Data Transmission Does Sonar Barcelona
I arrive just as the sun is going down and although the atmosphere is flying – Anja Schneider’s doing her thing with all the gang behind the decks: Ray Okpara, Pan-Pot and the rest – out of all the parties to go to on your own, this is not it. After Dusky’s Nobody Else (again) I leave for the dark, underground comfort of the Hessle Audio showcase back at BeCool.
It was at this point, standing by the motorway praying for a cab, I realised that doing everything you want to do at Sonar and OFF Week is impossible. This is mostly because – in an inappropriately un-techno thought – humans are not machines. In meticulously planning my schedule (thank you, Sonar app), I had forgotten that I was in fact human and whatever we might think, we cannot survive without a little food and sleep. I’m sorry if that’s boring, but it’s true. Unfortunately, Hessle Audio is the casualty this time.
Friday comes around and everything’s cool. Over at Fira Montjuic I check out the Bridges for Music conference and panel discussion. Bridges for Music is a charity that looks at ways in which electronic music can do good in the wider world. Endorsed by Skrillex, Luciano and Richie Hawtin, the charity aims at fostering a community of electronic artists in lesser privileged parts of South Africa: mainly in the townships of Soweto and Langa. A striking credit to the charity is their emphasis on encouraging a community – in other words, in feeding anyone who’s interested with equipment, drive, and the rest to create their own scene: the final resounding question was ‘why can’t this be the next Berlin?’
Later that afternoon Spanish native bRUNA has a tough time with his live set but a fan-base heavy crowd manage to pull him through his various setbacks. Pinch and Sherwood put on an outstanding show of cell-altering, subterranean bass in SonarHall; a totally dark room with red velvet theatrical curtains draped down the walls. The powerful dub, the pitch black darkness, the slow, low swinging dubstep dance and the strong smell of weed came together to form one of the most powerful atmospheres of the whole week. The deep dub was entirely saturating. Even the thick curtains couldn’t soak it all up.
I leave Sonar by Day when it closes at 10.00 to get to Kraftwerk at the Sonar by Night venue, which is a bus or taxi ride away. Queuing in the giant queue for the special bus service is obviously a lost cause, and there are no taxis anywhere – mostly because the Placa d’Espanya roundabout is at a complete gridlock due to the outpouring of Sonar-goers. With twenty minutes until Kraftwerk, it’s about most stressful moment of my life. I finally arrive outside the venue fifteen minutes in to Kraftwerk’s set. Entering the by Night venue’s main room, SonarClub, with my 3D goggles dutifully (religiously) on and Kraftwerk playing in the distance, is completely surreal. The place is basically an aircraft hangar and conference venue and in such a gigantic space it goes without saying that the atmosphere is always a dwindling one. But Kraftwerk manage to hold it down with that weird combination of the bygone and the futuristic, where tracks like Autobahn, Trans Europe Express and Tour de France stand out in their immaculate weirdness. The ranks of people were all stood still with their 3D glasses glowing in the darkness, while space ships emerged from the 3D backdrop.
Leaving early (keeping to schedule) to venture next door to SonarLab – another gigantic rectangular space but this time in open air – was only to experience Nicholas Jaar subsumed by the enormity of it all. Too far back and with too much of a crowd to get any closer, I go to the bar where the ticketing system, which some people bemoaned, was actually not that bad. You were able to buy tickets in the same place you were able to buy a beer, which worked out well.