The powerhouse of an event originated as a small gathering at the Poble Espanyol courtyard and has since grown to a five-day event spread across three venues, drawing over 40,000 attendees from around the world for its 11th year. Combine that, its 200+ artist lineup--including standout performances from the likes of Pulp, John Cale and Odd Future--and an air that smacked of dissident, politically-fed up youth, and you have a one hell of a recipe for the right place at the right time.
Our rundown of the Most Memorable Moments of Music and Mayhem at San Miguel Primavera Sound 2011:10. El Parc del Forum - Here's something you don't see at every festival: the crowd cheering for a band's set, then literally turning around and cheering for the boat honking at 'em as it sails past. The undulating, concrete Parc del Forum festival ground on the beach of downtown Barcelona proved itself to be a sort of big kid playground by the sea. When not gathered by one of the nine stages, festival-goers could be found climbing on the actual playgrounds in and nearby the Forum or on the curved walls lining its paths, which for some reason endlessly compelled concertgoers to attempt running up them. 9. Caribou - There are two kinds of bands: those who build on the musical traditions of others, and those who unlock the sonic secrets of the universe. Caribou is the latter. On record, Carbiou is the moniker of Canada's Dan Snaith, but when it comes to live shows, they're undeniably and necessarily a quartet. And amidst a slew of electrifying frontmen at Primavera, they set themselves apart as the most compelling full band to watch at the festival, packing both the Poble Espanyol amphitheater Wednesday night and the Forum's ATP-curated stage on Thursday. Take particular note of drummer Brad Weber, whose ruthless, full-body playing style sends shockwaves into more tempered tracks like "Hannibal" and "Found Out."
8. John Cale performing "Paris 1919" - An unusual but well-suited choice on the part of the festival planners, Cale and his orchestra brought the festival indoors to perform the landmark album in the elegant concert hall located on the Parc del Forum festival grounds, and the acoustics couldnt've been more sweeping. At his keyboard in a kilt and skinny tie, Cale himself was an unusual pop contrast to the classical horn and string sections behind him--a fitting metaphor for the album and his orchestrations.
7. Suicide performing their first LP - Garnering "We're not worthy!"-level praise onstage from the likes of Nick Cave, Wayne Coyne and Jarvis Cocker, the protopunk legends plowed through the entirety of their 1977 self-titled album in what was debatably Primavera's tooth-shakingly loudest set. Going on 73, singer Alan Vega's howl is manic and haunting as ever, perfectly underscored by Martin Rev's thunderous keyboards. The cherry on the sundae? An encore featuring 1978's "Dream Baby Dream." Oh, how we will...