Throwback Tuesday. Sónar, that beautiful thing, happened now quite some time ago. But that’s left some time to ponder and look back, and assess the experience as a whole. Sónar has one big advantage going for it and that’s the location – sunny Barcelona is not far from a paradise (if you subtract the hordes of tourists), so the mood will be set accordingly. What better way to spice up a beach holiday laced with beautiful foods and sights, than the most incredible sounds this world offers, as well as some brain tickling visuals and workshops?
One of the indications that Sónar is something else, is the fact that I’d heard about for years, way before I made it there myself, and it was always described with an air of something that… can’t quite be put into words. A certain mystique.
I was most looking forward to Massive Attack, Trentemøller, Bonobo, Koreless, Four Tet, Moderat, Jon Hopkins, Monki, Throwing Snow, and Camo & Krooked – the first “mainstream” dnb act to play at that festival. Eventually I didn’t make it to all of those, partially because old age is taking a toll, but partially because city festivals don’t call for crazy allnighters like standard festivals do. And that’s not a bad thing. The fact that the festival was divided in two, in terms of music, forced for some serious decision-making in what to go for and what not.
I was delighted to see Koreless and Throwing Snow, whom I saw for the first time ever. Beautiful music, a crowd that knows the smaller acts and enjoys the whole thing in a unanimous agreeing content smile. As expected, Bonobo Live filled Sónar By Day outdoor area to the brim. Having seen them live in Tallinn not very long before, I had my hopes high, but feared that perhaps they might be a little tired as they’ve toured the new album for a whole eternity now. I’m glad I was wrong about that. The absolutely stunning Szjerdene on vocals wrapped the crowd around her finger, and didn’t let go. It’s hard not to be mesmerised by her beauty and voice. Of course the main man Bonobo aka Simon Green himself holds the whole thing together with sheer el mágico through sound. He is a legend for a reason, a truly dedicated creative genius. His music becomes a force majeure. Words don’t do justice to what people experienced that night. Let it be.
Another highlight for many was most definitely Massive Attack, the founders of trip hop and Bristol sound. While I didn’t detect touring tiredness from Bonobo Live, I did notice a hint of it from Massive Attack. Don’t get me wrong, those guys have defined and determined my music taste in a very large part, and I do love them unconditionally (as do the other thousands who had gathered to Sónar By Night to see them), but it wasn’t quite the same as the first concert of their Paradise Circus tour, which I had the honour of witnessing in Tallinn quite some time ago now. The political and beautiful visuals accompanied the much loved anthems of trip hop, but in addition to the trance they induced (and in my case there may or may not have been tears on several occasions) among the crowd, a certain spark was missing. An awe-inspiring experience nevertheless. It was quite hard battling the cognitive dissonance of wanting to shut up and just brood over what I’d just experienced after Massive Attack, and being in the middle of a massive rave at Sónar By Night. And a good one.
I’ll only say this about Trentemøller – HOLY SH*T. I guess that describes it the best – cognition-changing beautiful music altered with an ungodly good rave. Anyone who loves electronic music, needs to go. It’s heartwarming to see so many people caring about music you thought was somewhat… well, not unpopular, but not as mainstream. Sónar leaves an air of a rock festival, but with much, much better intelligent dance music. I have to repeat myself and say that words do not do the music side of the festival any justice, so I’d rather refrain from saying anything further.
Now that I’ve drooled honey and love all over it, I’ll drip some tar into the honey pot as well. Organisation-wise there was a lot of confusion (among staff, too!) with the coupon system. That needs to become more straightforward. The “no cash” system should make it easier, not more difficult. Drink and food prices were definitely amove the average and in stark contrast with the rest of Barcelona. It would be cool if the festival wasn’t divided into two – and that day passes were sold. The fact that the event was split in two made me miss quite a few acts. Getting back from Sónar By Night proved to be only a half nightmare for me, because luckily there was a shuttle bus for accreditation holders. No luck for the ones who didn’t. Or if there was a way… then it definitely wasn’t communicated well enough.
Nevertheless, I want to finish with this: go to Sónar. You’ll be sweetly rewarded with an experience to remember. It’s something else.
Bonobo Live crowd absolutely loving it