SONAR 2013 – A Reflection

Art & Culture

We’re massive Sonar fans on the pages of R$N as you may have gathered. We’ve been frequenting the Catalan capital for many a year and obsessing over all the weird and wonderful extremities that this festival has explored.

There is also the Off parties that run in parallell to the main festival but William Wasteman has his own monologue about that soon come… he doesn’t get out much and is only still recovering so you may need to wait till next week for that.

This year Sonar decamped its …By Day operations to the altogether vaster Montjuic site further out of the city at Placa Espanya. It had its good and its bad points; the lectures – of note was the Matthew Herbert Radiophonic Workshop talk and the Bridges For Music seminar (I was this close, yes this close to Skrillex!! What a nice chap he seems too) – and technology areas – now dubbed Sonar+D – felt like they finally had time to breath in their new home. I play on modular synths and consider blowing mine and the cohort’s retirement in one fell swoop. She’d understand. The cinema area also seemed a lot more encompassing too – I failed to see Kieran Evans’s Karl Hyde direction The Outer Edges… 3 times. Look, it was sunny OK. I’m from the UK. There is no sun here. Sitting inside when there’s that outside was just too alluring. 

The main outdoor area also benefited from the extra space, enabling a lot more sun appreciation. Said stage played host to some notable performances from the likes of Sebastian Tellier – utter dross for the first half, pure Gaellic genius for the second – Herbert and Mary-Ann Hobbs’ late afternoon DJ set triumphs, Lindstrom & Todd Terje Live, Gold Panda’s Thursday afternoon elation, Modeselektor’s all conquering closer on the Friday – one of them definitely looks like Dave Pearce… 
That is actually Dave Pearce… but isn’t it a lovely photo of the radiowave legend… let’s move on.
So yeah there was some great stuff… there was also some utter shite on the outdoor stage in the form of Foreign Beggars. Quite how this fitted with Sonar I’d love to argue the toss about sometime. Maybe I’m old and I don’t get it but a really poor bit of programming in my opinion. A really poor excuse for a UK act in my opinion too. But like I say, I’m old and not their target audience. Neither in my humble opinion is Sonar… still, some people lap it up. Maybe the horse has numbed us all.

Then there was the newly indoor Red Bull Music Academy SonarDome. More of a small aircraft hangar than an semi-outdoor tent from last year… but it actually worked really well surprisingly, considering it was completely indoors in the middle of that day. It had daylight and everything for such a big space felt surprisingly intimate at times. Metro Area, Mr BeatnickPalmbomen, Baris K and many more impressed within these confines. A lackadaisical JJ Doom – don’t bother next time mate – spoiled things a little but there’s always going to be one. That ‘one’ generally involves some member of the hip hop fraternity assuming it’s completely acceptable to just turn up on stage when ever they feel like it, bash out a few sub-standard numbers and fuck off but that’s another article entirely. 

Completing the newly revamped …By Day was the new SonarHall. Essentially a wholly indoor black room… we don’t spend a lot of time in here but things that we do see – Diamond Versions, Sherwood & Pinch & Darkstar – if I remember rightly = Gooooood. 

So new daytime: 
Good points definitely. Something of this scale had obviously outgrown its MACBA origins tho potential sound issues outdoors

The nightime affair – if you’ve never been – is simply MASSIVE. Like the biggest room you’ve ever been in… only bigger. And then there’s the two outdoor ‘rooms’ of equal stature. Kraftwerk and The Pet Shop Boys headed up the ‘heritage’ early doors bookings. They’re both great tho from far back the 3D of Kraftwerk didn’t quite fulfill for me… but then I was truly spoiled by the Tate gigs earlier this year. Walking in on The Pet Shop Boys five songs from the end couldn’t have been a better move all told. You get the hits, you throw you hands in the air. You smile, you dance and you walk away with that sense of elation that they’re one of the greatest pop groups these shores have ever produced. Elsewhere Nicolas Jaar seems to now be bigger than god, well at least Kraftwerk by the looks of the turnout for him. It’s so busy and we can’t hear anything from the back but no doubt he’s good as ever. 

Skrillex is actually great… for about 15 minutes. I see his merit and the stage show is just ridiculous. Truly mind blowing. When I say actually great, I know he’s great, people love him but I wouldn’t buy his records. I would however go back and see a stage show like that again. And he’s got a great Barca shirt on with Skrillex emblazoned across the back. Good job sir. Karenn are amazing, Edu Imbernon impresses too with his distinctive blend of Spanish techno as we destroy what little brain cells we have left on the dodgems. The Ed Banger 10 Years celebration still sounds surprisingly current, despite Busy P and Justice… hammering out very familiar records. They are great familiar records and should be celebrated. Richie Hawtin bring Enter to Sonar. For all the hype surrounding said Canadian and for all that’s written about him over and over and over… he’s one of those people who does what he does very, very well. There’s me harking back to the good ole days of Sheet One but you can’t say he hasn’t moved with the times. He plays good, solid Hawtin techno and he plays it very, very wel. Then he blows Black ‘Enter’ confetti dots into the air as the sun comes up and we all get very excited. 

And then there’s Laurent Garnier. He is the king. Plain and simple. If ever there is a more perfect person to close a festival such as this, it is the maestro that is Mr Garnier. He plays Crispy Bacon, he plays a long, long version of The Man With The Red Face… he is magnificent… that is until his ‘last song’ drops; The Prodigy’s Out Of Space. Yes we bounce, yes we smile briefly but come on Laurent? You can do better than that. You don’t need to cheapen yourself with a crowd pleaser such as this. You are Laurent, this is Sonar. Still, I still love you.

There’s many a more straight down the line reviews out there of this year’s festival. If you want that the likes of Jim Barrington covers things from an overall perspective pretty well. There’s also a Wasteman Diary to Off Sonar elsewhere on these pages… tho considering the state of him I doubt that’ll manifest itself this week.

And below, dear diary is my Sonar in pictures.

There’ll be a full interview with Torsten Schmidt of Red Bull Music Academy next week about Sonar 2013 too.

Sonar… I love you. I know it was hard to make that move but you’ve done well. Thank you for the good times. I will see you next year. x




Go on Garnerrs… smash that daybreak…

Had a bit too much have we?! Getting a bit old are we? Have a lie down and an Estrellazzzzzz

Oh and one more shot of the synth for good measure…