Australia’s festival scene is in an unusual state at the moment. While it feels like we have more options than ever of places we can get our festival fix, there are some ~higher powers~ that seem hell-bent on making sure that festivals as we once knew them are nothing but a distant memory, lost in a cloud of glitter and dust. With that being said, the festivals that are thriving are all doing well but there’s an element of homogeny among most of them – same thing, different name. Even the lineups feel just like slight makeovers of the ones that came before it. Now, it’s important to note that there’s a whole array of factors that influence this but there is a lot of room for improvement.
Enter Barcelona’s historic Primavera Sound festival, where Music Feeds was present over the weekend. Despite the obvious cultural differences, it was hard not to feel affected by all Primavera 2019 had to offer, and how Australian festivals have a lot of lessons they could learn from it.
1. A bloody diverse lineup!
Wow! A festival managed to book 50/50 male & female acts? The majority of headliners were people of colour? And they didn’t make some huge hurrah about it? In this economy? Never! Well, folks, it’s time to start believing because Primavera did just that. With three headliners per the three days the festival mainly ran, five of those were women (Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, Miley Cyrus – who was a last minute replacement for Cardi B – Solange and ROSALÍA). On top of that, three of those women were black, which is about the same amount of black women you see on Australian festivals in general. It can be easy to palm this off as not important when you’re unaffected by the benefits of diversity and/or you’re a total dickhead, but it takes one look into the eyes of the black and brown faces Solange sang to during her empowering ‘F.U.B.U’ to understand why it’s important. Everyone deserves to see themselves on the stage. Lineup diversity isn’t hard, and literally every major Australian festival can do better. When their lineup was announced and the gender diversity was noticed, the festival’s only reasoning was “because we should have done it ages ago.” “Because, looking back over our previous line ups and despite the progress in the last few editions, we needed to go further.”
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2. Compulsory re-usable cups
One thing that can baffle any Aussie festivalgoer is the amount of mess, trash and rubbish that is left behind once the crowd fizzles out late at night. In comparison, Primavera was exceptionally clean throughout the three days? Why? Well, maybe the Spanish are a cleaner people (likely) but it also probably has something to do with the compulsory re-usable cups the bars made you purchase. Along with your first drink of the day, you’d be required to buy a re-usable cup, displaying a previous Primavera lineup, for 1 Euro. You keep it on you throughout the day and the rest of the festival. Not only does it save a whole lot of rubbish, but it can prevent people from buying mass drinks which can prevent major health problems which might – might – keep Gladys happy.
3. Book Janelle Monáe.
This truly cannot be stressed enough. The last time Monáe was in the country was back in 2014, where she was scheduled to co-headline a tour with Kimbra before pulling out due to illness. Since then, Monáe dropped her seminal 2018 album Dirty Computer that went on to be one of the most talked about and most acclaimed albums of the year. Naturally, that much hype also boosted hype for Monáe’s potential return to Aus. With each festival lineup – Falls, Listen Out, Laneway – speculation circled about whether the Archandroid herself would be on the bill, and it never delivered. Even this year’s Splendour lineup, where it looked like all the stars were aligning, she failed to show up. But her mammoth Primavera set proved that Australia needs to see her. It was choreographed to perfection, as she sat upon a throne radiating poise, grace and Black excellence, but also let loose and had genuine interactions with the crowd. Above all else, it was a celebration of self – regardless of who the self is – and a downright rebellion against those, Trump and the US Republican party specifically, who attempt to break certain communities down. Not to mention, her closing song – 2010 deep cut ‘Come Alive (The War Of The Roses)’ – went for around 20 minutes and was completely unhinged and intense. It was a fittingly roaring end to one of the highlights of the set.
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4. Book pop acts! Book pop acts!
Australian festivals have a problem with pop music; it’s absolutely no secret. International pop stars seldom get booked unless you’re Lorde or Billie Eilish, and we just don’t give our own pop gems the love they deserve. A lot of this feels like festivals are unwilling to push outside the expected – sure, booking The Wombats for the fiftieth time will do fine but people are going to get bored. When Primavera, a notoriously ~hipster~ festival, booked acts like Carly Rae Jepsen and Miley Cyrus, it could’ve ruffled some feathers. But what it did do was garner two of the biggest crowds of the festival, and some absolutely euphoric sing-a-longs. It also needs to be noted that the largest crowd of the entire event was to see Spanish pop sensation ROSALÍA, whose melting of modern pop and traditional flamenco has turned her into a bonafide superstar. Festivals are tastemakers, and it’s about time our own start wielding that title with a little more courage and responsibility.
5. A seemingly flawless passout system
We’re not sure a festival exists in Australia where you can leave the event temporarily, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We got to Primavera assuming it would be the same, but that’s when upon entry we were presented with a card. That card and a wristband were necessary to enter the festival each day, and the purpose of the card was so they could scan it to acknowledge you’ve entered the festival. Then, if you left the event with intentions to return before 3am, that card would be validated so security knew you were coming back. Now, while Aussies would likely just rort this to go and grab cheaper beers from a local pub, this passout system could be really helpful. What if you forgot your bank card? Some important medication? You could just duck out and get them and there’s no harm done. Even if you did leave the festival to drink more or take some illicits, there’s no way that our incredibly intense and not at all intimidating police presence wouldn’t detect this, right? That’s the point of them, isn’t it Gladys?
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