There aren’t anywhere near enough cities on this fine earth that can truly boast being home to a festival as inclusive as Sónar. The world-renowned Barcelona music and arts event offers that rarest of experiences – a veritable smorgasbord of talent that tends to the needs of not just the music lovers and clubbers, but of every tech junkie, globetrotter, art lover and more. Ibiza Club News have hopped on the 53-minute flight many a time in recent years to enjoy the biggest, and best industry music event/fun time festival on planet dance. With some of our favourites on the line-up and Sónar by Day showcase that would make your dry mouth water, we were triple excited this year, and as expected, we weren’t disappointed! At around 7 am on Sunday, June 18th, the 24th edition came to a climatic close with 123,000 visitors, the highest attendance in the festival’s history!
For Ibiza Club News to have witnessed and joined in all the performances over 4 days we would have had to have invited half the island or split ourselves into 140+ pieces, literally, as that’s how many musical performances were distributed across nine stages (5 at x by Day and 4 at Sónar by Night. Aside from the dancing and partying, for the professionals and industry delegates the festival cleverly presented 157 activities and projects at Sónar+D, with more than 400 speakers and exhibitors and 5,500 registered professionals.
Back to the real business, the music! As mentioned, we were unable to hear everything, so we had to plan ahead and map out some selected highlights, and hotspots.
First stop for us was to Sónar de Noche (Sónar by Night). On turning the corner outside the Fira Congress hotel area around 11:30 pm we could hear a serious and stimulating rumble in the jungle. The jungle being the Fira Gran Via L’Hospitalet, normally standing still and standard as a conference centre for exhibitions and other “real life” networking and events. However, for this 4 days of Sónar, the massive unit space is annually transformed into the nerve centre of the global creative industries where technology, music, research, art and experimentation unite to showcase some of the very best productions and entertainment.
Once through the entrance and well-passed security (All officials and staff were overly productive attentive and welcoming, may we add) In all honesty, we had forgotten about the Sónar Cashless system from the year before, so this was another welcomed surprise, to make festival life that whole lot easier. A cashless system that makes everything straight forward, once topped up it’s safe, traceable and simple to use. Ideal for purchasing your liquid refreshments and grabbing a bite to eat. And, is if that wasn’t enough, the good people who plan ahead at Sónar and care about your whole experience this time around implemented the common sense and technology allowing customers to reclaim the money that you have not spent using your wristband! A lot of other festivals and dance music event could learn a lesson from this. Nice touch! Small things like this go a long way with the tired, cultured and trusted raving crew!
First, up for us (after the bar) we made our way towards the Sónar Lab to catch a welcomed addition to the lineup, Giggs. In the crowded and competitive UK urban and bass heavy grime scene, Giggs is a without a doubt your go to guy! From previous encounters “we knew what to expect” but we were wrong. On the Sónar stage, things were a lot different. It was new and distinctive but great all the same. From when the first rhyme was spat the eager crowd were fixated on their feet throughout. A whole lot of hype and mosh pit style dancing soundtracked by a set full of verbal twists and magician style word plays. His street grace and desirable communicative ability is much more hip to the hop rhymes than garage grimes. The set was filled with proper Peckham primetime production taken from the critically acclaimed and heralded “Landlord”, his third long-player. However, a personal highlight for us was a throwback to 2010, when the crowd and the artist went nuts as Giggs went in deep, with an extended version of “Talking the Hardest.” 5 stars throughout from a performer at the top of his game, with no signs of slowing down! In between tracks, near the end of his set, he also stopped for a moment and gave a special and fitting shout out (with short humanitarian dedication) to the people of London, his fellow citizens and his hometown fans, after a devastating couple of weeks for the world’s biggest multicultural, metropolis. Saludos!
Next up, we managed to shake our way over to the Sónar Pub to catch the last hour of Derrick Carter. By this time the event is sitting in peak time and peak heat. Unrivalled energy across the whole arena. It’s hard to know what to say about Derrick that hasn’t already been said but suffice to say again, the guy knew exactly what makes a dance floor tick so good times were had from the first to the last beat was dropped. Chicago’s finest is well known for breaking the genre barrier with his DJ sets. This is exactly what went down at 4 am on a hot and sweaty Saturday morning in Cataluña.
He’s one of our favourites and an artist who has been a huge driving force and inspiration for all underground DJs, musicians, producers and really anyone who has walked into a nightclub, ever! The boy don’t ever disappoint! A player, a pioneer, a perfect festival DJ. We were spoiled!
After that, we got to experience Sónar Club to catch a 30-minute journey of the closing set from Dubfire, a man whose white noise-drenched and triplet-filled musical tastes have defined the big room techno sound of the late ’00s. For this, Dubfire focused on a constant undulating groove which cleverly showcased a driving beat with his renowned and favoured rave-like build ups and trademark unimpeachable selection.
For the Friday finale, we may just have saved the best to last. Masters at Work were one of the later additions to the final line up, so this one was always on our weekend wish list. Masters at Work’s Louie Vega, Kenny Dope & 8 turntables took the helm at Sónar Car. The long established New York DJs and producers revisited in exemplary style their illustrious career with a six-hour session, encapsulating Latin elements through their Nuyorican Soul alter ego; first era hip hop breaks; a plethora of remixes, edits, soul, funk tracks; and an exuberant audio exhibition of house and garage nuggets from their vast and extraordinary discography. The party had most definitely arrived! We were conscious that we had an early start on the Saturday for Sónar by Day, but literally we couldn’t drag ourselves away from their magical musical mystery tour. To call them Masters is a massive understatement! “It’s Alright, I Feel It…”
In preparation for Sónar by Day, on Saturday we were all set to battle “El Scorchio” style blistering heat on the Metro whilst making our way to Sónar Village which was aptly sponsored and supplied by Estrella Damm. As expected, like most things at Sónar our journey ran like clockwork and we had the pleasure of arriving to a couple of cold schooners in the sunshine! At around 15:50 we were waiting for the arrival of a Hedonistic house hero with a heart of pop, Joe Goddard for his long anticipated live set. Forming the heart and soul of Hot Chip along with Alexis Taylor, the innately talented DJ and producer Joe Goddard was due to release his new solo album, “Electric Lines” His Sónar set was elegantly and without prejudice – like everything he does – mingling of funky filtered synth pop and heart filled soulful house grooves. Goddard is a musician who trusts in his feeling over cerebral calculations, clearly demonstrated by naturally flowing tracks that instantly emblem on the memory, as if they just needed him to discover them. The long-established arrangement expert excelled and excited us whilst raising the bar and moving the crowd marvellously! A true authority of reinvention and creation, ideal for festivals of this kind, with his infectious, left-field take on electronic music. His live PA with female lead vocalist was a true all-time Sónar highlight for us!
Unforgettable and undoubtedly appropriate for the moment! “Music is the answer to your problems, Keep on moving then you can solve them…”
All those sunshine feel good vibes from Joe led us to the beach where we were joined by what felt like thousands of other ‘Sónar By Dayers’ young families, weekend workers and cocktail lovers. A lifeguard warning over the PA about the current heat wave temperatures just encouraged us all the more to go in the sea. To refresh and rejoice, all in preparation to return to Sónar de Noches part two on the Saturday evening… For us, the closing night was a cavalcade of music and creative arts in it’s the brightest form. Since we spent most of our time in the early part of the evening at Start Up Garden, we were able to revel in and enjoy Sónar +D’s section of 30 start-ups, investors and some other key players from the creative technologies ecosystem. A mine-craft of new media art and creativity again!
Once the networking and audio-visual experimentations were done and dusted, we were able to get back to the music. Two highlights from this segment of the evening stood out for Ibiza Club News. First of all, JUSTICE! After a prolonged five-year wait their new album was finally here. “Woman” continued in a similar manner to their previous work “Audio, Video, Disco.” which witnessed the French duo producing ten new tracks, collaborating with the London Contemporary Orchestra and featuring vocals from Morgan Phalen (Diamond Nights) and Johnny Blake (Zoot Woman). As we predicted in advance, from 01:15 on Sunday morning their live set was a next level reinforcement of their on-stage presence and reputation within the dance music dynasty. Their talent and dedication to what they do has made them one of the most exciting live acts in the world. With Daft Punk-esque spectacular and imagination in abundance, their well-sharpened production and performance combined seamlessly overpowering sound with a dazzling aesthetic. Muy Bien, très bon, Magic!
A closing set from THE ITALIAN TECHNO TITAN: MARCO CAROLA at 05:35 on a Sunday morning in Barcelona? It really would be rude not to stay for the end. We did just that, and we’re super glad we did. Musically this guy is a mystification, and it really was “Music On!” from the get-go. We were only a few tracks in, and it was already nerve-tingling Neapolitan bass face from the superior. With techno tonne-heavy anthems to tribal tinged tech house, the spin primero supremo worked up the Sónar crowd into a tantalising yet terrific turmoil throughout. He had them in his hands like pizza dough from his hometown.
A standout highlight from his set was this new techy number (which we heard a good few times across many of the Sónar parties) this Lost Record went off – Leftwing & Kody’s Remix of Carl Bee’s Dirt Fader…
The dedicated hard-core element of what was left right at the bitter end of a powerful festival of this size (Day 4) was hanging on to every hook and strobe, hoping it would never, ever, stop. A truly unbelievable atmosphere in those final minutes, which was all up and down to one guy, and for this alone we laud and applaud Marco’s plaudits. Truly invincible!
Outwith the main event, a couple over other cool activations from the Sónar collective had us fascinated…
Lightforms / Soundforms” is the most far-reaching exhibition to date covering the work of Brian Eno. The exhibition isn’t just a review of his career but rather to provide a detailed and complete picture of his current activity and his short-term future plans. As well as the illustrious audiovisual installation “77 Million Paintings”, the exhibition also includes, among other pieces, a specially created new installation, which will be presented in Sónar’s Max Cahner Hall at Santa Monica Arts.
In addition, Eno’s latest album “Reflection” was wonderfully presented at the luggage carousel Terminal One of Barcelona Airport. (from 13 to 18 June) …
Also, What about this for fine art? The World premiere of ‘phosphere‘ Sónar 2017 debuted the new work by Daito Manabe, a major figure in today’s digital art. SónarPLANTA played host the most ambitious immersive installation ever attempted at Sónar: a special work from Daito Manabe, a key figure in digital art. A monumental hybrid robotic architecture within which synchronised mirrors, smoke machine, spotlights and video projectors combine to build a space with 3-dimensional elements that change according to the position of the audience. Talk about “Movers and Shakers?” This stuff was mind blowing!
“Sónar, una vez más que fue muy bueno y especial, a la misma hora el próximo año!” Buen trabajo…” X
For tickets for 2018 follow the link here!