Sonar Festival 2008 Live Review
Well it's the festival time of year again and true to form I decided to vacate the temperate climate of the Uk and mosey on down to Barcelona's sunny beaches and historic catalan architecture. I, like hundreds of thousands of others nubile young party animals love festival season and biggest choice of the year usually comes down to which festival we will choose to spend our hard earned cash at. I've done the summer sound system, global gathering, the carling festival and Rockness, and to be honest I'm sick of the weather and really fancied something a bit different.
After wetting my apatite with a brief visit last year, I decided to pack my sun cream and shorts rather than a tent and cagoule and get my backside over to Barcelona for Sonar; for a weekend of bronzed crazyness with a duo of likeminded northern clubbers.
Sonar is billed as the avant-garde music festival of Europe showcasing the best, most experimental and downright weird music tastes of the world. Focusing mainly on electro, house and techno the breadth of acts on show is amazing and I challenge even the most geeky of music aficionado's to have heard of all the acts here. The headliners for this years extravaganza ranged from the amazingly cool French electro outfit Justice and the Belgium electro rockers Soulwax to the legendary bonkers 80's scar band Madness and Basildon based synthpop band Yazoo. Granted, a lot of the music you will find at Sonar will not appeal to every ones taste. There are many obscure electro dj's emanating from the worlds nether regions which even the most open minded dance music enthusiast would wince at, but this also means that you are likely to find a few hidden gems which you can introduce to your mates back home.
The festival runs from Thursday to Saturday with three day events and two night events. There is a special concert on the Thursday night but tickets for this are charged on top of the 140 euro weekend ticket and usually feature two or three of the headlining acts so is an expensive addition to an already pricey weekend.
The day festival is located at the spectacular MACBA which is the museum for contemporary art in Barcelona's old town, a short walk from the famed 'Las Ramblas'. This has a closer resemblance to the usual UK festival except for the glorious sunshine, of course, and is the perfect way to spend a day chilling, drinking Mojitos and expanding your musical repertoire. The site is split into three stages combining to house probably about 10,000 - 12,000 people. None of the headlining acts play during the day and the whole thing has a completely different atmosphere to that of the night do.
I would recommend heading down to the day do during the early afternoon and set up camp on the main stage (Sonar Village). It is set around a lovely courtyard and plays host to some of the best acts who play during the day. We were lucky enough on the Friday to witness the Ninja Tune afternoon in Sonar Dome which showcased some of the best names form the Ninja Tune record label including The Heavy and Daedelus. It really is a great way to spend an afternoon and works perfectly to get rid of the nasty hangover you suffered from the night before.
The night festival is a completely different ball game. It is housed in an exhibition centre in Barcelona's industrial west and is absolutely huge. I couldn't find the actual statistics but it must hold 50,000 - 60,000 which is no mean feat for an indoor festival. And believe me it is impressive! The atmosphere is electric and when you get a good dance act banging out a few classics you can't help but get the old shivers going up your spine!
The whole place is decked out in neon lighting and with big screens showing some of the best European VJing talent. DJ Yoda even did his fantastic cinema show which was something to behold.
The other great thing about the nights festivities is the line up. This is where you see all the main acts and the setting is pretty spectacular, especially for the house, techno and electro groups. I saw the cray Madness and the awesome Justice here, although I did find that most of the DJ's tend to play a more obscure set when playing at Sonar than they would if they were playing a UK festival or club. This though is not important because you really do get in to the whole thing even if you are listening to something you generally wouldn't do at home, actually I think this is what makes it so special.
I have to say, I have been to loads and loads of festivals and clubs in my time but nothing is quite like Sonar. It mixes the excitement and crazyness of clubbing with the festival attitude of summer sound system. I would strongly recommend this to anyone who likes alternative dance music although I would suggest an open mind because some of the music really is weird.
It can work out to be a pricey weekend and I would suggest staying in a hostel to make it as cost effective as possible. Also Barcelona is an expensive city so you find that you spend a lot of money on all the peripheral nights and parties. I would say though that it is worth every penny and because it is in Barcelona and you have the glorious sunshine it does feel like a proper holiday. All in all the whole experience really is something special and I would highly recommend it. You have a year to save up and if you are a bit sick of all the UK festivals get your self over to Barcelona and party with the Europeans!