If you take away the sunshine, the 30 degrees and the fabulous atmosphere, you can clearly see that Sónar has now decided who they are, and have realised that it's worth booking acts like Pete Tong to attract a bigger crowd to the stage. Sónar has commercialised in a way there is no turning back. Looking back to the old times, the festival had coverage for the most innovative and experimental, avant-garde electronic sounds. Luckily they still stay true to that with the smaller stages with bookings that make your jaw drop, especially on the Sónar by Day performances. That part of the “fiesta” was, by far the most enjoyable experience.
Thursday overture came from the hands of Fur Voice at Sónar Hall, (where most of the more experimental acts performed). The Spanish artist performed powerfully, caressing the atmosphere with his magical voice. Together with the visual show Fur Voice’s act was the perfect opening for the festival. Unique, storming and beautiful, songs like Wimp, Stars at mind and Caramel made up for the day coming. Very brave to start with something this emotional.
Outside at Sónar Village, where most of the “maximal” sounds where spread, the British Professor Green and his not very good hip hop attempt, and Pete Tong and his “I am gonna play Shakira’s World Cup hit because I honestly don’t care” still managed to make every sundosed individual lose it dancing.
The S.O.S call was finally heard, and Caribou came on stage in Sónar Drome, which was proudly hosted by the Red Bull Music Academy. The Canadians were spotless. The tent was almost too full, and most of us needed to stay outside. Daniel Snaith and his team got us dancing by means of fantasctic tracks, (the big Odessa, amongst them) warming our bodies up for the night time. One hour went so quickly, we (the thousands of us) wanted more!
It was 20:00 and we were back to Sónar Hall and we were prepared; attendance to Broadcast was going to be massive. This stage has a vey limited capacity because it is the only one indoors at Sónar by Day. Once is full, no one can get it. And we all were, of course very excited. The long awaited Birmingham duo’s performance was finally due to happen, and the hypnotically beautiful -in all ways- Thris Keenan and the master of the keyboard Roj Stevens guided us through an unforgettable experience with a touch of humour.
Friday at Sónar by Day was looking mysterious. Aufgang and their piano based performance were enormously acclaimed by the audience, their show was very intense, as the piano melodies wrapped the room in apotheosis. Highly recommended.
Continuing at Sónar Village, New Young Pony Club made us loose the faith in their new album, poorly performing an attempt to save their reputation. Unfortunately, it was not mission accomplished for the London based band.
The biggest and coolest surprise came later on, when Nosaj Thing jumped into the stage at Sónar Hall. Probably the best show in the whole compendium of Night and Day performances, the L.A wonder kid dynamically created high quality visual sound scapes, making everyone dancing to sweat in the uber packed Hall.
Sónar by Night was lit up by Hot Chip. The feeling of the whole place is amazing. Settled in an old airport, the space is divided into three massive stages that normally give you the freedom of dancing without stepping into someone else’s legs. But Hot Chip’s gig was so packed, too packed for its own good infact. There was just one entrance/exit opened at the Sónar Pub, so it was not a bed of roses for the thousands of people to squeeze in a get a good spot.
Directly after that, LCD Soundsystem (good entertainers) offered us a very professional show, even though their last album has nothing to do with the preceding ones. We saw an older James Murphy, who is quieter on stage but still the bomb. Plastikman made the cut, with his usual not very fun minimal sounds, but his amazing lighting show. Classic.
2manydjs performance was a piss take this time, I’m afraid… They were still going for the same old mixes, adding visuals that showed what track they were mixing (most likely to make sure that everything would be ready to sing Bycycle Race with Queen). 2manydjs are something you'd be excited by the first time in an “ok thats pretty funny, i'm glad someone makes random mixes like that” but then the next time… "hmm wait a minute isn't this kinda exactly the same set they played four years ago?" In a sense, this way of thinking is understandable…What’s the point of changing something that obviously works time and again? But this is the thing, they are essentially “everybody's Wedding djs”, always ready to make another big breakdown. Unfortunately their mixes were not exactly flawless.
Claude VonStroke took over after 2manydjs and it came as a relief. He did his thing to save the dancefloor and he succeeded. Mixing tracks from his now mile long Dirtybird and Mothership catalogue gave some of us a nice feeling of bass heavy nostalgia.
The final day of Sónar didn't really start for us until Moodyman came up on stage with a white towel over his head looking like the Holy Virgin. Even though some technical troubles kept us waiting, it was worth it. Who can resist this man dropping smooth soul, funk bombs & hip hop all over a filled up Red Bull Academy tent?. It was the perfect body warmer, and having him talking on the microphone just adds more spice to the set, which is quite unique. He is the proof alive that the art of mixing can be expressed in many ways.
Around 7pm we went down to SónarHall to prepare for The Slew with Kid Koala and we bump into Necro Deathmort from UK. The hall went dark and for an hour an a half strange twisted beats combined with heavy guitar riffs took over our ears, it was slow, powerful and impressive. It was an brave booking and a nice angle on electronic music.
The Slew, which is Kid Koala and Dynamite D on turntables together with Chriss Ross and Myles Heskett on drums and guitar, gave, in our opinion one of the best live shows 0f Sonar 2010. The turntables, totally decontextualized by means being used purely as music instruments showed an extreme talent and created such an explosive atmosphere that half through the first song got the whole of SónarHall jumping to their loud blues. If you didn't have the chance to see this guys make sure you catch them anywhere possible, no excuses!
Sónar by Night on Saturday was painted with big names all over the place. Roxy Music were, being the main focus of attention. Unfortunately, Ferry did not seem to be quite fit for the occasion. The greatest hits, did not disappoint the audience apparently, Bryan sang out of tune in several occasions. Meanwhile at Sónar Pub the Icelandic Jónsi was entertaining everyone with his delicate performance, almost theatrical, it could almost have been taken out of a dream world. Perfect start for the night, Jónsi brought the magic.
Dizzie Rascal’s infamous performance true to form, making the audience explode on a dancing cataclysm. Fuck Buttons started at 01:00 at Sónar Lab and it felt like they were more the kind of act that was suitable for Sónar by Day. Suprising us all, they energized the crowd. Even though their stuff was not very dancey, the two of them gave a lesson to people on how you should risk and do what you love, explaining so much about their well deserved recent popularity.
Matthew Herbert’s One Club is the “maestro”, and we all know it. It was shameful then that there were so many sound incidences that the actualy performance was unclear and lacking in terms of quality. He did not look very happy with that and he vanished before planned.
The golden medal in this occasion goes to Ralph Lawson and his 2020 Soundsystem live act. The live bass by Fernando Pulichino created in the atmosphere the well awaited climax half way of the night. Playing tracks like “Shiver” sent the audience absolutely crazy. Score.
Then The Chemical Brothers’s classical mash-up show was worth, as always, some respect. Even though we might be a bit tired of listening to “Hey boy, Hey Girl” please, let’s tell the truth. Their show is absolutely amazing, exceptional musicians and always entertainers. Sónar Club, which was a gigantic stage was overcrowded anyways. It was difficult to move, to dance but the visual show was well enjoyjable.
Sónar is, at the end an unforgettable experience. The meca of the new technologies in music felt like it could have gone even more experiemental. The Day festival is much more imaginative, whereas the Night aspect sees the importance of music taken away by the space, which is so overwhelming that your breath really stops when you get in. Atmosphere is absolutely fantastic, and organization is in general very good (even though a few more toilets wouldn’t have harmed… But festivals are festivals!).
Julia Lozano & Olof Nordin