Alfonso Lanza, co-director of Primavera Sound, has spoken with NME about bringing the Barcelona music festival stateside, the biggest challenges they faced coordinating the event in the US, and what he’s most excited about for Primavera’s first Los Angeles edition.
Primavera first announced they’d be bringing the festival from Spain to the US back in 2019. However, both the 2020 and 2021 festivals were cancelled due to coronavirus-enforced restrictions. Finally, last weekend (September 16 – 18), the festival made its Los Angeles debut, with Arctic Monkeys, Nine Inch Nails, and Lorde topping the bill.
“Los Angeles opens the doors to a whole new season abroad,” Lanza told NME. “We’re really looking forward to a special year.”
Though this is the first time the Mediterranean festival has made its way to the states, the team behind Primavera have continued to expand the festival since its start in Barcelona back in 2001. Following more than a decade of success, the festival expanded to Porto in 2012 and has continued to launch new editions in Santiago, São Paulo, and Buenos Aires.
When asked why he wanted to replicate the festival in Los Angeles instead of other mainstay music festival locations like Chicago, New York, and even Texas, Lanza said that Los Angeles was “the heart of the music industry.”
“Although we had other possible cities in the US to locate Primavera Sound, there is something about LA that makes us think it has a similar vibe to Barcelona,” he said. “The proximity to the sea, the character of the people, the passion for music, this is also what we’ve always believed about Porto.”
Lanza added: “The cities might be different, but the vibes are shared. This may be a first edition and a way smaller one, but our main goal is to keep the same vibe anywhere we go.”
Earlier this year, Primavera celebrated its 20-year anniversary in Barcelona with sets from The Strokes, Megan Thee Stallion, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and more spread across two weekends. Unfortunately, the festival’s first day saw a trove of safety issues and multiple complaints from fans who said they struggled with access to water, overcrowding, and waiting in bar lines for more than an hour.
Although Lanza told us “there were already three points along [festival venue] Parc del Fòrum,” for fans to access water, the overcrowding, stage organization, and staff shortages made it difficult for attendees to stay hydrated.
The festival shared an apology after the first day, however, following that acknowledgement by adding three more water stations and rearranging the bar staff to serve the most crowded areas of the festival grounds.
As a result, Lanza didn’t cite festival-goers’ safety as one of the main challenges in bringing Primavera to the US. Instead, he said they were focused on, “making the teams grow in a sustainable and efficient way, coordinating the expertise of the Barcelona headquarters with the local know-how and experience of our partners, learning and knowing how to delegate, and sharing responsibilities.”
Although many festivals in the US have moved away from mask mandates and proof of vaccination for attendees, the co-director told us the “pandemic [still] presented important challenges.”
“Some bands have dissolved, they have cancelled their agendas, or [they] have changed status [in the past two years],” Lanza said. “We have had to adapt to the context at all times, but even due to this we feel that we have achieved a festival level as good as it was intended since the beginning. The pandemic has affected us all, but the final result is that we have done the festival that we wanted to do.”
In 2019, Primavera made an effort to achieve a gender-balanced lineup, and they continued to work toward that goal in 2020, 2021, and 2022. The festival’s press materials mention a “non-negotiable commitment for Primavera Sound in its search for a fairer music industry” and Lanza told us the festival is committed to focusing on the goal of gender-equity each year, something that is reflected in the diversity of the recent festival line-ups.
Primavera also wants to incorporate sustainability practices into the festival. In 2019, they began their partnership with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign. The festival’s website lists a “plastic-free Primavera” as the golden standard, featuring initiatives such as public transport, festival infrastructures made with reusable materials, and a stage that’s powered by renewable energy.
Primavera has become a household name since the festival’s inception more than two decades ago and Lanza wants the same fate for its Los Angeles counterpart. “We hope that Primavera Sound Los Angeles will become a reference festival in the US as the one in Barcelona is in Europe.”
The festival director also told us his goal this year was “to connect with the audience that hasn’t been able to come to Barcelona yet, so they can know firsthand the Primavera experience.”
It’s expected that Primavera Sound Los Angeles will occur on an annual basis, but for now, they’re focused on the success of their first edition. Meanwhile, the California festival is already making headlines.
Last week, Lorde teased her next album during her Primavera festival set. The singer is currently wrapping up the second North American leg of her 2022 world tour behind her third album ‘Solar Power’, stopping for sets earlier this month at Primavera Sound Los Angeles and Las Vegas’ Life Is Beautiful.
“Who knows what will come next…” she told the crowd, before adding: “Well, I know. And you’ll know sometime soon.”