Along the waterfront and in a massive park in Barcelona lives a multi-stage festival, better known as Primavera Sound. Having stood the test of time, Primavera Sound BCN continues to thrive 18 years after inception. It has become a staple in European festival culture, as the crowd is flooded with several accents and languages. A mere hour and 40 minutes by plane, lies a stunning waterfront port town in Western Portugal. This quaint water town, Porto, is the home of NOS Primavera Sound, the second installment of this iconic festival. Feeding off of two Western European countries, Primavera Sound is the kickoff to festival season across the pond.
The question then becomes: who did it best? Primavera Sound BCN or NOS Primavera Sound?
Primavera Sound BCN
Spanish culture brings flavor to anything it touches. The birth of sangria, flamenco, and Dali art is in the confines of this country. And make no mistake, the country also knows how to throw a festival. The truth is, my expectations for Primavera Sound were rather low. Located in the heart of Barcelona and with no camping, this would be dubbed a ‘city festival’. City festivals are not my favorite because I feel that they typically lack cultural flavor, catering to the not-so-avid festival-goer, providing expensive and lack-luster street food, stages that are usually too close together, and nothing special or out of the ordinary. Walking into Primavera Sound, my mind was made that this would ring true for the festival.
Upon entering, I was greeted with the ocean straight ahead of me, several pieces of signage held up by trusses to point me in the right direction, and a slew of stages. Sponsored by some large names such as Bacardi, Aperol Spritz, and MANGO, the activations and storefronts kept festival goers busy into the night. As I made my way to the first stage, I had to cross a large bridge, which offered me the most stunning nighttime view of Barcelona on the way. When I finally made it to the other side, the festival opened up and greeted me with a stage, a slew of bathrooms, food trucks and fans. Toto, we’re not in city festival land anymore.
Throughout the weekend, I got to know Primavaera Sound BCN. No matter what time you were ready to dance (the festival opened at 4 pm and closed at 6:30 am), Primavera Sound BCN had something to move your body. The festival also became a bit of a labyrinth with stages underneath bridges, on the sides of a dock, or attached to a pool deck of a nearby port club. Upon every turn there is a new stage, playing new music, of all different genres. Upon every food craving, there is a new local restaurant turned food truck or food stand to try. Upon every desire to grab a cocktail, there is a fun jungle-esque Bacardi stand waiting to offer you its latest and greatest spin on a mojito. The truth is, the Spanish took a shot to conquest my festival heart, and it won.
NOS Primavera Sound
Let me start off this portion of my review by saying that the weather in Porto was less than desirable. Rain greeted me as I entered the city and a cold front forced me to roam the town for a sweater and rain jacket. The second that I walked into NOS Primavera Sound the rain stopped and I was right next to its main stage and amidst food and merchandise vendors. The main stage offered bleacher-style seating for anyone needing a break from dancing.
Further along from the main stage was its food village, lined with local and popular restaurants in Porto. Thai, vegan, Mexican and traditional Portuguese cuisine were among the many offerings available. Beyond the initial main stage was a secondary mainstage, the NOS stage. The NOS stage was incredible, not only because it was a beautiful backdrop for instagrammers and music fans (it sat in front of the water), but also because it sat on the bottom of a hill. The positioning of this stage allowed for nearly perfect views, no matter where you are and no matter how short you are.
Around the bend and through what feels like a forest lies a hidden stage at NOS Primavera Sound, called the Super Bock stage. In a similar fashion to Primavera Sound BCN, NOS Primavera Sound offered a variety of stages, as if to appear of of nowhere. Brand activations welcomed guests who needed some down time from dancing, and a flower crown making station was available to anyone who wanted to channel their Woodstock ancestry.
While much smaller in size, stages & duration, NOS Primavera Sound is something truly special. The Portuguese people are proud to host a legendary festival in their beloved country; the organizers designed it to be the little sister of their Barcelona set up, and the town of Porto opens itself to visitors around the globe (which by the way, is one of the most spectacular cities I’ve ever been in). Once again, Primavera Sound has pulled me in.
So Who Did It Best? Primavera Sound BCN or NOS Primavera Sound?
I spent multiple days at each festival, getting to know the culture, the people, the food, the drinks, and the language. I got lost in the local music scene, tasting what I could before running off to the next stage to do it all over. I spent multiple days in each city, exploring the town before entering the festival to maximize my time and travel.
The end result? Both. Primavera Sound BCN is special in its own grand way. To prep for Barcelona’s version means to prepare your feet as festival goers will do as much walking at this festival as they would a camping festival. Coming hungry is a must and watching the sunrise over the Mediterranean is suggested on festival grounds and in the company of new Spanish friends.
What makes NOS Primavera Sound special is the intimate feel you have upon entering. The city itself is as intimate as the festival, although the festival places multiples stages around its’ property, some of which may come as a surprise.
Come ready to make new friends indulge in Pastels de Nata, and with dancing shoes because the Portuguese make the most out of their limited festival season.
Time to save up those airline miles, buy the tickets, and attend both installments of Primavera Sound.