Every year some of the world’s best musicians and artists all come together in Barcelona for one week of non-stop partying. Not only is Sonar 2014 one of the biggest, oldest and most well-respected festivals in the world, but it has also given rise to the tradition of “off-week”, where many big artists not on the festival’s line-up to play parties in unusual venues across the city - basically, Barcelona more or less trumps Ibiza for one very intense week!
With so many great artists to see, we made the bold decision to attempt a combination of Sonar and off-week more or less at the same time.
My body told me it was a bad decision but my soul had the experience of a lifetime.
Here’s a round-up of highlights from the events we actually made it to:
Thursday: Day 1 - Sonar by Day
Machinedrum gave an impressive live performance of his album Vaporcity - assisted only by one extra drummer, he shifted effortlessly between his laptop, singing, percussion, and acoustic guitar - sometimes all at the same time. This was a masterclass in what trap can sound like when done well, and crowd at Sonar went crazy for it. He later tweeted that it “Might have been the best performance of my life!”
Plastikman AKA Richie Hawtin was the last act of the day and was therefore playing to an absolutely packed site - everyone flocked from wherever else they’d been in order to witness his much-hyped return under the alias, and of course to see the Objekt, a pulsating tower of light designed to compliment the music, which Hawtin had debuted at the Guggenheim in New York. Hawtin himself played in a booth that was in the middle of the crowd, rather than the main stage. It was a totally immersive experience.
Friday: Day 2 - FACT Pool Series
The idea of a pool party may sound a bit cheesy, but FACT are well-known and respected for always producing incredible line-ups for their off-week parties. They definitely did not disappoint this time, with an all-girl line-up of Anja Schneider, Heidi, Maya Jane Coles and Miss Kittin.
All four played great sets as you would expect, but what really made this party stand out was the relaxed vibe - the outdoor, poolside dancefloor was small considering the huge names, and even Heidi, Maya Jane Coles and Miss Kittin were hugging and dancing together and clearly having a great time.
Razzmatazz - Adventure Club, Jesse Rose, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Breach and Bondax
Razzmatazz is one of the most well-known clubs in Barcelona and it really is a huge labyrinth - after initially being taken aback by the EDM and brostep in the first and biggest room you enter, we explored further and found these big names playing in the more hidden rooms, playing quality sets which eventually attracted a bigger and bigger crowd - most of whom didn’t stop dancing until we were all kicked out into daylight at 6am.
Saturday: Day 2 - Sonar by Night
After Friday’s marathon, we just about managed to make it in time for Four Tet’s opening set at Sonar by Night. Sensing that he was effectively “warming up”, he played a characteristically diverse but laidback set to suit the mood of the crowd. Upon entering we were struck by just how vast the venue was, consisting of several enormous indoor and outdoor stages in a warehouse-like setting Unbelievably the enormous space was almost completely filled by Massive Attack's enormous crowd of devoted long-time fans. Yelle’s set was also surprisingly great - the crowd was full of camp, happy dancers and it proved to be an energising lift at a relatively early point of the night.
After a quick rest we headed to one of the most anticipated acts of Sonar 2014 - Nile Rogers & Chic, who proved that disco really has not lost its appeal decades after its conception. The sight of an absolutely enormous crowd going crazy for I Need Your Love and Freak Out, headed by a 61 year old, was a sight to behold. Rodgers’ enormous back catalogue of massive hits proved Chic to be worthy Sonar headliners.
Up next to take things darker and deeper was Brodinski, the legendary boss of Bromance Records - a label which is often credited with helping to revive the French electronic music scene and take it global. Not just a talented producer and DJ, Brodinski is a showman who knows exactly how to control a crowd and keep them dancing - it was a relentless, high-energy set with no mercy for those with less stamina.
Our final act of the night before the heavens opened was Boys Noize, the German electro artist with enough expertise to whip a stadium into a frenzy up to the 5am mark, despite the darkening skies.
Day 3 - Death
Day 4: Monday - Mac Arena Mar Beach Club Off Barcelona with Houserepublic Records
This party was running from an incredible 12pm until 2am, on the beach, with free entry - a perfect combination! It was a long journey into a sketchy, industrial part of Barcelona far away from the tourist hoardes - but as we heard the repetitive bass-snare growing louder, we knew we were in the right place. The soundsytem was impressive considering the venue, making dancing absolutely irresistible even for those sitting on the beach loungers dotted around the wooden decking dancefloor. Everyone was on their feet for Marco Farone’s closing set - an Italian producer who has released on Desolat and Drumcode and regularly plays at Sankey’s in Ibiza, he was the biggest name of the night. It may not have been the biggest or most hyped off-week party or venue but it had the best vibes and was a perfect way to end the Sonar trip - I would definitely recommend this place to anyone going to Barcelona.
I will definitely be going back to Barcelona for Sonar season next year - the whole city was alive with a great atmosphere and the line-ups are unbeatable. However,it’s easy to get overexcited and overestimate your stamina - my advice to anyone going would be to pace yourself and prioritise to avoid spending more money than is necessary… and take disco naps!