Pablo Soler, the founder of the Primavera Sound Music Festival, loves new music and great food. He finds plenty of both near his home in El Born. Here, his story.
“I USED TO TRAVEL a lot for work, constantly flying to music festivals and concerts in Rome, Berlin, London. But now that I have a family, I enjoy being at home in El Born, where we’ve lived for the last five years.
El Born, the lower part of Barcelona’s La Ribera District, is known for its Gothic architecture, and I like that it’s just a short walk to the sea and the beach. I was also drawn to its diversity—parts of El Born have been gentrified, but you’ll still find people from Morocco and Dominica living here.
La Ribera was put on the map in 2005, when the Santa Caterina market, one of the oldest in Barcelona, was renovated. Two Catalan architects boldly reimagined the building with an undulating roof made from colored tiles that represent the fruits and vegetables sold inside.
There’s a bohemian spirit to the restaurants, cafés, and bars near my home. Bar del Pla and El Vaso de Oro are two of my favorite neighborhood spots for Catalan-style food— also Granja M. Viader, where my father used to take me for suizo, thick hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. I was a fatty, but I was very happy.
The city is famous for its food, of course, but increasingly for its music as well. I helped start Primavera Sound Music Festival in 2001 as a showcase for Spanish noise bands. It’s held over three days every May, and I still can’t believe how it has grown.
In 2005 we moved the festival to the Parc del Fòrum, and it has been there ever since. Last year, more than 190,000 people showed up to check out the 350 concerts. I think our success is due to our lineup of under-the-radar talent.
I wanted to bring the festival’s energy to my neighborhood, so since 2010, we’ve kind of taken over El Born. Primavera Pro, a free event, is headquartered at El Convent dels Àngels, a convent turned cultural center, and we held press conferences and interviews with the musicians at Mercat del Born, a museum and cultural center that opened in 2013 in what used to be a food market. The Dum Dum Girls, Speedy Ortiz, the Twilight Sad, and Spanish talent such as Renaldo & Clara and Flamaradas played for free at Parc de la Ciutadella.
There’s something really special about listening to the latest music in settings that are so rich with history. And it’s similar to the appeal of La Ribera: The neighborhood is both classic and modern at once.”