We all know that summer equals festival season and Barcelona is no exception. Kicking off with the prestigious and world-renowned Primavera Sound, the city’s warmest season punctually fills with a number of big and small live music events throughout its urban web.
Barcelona’s extremely favourable climate conditions, as well as its spectacular natural landscapes, combining a wealth of greeneries with hills and sea, allow for perfect festival settings. So it’s no surprise that during the whole late spring/summer period your agenda can be easily filled with live open-air music appointments, marked in red every week.
Obviously not all festivals in the heart of Catalonia are as grandiose and well-known as Primavera, yet you might be surprised by the global attraction of some of the other events too, such as Rockfest Barcelona, Cruïlla Barcelona Summer Festival, Be Prog! My Friend, or Barna ‘n’ Roll. This is without considering the even smaller, local, and neighborhood-bound ones that heavily contribute towards the construction of this region’s musical identity.
These smaller happenings normally take place in the surroundings of the ramblas of each barrio – i.e. the iconic main streets cutting each major neighborhood of the city in two – bringing substantial crowds together outdoors to enjoy live music, local food, flea markets, pop-up installations, and much more.
My neighborhood alone for instance, the post-industrial Poblenou, has already hosted three major local cultural events since I moved here a couple of months back. An absolute highlight so far, and Barcelona’s most heartfelt event, was the loud and chaotic Revetlla de Sant Joan, which takes place every year at the end of June celebrating summer Solstice. The amount of public artistic displays, street performers, and firecrackers was one I’d never seen in my life before.
That said, one the most highly anticipated festivals each year is Sónar, a pioneering cultural event launched in 1994 combining a deep creative technology focus, avant-garde programming, and heavy experimentation with newest trends in electronic and hip hop music. Its conference arm, Sónar+D, left me very impressed. The tradeshow deals with the relationship between creativity and technology through the showcase of cutting-edge discoveries in the realms of AI, VR and machine learning.
The four-day offering included workshops, market fairs, labs, and live performances, looking at pushing interdisciplinary boundaries. An unmissable event for anyone interested in arts and new technologies, at the same time crafting a big part of Barcelona’s artistic identity, regardless of the specific genre-focus of the festival’s musical programming.
Things got way more serious at Cruïlla, a multi-genre music festival now in its eighth edition that took place from 7–9 July on the seaside East of the Catalan city centre. This year’s headliners were The Prodigy, Two Door Cinema Club, Pet Shop Boys, Jamiroquai, and Die Antwoord, and more generally the overall lineup spanned a wealth of genres ranging from ska-punk to reggae and electronica. The clue is actually in its name, as cruïlla means ‘intersection’ in the local Catalan language, hence its not-so-hidden mission to present as varied and mixed a programme as possible.
As usual, the most exciting musical discoveries didn’t come from the mainstream acts headlining the bill, but rather from smaller, lesser-known bands that got to warm up the crowds from early afternoon onwards.