold passes, we never felt that the venue was crowded at all. Even when it was clear that more people showed up on day two, we were still able to walk right up to the front of the crowd for some of the biggest performances of the weekend.
We appreciated that the circular layout of the venue allowed us to bounce from stage with relative ease.
The ground surface at Ciudad del Rock is largely uneven dirt covered with astroturf. While not the worst surface for standing and dancing all night long, slight inclines and “potholes” were not adequate for those with ADA accommodations.
Bathrooms and water stations were limited, but only crowded on occasion due to the festival’s low turnout.
The largest and most damning problem with the venue was its extreme isolation from general infrastructure and transportation.
Ciudad del Rock is only accessible via one road – Spain’s A3 highway – making transportation to and from Primavera Sound Madrid an absolute nightmare. Heavy traffic on the way to the festival meant that arrival times in Taxis and Ubers were often tripled.
Even worse, the shuttle bus service provided by the festival was incredibly dysfunctional if ever present at all. Shuttle bus lines to arrive at the festival stretched for multiple blocks in the nearby town of Arganda del Rey; and in order to leave the festival, attendees were forced to wait in lines for upwards of two hours, often with buses nowhere in sight.
Some tried to walk the 2.5 miles back to Arganda del Rey, while others gave up and were resting on the side of the road.
Once inside the festival, we had a blast, but the headache of getting to and from the venue began to outweigh our usually free-spirited energy.
All in all, we had a positive experience at Primavera Sound Madrid, but as it was our correspondent’s first European festival, we felt it left a lot to be desired.
Its first year in Madrid brought lots of logistical issues, but we felt that the main elements of a good festival were still there. We look forward to Primavera Sound’s efforts to work out these issues in the future and are excited to head back to Europe soon to experience the “real thing” for ourselves.
All images provided by Primavera Sound. Featured image credit: Christian Bertrand. All other images credit in order of appearance: Christian Bertrand, Clara Orozco, Christian Bertrand.