Sonar Festival 2023
I first went to Sonar Festival in Barcelona 21 years ago. At the time, for me, it was the epitome of cool, only enhanced when I arrived in the Catalan capital to find that it was ‘Mes Que Un Club’, more than a club…
Back then The Pet Shop Boys, Jeff Mills, Carl Cox and Cinematic Orchestra headlined, now it was Little Simz, Peggy Gou, Solomun and Aphex Twin.
Originally started in 1994, Sonar celebrated its 30th anniversary this year and has seen a global take over with events in over 65 cities worldwide. But in all honesty, it doesn’t seem to have changed that much. It’s still at the cutting edge of electronic dance music, it’s still split between Sónar by Day and Sónar by Night, it still seems to have Richie Hawtin playing every year, it still holds a high level of ‘cool’, it still has a great beach in the centre of the city to soothe your hang over and Barcelona still has that vibe I felt the first time I went to Sonar.
My preference is Sónar by Day, mainly because it’s a day party in the sun, when the Sónar by Night is RAVEAGEDON in a venue so big it has escalators, lifts and airport style moving floors across its four vast arenas.
For my Friday day time listening I caught sets from Blessed Madonna, who played banger after banger, from disco to house. Classics like The Man With A Red Face by Laurent Garnier and Candido’s Jingo rang out to a stage full of queer dancers. Blessed Madonna finished her set with her new single Mercy, with Jacob Lusk from the Gabriels coming on stage to perform live.
Eliza Rose then took over, dressed like Lady Miss Kier from Deelite (Groove is in the Heart), playing an uplifting UKG / Speed Garage set mixed with classics such as Moloko’s Sing It Back. Aphex Twin was on surprisingly early at the Night part, 22:00, with a lot of disappointed fans not making the one hour journey in time to see him.
DJ EZ got straight into his groove, but it’s so well rehearsed and planned out that if you’ve seen him DJ within the last year, then all your presents have already been opened. But if you’ve never seen him perform then he’ll blow your mind! Honey Dijon laid down some 4×4 jacking house with a little tribute to Tina Turner, while Peggy Gou banged it hard and fast. I would have liked to have stayed for DJ Marky’s DnB rinse-out, but he didn’t come on until 05:30 and we were eating kebabs and buying warm beers from street vendors by then.
The best set of the festival was Horse Meat Disco who played the closing of the day on Saturday, Prosumer, the Berghain resident, joined the fab-four on stage, but to be honest he was the weakest link. Everything from Donna Summer’s I Feel Love to Harry Thumann’s Underwater brought the feel good factor as they went B2B2B2B2B with an uplifting disco extravaganza. Their dance troupe were led by the human confetti explosion that is Lucy Fizz, who mesmerised on stage.
We then tapped out of the Sonar Festival before the night commenced and headed to La Terrazza for Drop Dance Society who were hosting Hunee B2B with Antal, two of the best selectors on the planet right now, deep diggers, party starters, technical wizards, we got lost in music and it was a fitting end to our pilgrimage to Barcelona.
It might seem a little strange that we’d exit Sonar to go to another party, but Off-Sonar is a big thing. It’ll screw with your timetabling, but you not only have a world-class line up at Sonar itself, but also a whole host of events such as Offweek Festival which saw The Martinez Brothers and Jamie Jones DJ, Detroit Loves Barcelona had Carl Craig and Moodymann, Circo Loco had Seth Troxler, London based Secretsundaze had Chaos in the CBD and Half Baked had a day party popping off, and that’s just the parties I was personally interested in!
I feel with Sonar and Off-Sonar you need a crack logistical team to help try and fit everything in that you’d like to see. As well as a shit-load of stamina as doing all day and night for the full three days at Sonar is like completing an Ironman, trying to combine it with the various Off-Sonar events is like trying to compete in every discipline at the Olympics… So choose your battles wisely, and hopefully it won’t be another 21 years until I listen to Richie Hawtin once again!
For more information on Sonar and it’s global events – www.sonar.es
Words by Woody Anderson