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Sonar © Joseph Rootman

Sònar Music Festival in Barcelona – June 12-14 2014

This weekend I was lucky enough to get a taste of the non-stop Barcelona music scene. After being dropped off a few hours late, I rushed to Razzmataz nightclub fearing that at 1 am, I was cutting it close to missing the rush of the night. As it turns out, things were just getting started in this 5 room monster of nightclub complex. Unfortunately I was greeted with some disappointing news, the headliners of the night, Adventure Club, couldn’t make it to the show. Regardless, there was still plenty of talent to fill a night’s worth of dancing.

Razzmatazz immediately throws its guests into it’s massive main room, where the resident dj was keeping a fast paced vibe with popular dubstep tracks such as Nero’s newest release Satisfy. He kept the mood light with the smiles and energy of a kid in a candy shop, particularly one that has had far too much candy.

Beyond the massive hall of Razz’s main room was the amazing atmosphere up on the roof, smokers and drinkers had their spot to hangout amongst spinning projections on metal and brick backdrops. Past the open air hangout was “The Loft”, which kept a more relaxed vibe than most of the other rooms. This was where Totally Extinct Enormous Dinosaurs (T.E.E.D.) would be kicking of his set at 3:30 am, taking us deep into the Spanish night. And take us deep he did, his set was an hour and a half of techno bliss. He consistently kept a groove that had the crowd bouncing around in a trance, and every so often he would unleash the bass atop the mound of treble and kick drums that he had built.

Even without Adventure Club’s presence, Razz provided a full night of entertainment, and sure enough, even at 5:30 the club was packed full of energy.

With a couple hours of sleep in me I was ready to reboot, and the excitement of a full day at Sònar made that easy enough. What came as a pleasant surprise though, was that there was no need for me to bring any over-the-top festival energy to Sònar by day. In fact the atmosphere was about as relaxed as any environment should be at noon on a sunny day. The Sònar village stage had a crowd composed of dancers, chillers, and sunbathers all enjoying the mixed up sound of Spoek Mathambo. This band took no issue dancing between vast gaps in genres, which was made obvious by the fact that the dj and guitarist worked gracefully as a team.

The Sònar hall stage carried a different sound and sight, consistently entertaining it’s guests with a fantastic visual setup. Early on in the day Roll the Dice played a dark, experimental set in front of in-synched graphics, such as nostalgia inciting video games and erupting multicoloured volcanos. The eye candy only got better throughout the day though, particularly cumulating with Audion’s spectacularLED structure. Audion preformed afantastic minimalist techno set, that was guided by frequent robotic vocals and kaleidoscopic designs sprayed across his spherical cockpit of intertwined triangles.

Audion’s show was only one example of the impressive blend of technology and art at Sònar, another example being unidisplay, a mirrored hall with ever-changing white lines and shapes. Over at the Sònar+D hall festival goer’s entered a Mecca of technology. The room was filled with gadgets free like the Oculus Rift, which provided viewers the opportunity to immerse themselves in a virtual reality documentary. The most remarkable part of Sònar by day is that it managed to provide ticket holders with the option to play with techtoys, watch a movie, experience art, and listen to live music all in one location. The variation in activities certainly made the festival stand out amongst the standard music festival.

Sònar by night was a whole different world filled with Bumper Cars and flashing lights. Busses shipped ticket holders from the day venue to the night, and by my arrival Fourtet was already on the decks. His set was a perfect representation of his psychedelic style of music, it began as a bass heavy tech set but managed to finish off with a number of reggae tracks in succession. Fourtet was a stellar choice for transitioning fans to the nighttime Sònar sound, and by the time he was done the venue was packed with people awaiting Massive attack’s new live show.

Upon the band beginning there first song, a massive wall of LED’s appeared across the stage. The backdrop would sometimes display a moving matrix of numbers, or a destination board but occasionally it would shutoff completely and allow nothing but the slow, dark singing of “paradise circus” capture the eyes and ears of viewers. With four stages, it was hard to decide where to go next but I didn’t get far before crossing paths with UZ at the Sònar lab stage. The man wore a mask on his face, blasted the crowd with explosive trap music, and stood affront golden visuals of money falling and guns shooting. Afterwards, the tone changed drastically once again over at the Sònarpub where CHIC feat. Nile Rodgers played classic funk tunes such as their classic “Le freak” and other Rodgers produced hits like Diana Ross’ “I’m coming out”. The final act that I caught for the night did not disappoint. Rudimental played an impressive set complete with two live singers and a full band. Even with the live band they managed to produce an extremely dancey set, incorporating the sounds of Drum and Bass, Pop, and more all into one. Sònar kept me constantly entertained for 14 hours, and overall it was a well organized festival packed with amazing music and much more. If this weekend was at all an accurate representation of the music scene in Spain then I would highly recommend everyone give it a try, just bring some energy drinks, because the music never seems to stop.

Photos © Joseph Rootman

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