The Scene: Summer Starts @ Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023
By / June 8, 2023


Primavera Sound, the Barcelona institution, returned to form this year after a slightly chaotic double edition in 2022. With a condensed footprint and tight lineup, this seaside fest remains a top spot to experience music in Europe. A twist in 2023 is that the festival expands to Madrid with a special edition aptly named “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” 

It’s summer in Europe, which means I’m back for my fourth visit to Primavera Sound in Barcelona. Even without the double weekend spectacular of 2022, there’s still a lot happening at the Parc El Forum and around the city – a full tech and industry conference, the special opening night with Pet Shop Boys, club sets downtown, and the annual Sunday electronic brunch featuring Diplo. And don’t forget – there’s still a packed three-day festival to check out.

Click here to see photos of the atmosphere

Table Of Contents

1. Running the Numbers
2. The Scene
3. Music Highlights

4. Stray Observations
5. Final Thoughts

Running the Numbers

Dates: May 31-June 4, 2023
Editions: 21
Attendance: 235,000 total visitors
Artists: 200+
MFW Beer Index: €4.50 (same price as last year!)
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 22C/16C (72F/61F)
Reusable Cups? Yes
Free Water Stations? Yes

The Scene

The Venue
Lots of significant changes to the layout of Primavera Sound this year starting with the dual Ron Brugal/Amazon Music stages near the entrance. The most noticeable absence was the removal of Primavera Bits, which made the festival feel much more manageable than in previous years.

The Music
As always with Primavera Sound, there are loads of hidden gems to be discovered. If you showed up with no schedule and no idea who was playing, you would still have an incredible time. Over the years, the festival has expanded to include hip-hop, electronic, and pop music so if hipster indie rock isn’t your thing, there’s still more than enough to hold your attention.

The Crowd
Last year I (and everyone else) commented on the massive and uncomfortable size of the crowd. I don’t know if was because of the headliners or if pent-up demand for live events has returned to normal levels, but the crowd size was perfect this year and a bit less intense than in 2022. Shows were full, but with also plenty of space on the sides if you didn’t want to dive into festies.

What We Loved
Less than $5.00 for a beer! And it’s the same price as last year! Even during the fullest of shows, I rarely waited more than five minutes for a beer served by an always upbeat bartender. Security was smooth and respectful. The new layout had a much better flow so that you were immediately into the action with the new double-stage lineup near the entrance.

What We Didn’t Love
Sound bleed. Electronic music stages don’t mix well at a festival with mellow indie rock. People complained all weekend about the overwhelming beats from Pull&Bear which bled into the main stage area. The Boiler Room also had issues causing a mess at Plenitude and the island stages. Maybe we could just move the bulk of the electronic music across the bridge for next year?

Music Highlights

Acts I Caught and the Unofficial Order in Which I Enjoyed Them

  • St. Vincent
  • The Moldy Peaches
  • Japanese Breakfast
  • Depeche Mode
  • Sparks
  • Maneskin
  • Turnstile
  • Surf Curse
  • My Morning Jacket
  • The Comet is Coming
  • New Order
  • The Wedding Present
  • Blur
  • Holly Humberstone
  • Le Tigre
  • be your own PET
  • Christine & The Queens
  • Charlotte de Witte
  • Skrillex

Festival MVP: St. Vincent
One of my favorite sets of the weekend was St. Vincent’s sunset into moonrise set. Just perfect.

I Will Make You Cry: Japanese Breakfast
Having seen Japanese Breakfast a few weeks ago, I skipped the standard set for this stripped-down version taking place on a floating stage with a capacity of 150. Truly a special moment at Primavera and worth the wait.

Most Talked About: Ghost
The over-the-top theatrics of metal band Ghost greeted most people as they arrived on Thursday, but we all agreed it was on way too early. Ghost is a metal band that needs the darkness of night to truly shine.

Guaranteed Good Time: DJ Coco
If you have ever made it to 5:30 am on a Primavera Sunday morning weekend, then you know what I’m talking about.

We Are All Abuzz: Moldy Peaches
If you only knew this band from the Juno soundtrack and thought this was just an ironically twee pop band, you would be right, but you may not know that their lyrics are delightfully filthy.

On Fire: Skrillex

Stray Observations

Viva Italia!
The Italians showed up in full force in support of glam rockers Måneskin. And boy, did they ever go off.

T-Shirt of the Weekend
Punk rock ruined my life.

I’m On a Boat
Now that’s some VIP seating over at the Dice stage.

Final Thoughts

As always, Primavera Sound in Barcelona remains one of my top recommendations when I’m asked about my favorite festivals. The curated lineup of this fest with unique shows combined with all the other events happening during the fest means you could easily spend a week in Barcelona and never run out of things to do. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Primavera Sound experience works with Madrid. See you next week!

Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023

When: May 31-June 3, 2023

Where: Barcelona, Spain

The Scene: This Barcelona institution is a beacon for the entire spectrum of indie rock along with a smattering of entries from just about every other genre of music. Hundreds of bands fill the Parc El Forum along with one-of-a-kind intimate performances throughout the city. Add this music festival mecca to your bucket list immediately.

More Info: Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023 Guide

Primavera Sound Madrid 2023

When: June 7-10, 2023

Where: Arganda del Rey, Spain

The Scene: Primavera Sound launches a new edition in the capital of Spain! Festies will travel the City of Rock near Madrid for this latest iteration of the legendary festival.

More Info: Primavera Sound Madrid 2023 Guide

Primavera Sound Porto 2023

When: June 7-10, 2023

Where: Porto, Portugal

The Scene: The little sibling to Barcelona's mega-festival Primavera Sound, this Portuguese edition takes place the following weekend in the charming city of Porto. The recipe remains the same, with a staggering roster of indie rock talent. The grassy hillsides of Parque Central means that every seat is a prime location to watch the show.

More Info: Primavera Sound Porto 2023 Guide

Born during a backstage Bonnaroo downpour, Vito's mission in life is to dance, write, and travel to all the great festivals that this wide world has to offer.