“It’s not difficult once your mind is set.”
That’s what Primavera Sound’s Marta Pallares Olivares told BBC’s Newsbeat when quizzed about the festival’s perfect gender equality achievement. “I will say to all those people who say there are not enough female acts out there – because I’ve heard that – that it’s simply a lie. They are out there – because they’re here”, Olivares continued.
It’s that determined, nothing-but-perfection attitude that makes Primavera Sound 2019 an innovative example for all other festival organisers. There’s not a discarded plastic beer cup in sight, festival goers encouraged to invest and re-use souvenir plastic options left over from past years for just one euro. Posters and announcements speaking out against and helping victims of sexual assault adorn each stage, there’s a manned tent just for that cause at the heart of the festival too. There are countless details to Primavera Sound that make the festival seem like some sort of utopian music world. Really, organisers are proving it’s time to quit talking and start doing.
Amongst all the achievements it’s Primavera’s 50/50 male to female line-up, which they brand as “the new normal”, that is making the headlines. The festival is a real celebration of equality and a diverse mix of cultures. From Miley Cyrus to Erykah Badu, Rosalía to Christine and the Queens, Lizzo to Robyn – it’s a breath of fresh air to see such talent leapfrog up the bill to claim their spots on the biggest stages.
It really is Cyrus who owns the weekend. Setting parts of the city into lockdown the moment she touched down with hubby Liam Hemsworth earlier last week, it was HER headline show to celebrate the release of her EP, and she made sure everyone knew about it. As she tests the seaside crowd’s grasp of the new lyrics to the punchy ‘Mother’s Daughter’ and the rattling ‘Cattitude’, which explode on the big stage, she swings her mic and declares she’s here “celebrating such a fucking monumental time in my life”. It’s Cyrus’ unfaltering charisma that powers the hour-long set, playing nearly 30 minutes of new material simply wouldn’t work for most artists, but the 26-year-old is far from most people. It’s crazy that the singer is only here after the ever-controversial Cardi B pulled out – organisers happening on the best piece of luck in the festival’s history. During the late hours of Friday night in Barcelona, it’s all about celebrating her reinvention, but the likes of ‘We Can’t Stop’ and ‘Party in the U.S.A.’ do make the cut as Cyrus nods to everything that led her here, before leaving with a swaggering knowledge few can headline festivals just like her.
Stepping away from Cyrus-fever, and there are songstresses who come close to her level. Robyn can barely sing ‘Dancing On My Own’ these days without being outsung by her audiences. Nothing changes at 3am on Saturday morning as thousands belt out her iconic tracks – you could probably make out the echoes of “I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her” as far as the African coast. Others dominating the main stage include Janelle Monaé, whose exquisite celebration of culture marks her as a visionary of the times, Carly Rae Jepsen whose sunset set is timeless and Rosalía who woos a crowd of locals in Catalan whilst she rattles off an hour and a half of her fizzing Spanish hits.
Even the festival’s smaller stages see huge crowds flocking to female talent. Christine and the Queens is one of the first to play during the weekend and murmurings about just how mesmerising she is can be heard days later in the city. She appears again to debut unreleased track ‘Gone’ with Charli XCX at 2am the same night. XCX herself takes her moment at Primavera Sound to celebrate a rebirth that’s happened over the past few years. ‘Boom Clap’ is discarded in favour of the avant-garde sounding ‘Lucky’ and ‘Track 10’, both fan-favourites she would’ve dare not risk in the past, whilst her new Diplo-infused Spice Girls remix and SOPHIE-charged ‘Vroom Vroom’ whip the Primavera Stage hill into a frenzy.
Elsewhere, Lizzo is a matter of metres from the edge of the Balearic Sea as she chugs vodka, curses and calls out a fan’s recent ex-boyfriend ‘Pedro’ before bursting into ‘Jerome’. She’s proud to admit it’s her biggest festival crowd to date, despite being on the scene since 2014’s debut record Lizzobangers, and that’s a credit to the pedigree of pop music on this year’s flawless Cuz I Love You.
Early on the Thursday night, Sigrid takes to the Pitchfork Stage with her recent debut album of “good, heartfelt pop songs” to perform. Sound issues leave her practically microphone-less, sadly the Norweigan is completely unaware despite the crowd’s best efforts to tell her. Nonetheless, ‘Strangers’ goes off with a bang that leaves fans wanting more.
There are male artists who have their moments too. J Balvin was always going to be a hit in the Catalan capital, Tame Impala return to Primavera again and bring in one of the weekend’s biggest crowds and fans are more than happy to wait up until 4am to catch exciting English talent slowthai. Mura Masa is another standout as he continues to better himself every festival season. His unique blend of electronica reaches out of the Ray-Ban stage by the exit to change the mind of festival goers who had just decided to call it a night – London vocalist Fliss fronts the set and has a large hand in helping do so.
But this is a weekend that is showcasing female artists at their best. Primavera Sound have proved how easy it is to strive for a 50/50 line-up and mark themselves out as THE European festival to beat. It’s three days of musical diversity to celebrate and celebrate the tens of thousands certainly did.
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