Barcelona Tourist Guide - Barcelona Music Festivals
Barcelona is blessed with an abundance of music festivals that run throughout most of the year, and of such variety that virtually every visitor to the city will find something to enjoy, including Jazz, Blues, Flamenco, Classical, Rock and Pop. This section lists the bigger Barcelona Music Festivals in a mostly chronological order, although there are others organised more spontaneously during the year. To discover what's on in Barcelona when you are visiting, you can check the Athome guide to what's on every month, or simply stroll down Carrer dels Tallers where you'll find numerous record shops which list the concerts they sell tickets for. Here is a short chronological guide to the best music festivals in Barcelona to help you get the best out of your stay here.
Terrassa Jazz Festival: March
Spain's most international Jazz Festival will celebrate it's silver anniversary when it is held again in March 2009. In the past it has held concerts by such luminaries of the Jazz world as Chet Baker, Chick Corea, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter and Brad Mehldau. Although not actually held in Barcelona, it is included here because the town of Terrassa is not too far, and shares good public transport links with the Catalan capital. The 25th edition promises to be an even bigger occasion than those past, with a staggering 275 artists in the town for three weeks. 42 concerts, of which 19 will be free, will be held at numerous venues scattered about Terrassa, and there will be workshops and picnics as well.
Initially begun almost 30 years ago by LaCaixa, the Festival of Early Music has been attracting international artists to play an assortment of venues and street corners, all to celebrate the coming of Spring with music from centuries before. The Festival brings the ancient streets of the Barri Gothic and Old City alive, and there are great opportunities for coming across a quartet performing Vivaldi, or a soloist performing a Bach violin solo, as you wander around.
Tradicionàrius - Catalan Folk Music Festival: April - June
Also in Spring, Tradicionàrius fills venues across the city with over two months of the best folk music, Catalan, Spanish and International. Indoors, the main venues are the Palau de la Música and L'Auditori, although there are often small concerts held in less well-known venues. Outdoors, concert goers can enjoy great folk music in such diverse spaces as the L'Estrella food market and at Parc de la Ciutadella, among others. Established folk artists, upcoming new talents, and workshops focussed on specific instruments make up the Festival.
Barcelona Guitar Festival: April - June
Another very popular festivals to begin in Spring is the Festival of Guitar. Considering that most people associate the guitar closely with Spain, it's not hard to see why, especially when the maestros take to the stage. The festival showcases every style of guitar playing, and features leading artists performing flamenco, folk, jazz, blues, and rock. Previous masters include the likes of Clapton, Satriani, Cale and many, many more. The venues include La Palau de la Música, Bikini, and Luz de Gas, among others.
Primavera Sound: May
For pop, rock and dance fans the first big festival of the year is Primavera Sound, which runs for 2 nights and features a massive line-up of the best live acts and Djs touring at the time. Although the local acts are well represented, Primavera headline acts are usually the very best international acts of the year.
Festival de Flamenco de Ciutat Vella: May – June
Organised by Taller de Mùsics, who also run the Jazz Sì Club, and held at the CCCB, this Festival celebrates the fact that although flamenco is a largely southern Spanish art there is still a lively scene in the Catalan capital. It brings together both regional and national artists for workshops, lectures and performances.
Also known as the Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art, Sonar brings tens of thousands of visitors from every part of the world to Barcelona to enjoy one of the most eclectic selections of live acts and electronic music, with a host of installations and trade booths to explore alongside. The festival is made up of two parts, Sonar by Day and Sonar by Night. The Day scene is held around the CCCB, and features a number of stages, with a variety of live acts of electronica, dub, pop, etc. performing to chilled out crowds who may or may not be dancing. Lying about in the sun seems equally popular. The Night scene is held in an enormous space outside the city centre, and is more tuned to the harder rave scene, although it also features some of the top acts of the day. Previous headliners include Goldfrapp, Beastie Boys, Devo and Bjork, as well as Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills, Timo Maas. Buses run from the bottom of Las Ramblas, and deliver you back when you eventually wander out in the morning.
Summercase Festival is split between Barcelona and Madrid, with the acts playing in Madrid on the Friday night turning up in Barcelona for Saturday and vice versa. Catering to the rock/pop crowd it highlights the best indie talent alongside the years top headline acts.
Festival Grec: July – August
Not just a music festival, the extensive Grec programme includes dance and theatre, and attracts some of the world's finest performers in their fields. Music plays a large part, and many events are held at Montjuic's Teatre Grec, a fine open air stadium located on the hill overlooking the city, although you can see performances at venues throughout the city during the weeks it is on.
Running alongside the more famous and celubrious Grec, B-Estival hosts a large number of concerts held in the main square of Poble Espanyol and the much newer Espacio Movistar tent. Acts range from funk to soul, with hip-hop, r'n'b and pop, and are usually internationally recognised.
Festa Major de Gracia: August
One of the most famous events in Barcelona, the Festa Major de Gracia is held annually in the second half of August, and sees the neighborhood transformed as locals decorate the streets with lights and and banners. Amongst the partying on the streets there are concerts and live performances galore in the many bars and clubs in the area.
BAM – Barcelona Acciò Musical: September
This festival is an integral part of the modern Mercé celebrations, and features a mixed bag of European and Spanish bands and dance acts performing mostly at outdoor venues. This year's BAM hosted over 50 alternative local bands alongside the international acts. All concerts are free, and are held at places like Plaça del Rei, Moll de la Fusta and Fòrum.
The Barcelona Blues Festival: September
Relatively new, this Festival was held for the sixth time in 2008, with the Polideportivo Valldaura being the main venue for the two weeks of blues, blues and more blues.
Weekend Dance: September
Brought to you by the organisers of Summercase and Wintercase, Weekend Dance is also held in both Madrid and Barcelona, but unlike the stable partners this festival is dedicated to electronic music. 2008 was the first year, and the headline acts were Massive Attack and Faithless, backed by DJs like Deep Dish, 2ManyDJs, Cedric Gervais and Herman Cattaneo.
Cerdanyola International Festival of Blues: September
Over the last twenty years, Cerdanyola has played host to one of Europe's leading Blues Festivals, with 10 days of music and mayhem from the Mississippi Delta to the windy shores of Chicago. Of course, its not all Blues, you'll find great names from the world of Gospel and Soul here too. The bigger names fill the weekend slots, but throughout the week there are shows and workshops to enjoy at the many different venues that host the Festival.
Barcelona International Festival of Jazz: October – November
One of the oldest Festivals in Spain, the annual Barcelona Festival of Jazz has been running for over 35 years and is now one of the most prominent in Europe. With concerts held in the Palau de la Música and L'Auditori, it has been able to attract the very biggest names over the years, including the likes of Chick Corea and Dave Brubeck, and other giants in bebop, gospel, latin-jazz and big band.
MPB – Música Popular de Barcelona: October
Running for most of the month of October, MPB allows locals and visitors alike to catch the best new local and national acts as they showcase their talents in a huge selection of venues across the city, including Apolo, Harlem Jazz Club, L'Auditori, Luz de Gas, Bel Luna, Sala Vivaldi and many, many others. Just about every style of music that is popular in Spain is covered, so there's something for everyone here.
LEM International Festival: October – November
Formed by the Gracia Territori Sonor collective, LEM is a unique festival in the calendar, featuring as it does purely experimental music. Taking place in the Gracia district, it features hundreds of musicians from a host of countries showcasing the latest sonar creations. Last year's festival had a programme that gave nods to jazz, post-industrialism, philosophy, folk and even sludge-doom.
Festival of New Opera: October - December
The Barcelona Festival of New Opera presents prèmiere performances of opera and chamber music at venues throughout the city, although the main venue is Gran Teatre del Liceu. Dating back to 1993, the event acts as a platform for emerging writing talent to promote brand-new material.
Wintercase Festival: November
Since 2002, the Wintercase Festival has brightened winter weekends in Barcelona and Madrid, and is Spain’s original travelling tour. Wintercase presents some of the best new bands on the indie scene, and is usually held over a number of nights in Razzmatazz.
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