Every year in June, the beautiful city of Barcelona hosts the Sónar music festival. Founded in 1994 and divided into Sónar by Day and Sónar by night, it features a wide variety of electronic music artists. Surrounding the main event, a collection of after and pre parties called Off Sónar is organised, making it the busiest festival week in the Catalan capital.
With events in almost any sub-genre of dance music, ranging across rooftops, beach clubs, abandoned monasteries and ancient town squares, there is something to choose from for all of the thousands of international party-goers. Not less than seven parties were held by local promotor IR BCN. From Wednesday till Sunday they spoiled visitors with finger-licking line ups featuring the likes of Maceo Plex, Sven Väth, Carl Craig, Derrick May, KiNK, DJ Koze, Henrik Schwarz, Nina Kraviz, Ricardo Villalobos, Job Jobse and many more.
We decided to visit two of their events, starting with the People Like Us label party on Friday at El Monasterio, Poble Espanyol. Way up on the Montjuïc mountain, it is one of the best places in Barcelona for an outdoor party. An intimate, relaxed area with a stunning view over the city make this former monastery tailor-made for the job.
With the sun shining brightly, most people were enjoying the green hill for their first drinks and some chit-chatting while Job Jobse was playing. During Premiesku’s live set more and more people moved to the dance floor and by the time Schwarzmann started their gig the once so chilly hill had also turned into a heaving mass. The German collaboration between Henrik Schwarz and Âme’s Frank Wiedemann lived up to the expectations and treated the crowd with a live set full of musical virtuosity and groove.
Guti then took over and immediately added some extra spice to the party by playing upbeat tech house by his own hand. A different style, but very well timed as the crowd was ready to take it up a notch. Talking about different styles, last up was KiNK, the incredibly talented Bulgarian who was voted 2015 best live act on Resident Advisor. During his hour and a half set he showed both his skills and musical diversity. Fluttering from light house tunes full of female vocals and piano chords to techno bangers like his hit single Cloud Generator, he never lost the crowd’s attention. At the end of the day, the only thing to complain about was the early closing hour.
Luckily this was not the last party of the weekend, as on Sunday it was time for Maceo Plex’ Mosaic. Again at Poble Espanyol, but this time at the Plaza Mayor. Although way bigger than El Monasterio, the Plaza Mayor is not less of a great event location by any means. A typical Spanish square surrounded by ancient buildings with at one side a huge stage with great sound system and light equipment.
As this was the fifth day of the Off Sónar week and our energy level had dropped significantly over the course of the festival, we arrived quite late and missed Roman Flügel and Stephan Bodzin. The place was less crowded than we had seen it at another party, which was actually a good thing because now the toilets and bars were better accessible and there was room to dance. Chances are that most people hadn’t even made it to today and were already recovering at some quiet place. Not us, because from extended previous experience we knew that final festivals days often are the best as the crowd that does show up, is made up of the best party people around. This time it was no different.
DJ Koze just dropped his massive remix of Modeselektor’s Bad Kingdom as we entered the scene. After a solid performance by the German, it was time for the host of the night to play a vinyl only set. For Maceo Plex, otherwise using CDJ’s to perform, this was a step out of his comfort zone. And although there is nothing wrong with his analogue skills, you could very well hear the difference to his other sets. Where he normally tends to add small bits and pieces from various tracks to his sets, he now took his time to play tunes to their full length. It made his set less diverse than normal, but thanks to his great record choice and build up, not less energetic.
For Sven Väth every day is vinyl only day. Allegedly his first ever word in his baby crib was “Schallplatte!” – German for record – although this is never officially confirmed by the DJ, his management or his mother. Needless to say, Papa Sven felt like a fish in water. Taking off with groovier tracks, reaching cruising speed with deeper stuff to finally take care of a smooth landing with some melodic techno. The perfect ending to a perfect week of Sónar by Day, Sónar by Night and Off Sónar events.