Barcelona, along with Paris, London and Berlin, is one of the four big music capitals in Europe. Not only has the city long been a destination for major musical acts over the years; it also has a deeply embedded independent circuit, with lots of devoted underground music fans. Barcelona residents in general share a passion for music, and that’s what keeps the lineups at its annual music festivals strong.
Although there are fewer festival offerings devoted to theater and film than to music, Barcelona locals are also very enthusiastic about these art forms. Every summer and spring, festivals are mounted all over the city to coincide with the beautiful weather and to celebrate plays, bands, and more. Some of these events are huge productions showcasing internationally known acts; others are smaller and more local in scope. For travelers looking to get a sense of this city’s culture, though, all of them are absolutely enjoyable.
Considered one of the top music festivals in the world, Primavera launched in 2001 as a sort of experimental event for performing rock and pop bands. (Among those who’ve graced the stages since then are major acts like The Pixies, Arcade Fire, Neil Young, and Cat Power.) The annual three-day event draws close to 180,000 people to its venue in the Forum area. Despite the crowds, the size of the space means you’ll never feel cramped here. The 2015 festival runs May 28-30.
The most important electronic music festival in the world, Sonar began in the rave heyday of 1994 in order to explore and spread love of techno and experimental music. Twenty years later, the festival is the absolute must-go for every major DJ, producer, and fan of electronic dance music. Last year alone, Massive Attack, James Murphy (formerly LCD Soundsystem) and Richie Hawtin played here along with more than 100 others. The festival takes place every June.
Probably Barcelona’s biggest secret in terms of festivals, In-Edit is a music documentary event that puts together the best of the genre. Every late October, the festival allows fans of music docs to watch a terrific selection on a huge screen among like-minded viewers; in 2014 more than 30,000 people attended the festival.
One of my favorite gatherings in Barcelona, El Grec Festival stages most of its plays and concerts outdoors, at various venues in the month of July. It’s practically become a Barcelona tradition to celebrate the arrival of the summer by enjoying some of its offerings. It runs at the end of July and the vibe is fantastic…so is the cold beer.
Barcelona Beach Festival
Called “BBB,” this is the festival to go to if you want to dance till dawn. Though it’s of the newest music festivals to arrive to the city, it seems like it’s here to stay. In 2014, the lineup of big-name DJs appearing here included David Guetta, Avicii and Steve Angello; the venue (which, of course, is the beach) is just as big a draw. It runs at the end of July and last year gathered more than 100,000 people.