Festivals 2015

Sonar Is Our New Favourite Place

We're back with everything that happened on day two of our Sonar adventure!

We're back with everything that happened on day two of our Sonar adventure, read part one here

It won't come as a surprise that it was pretty difficult to peel ourselves out of bed for day two of sonar. The combination of the Spanish heat and the packed-to-bursting lineup makes Sonar a particularly gruelling affair, but with a festival this good and a lineup of such a high calibre, it's more than worth the sore legs and aching feet.

Catching up with Black Coffee backstage at Sonar by Day.

Not a lot of Sonar by Day was seen, we managed to get there for an impressive (for us) 6PM and after a quick interview with South African legend Black Coffee - look out for that on Ministry Radio - we had just enough time to catch hip hop production royalty, Just Blaze. The beatsmith behind some of the biggest tracks in the genre including Jay Z's "Show Me What You Got", brought an unstoppable energy to proceedings, jumping on and off the mic to sing-a-long with the biggest hands-in-the-air moments.

Just in time for Father's Day, Duran Duran kicked off the second Sonar by Night.

After a quick sprint across town to the Sonar by Night venue it was time to kick things up a notch. Opening up proceedings - and just in time for Father's Day - was 80s pop throwbacks, Duran Duran. En route to the venue, our photographer, Jay, asked me what songs they had that he'd know. I told him that "Rio" was an out-and-out banger but struggled to name any others beyond that and "Girls On Film". That soon changed during the performance, however, as they rolled out a procession of the tracks that we inexplicably knew All The Words to. Duran Duran was definitely an unexpected highlight and it's indicative of Sonar's exceptional programming that they never once felt out of place in-between the future hip hop and bleeding edge techno.

Erol Alkan didn't have much trouble following Duran Duran, look at that crowd!

With big shoes to follow, Erol Alkan bridged the gap between Duran Duran and The Chemical Brothers on the main stage. I'd caught up with him the previous day and asked him just how he was going to fill in the blanks between 80s pop and 90s big beat and in typical Erol fashion, he cooly replied that he'd play "whatever came to him" and that he wasn't thinking about the set too much. And he was right to be so relaxed about it as his set lived up to all expectations and easily turned the dance floor right up to Chem Bros levels.

The Chemical Brothers and there sometimes horrifying visual show.

Speaking of which, it was time for the main event, as the crowd in the main room swelled to the biggest proportions of the weekend, the lights dimmed and before The Chemical Brothers took to the stage and their light show kicked into gear. The Brothers have always paid huge attention to their visuals and it really shows, with the exception of Daft Punk, they're far and away the best light show I've ever seen.

Visuals from The Chem's unreleased "Under Neon Lights".

They played a hammering set taking in their greatest hits - "Galvanise", "Saturate", "Hey Boy, Hey Girl", were all in attendance, along with some fresh cuts from their eagerly anticipated eight studio album and also an airing of what I assume will be their next single, "Under Neon Lights". We managed to track down the visuals live from Sonar above.

Some extreme dodgem selfie action here.

After dancing our asses off to The Chemicals it was time for a bit of a chill out and our first real chance to explore the other, non-musical, attractions on offer. The marquee event of which was the all night dodgems, located conveniently beside one of the smaller stages - which was blasting out trap when we had our go. After 15 minutes swerving and smashing to the sounds of R L Grime's "Valhalla", the only conclusion was that absolutely ever festival stage should come with a dodgems arena.

Once we had our fill of fun and games at the carnival we needed to get back into some serious music and SoundCloud wunderkind, Cashmere Cat, was just the man to bring us back into the music mentality. He's had a meteoric rise and the sizeable crowd he attracted was testament to the hyper escalation the modern music industry can have on careers.


Fly Lo tripping everyone out.

Next up was Flying Lotus and his mind-blowing visuals. We didn't think anything could top The Chemical Brothers in the visual-front, but Fly Lo managed it. Stood in his pyramid bashing buttons and wearing a mask that made him look like a cross between a mad scientist and Abe from Abe's Oddysee, the visuals pulsed and swirled around him. It was one of the trippiest things I've ever seen and I spent most of his set stood dumbfounded at the front. 

The crowd really got into Black Coffee's party set.

After that assault to the senses it was time for something altogether more relaxed, from Black Coffee. We caught up with him earlier in the day and he told us that he was nervous about playing before Jamie Jones, but his nerves were unfounded as he got the huge crowd dancing right from the off. His set was a mix of South African house and some unexpected party classics, ending with a triumphant airing of Prince's "Purple Rain".

We don't have any photos from Laurent, but if you play this really, really, loud you'll get the idea.

I'm not too sure where we were for Jamie Jones's set, but the next and final act of the weekend was the legendary Laurent Garnier. To my shame as a dance music journalist with a particularly interest in French house, I'd never seen the godfather before, but he was more than worth the wait. An unrelenting show of force, cut with visuals straight out of the "Jacques In The Box" video, you couldn't ask for a better man to see in the sunset and see out the festival.

So what did we think of Sonar in the end? Well fears about the Barcelona festival being neglected in favour of the many international iterations were ill-founded, Sonar went off without a hitch and I can't think of a festival with a more impressive sound and visual performance. As I mentioned before, it is a gruelling affair, the heat coupled with the late start time really wares you out. If you can't comfortably make it to at least 6 AM for two nights in a row, then this probably isn't for you. 

But if you can, then there's pretty much no better place to go. The artist selection is impeccable, the venue impressive and the crowd are as up for it and friendly as they come. The major city location means it doesn't really feel like a festival, more like two really big nights out back-to-back, which is pretty much exactly what I look for in a festival. Some people may romanticise venturing out into nature, pitching your tent and jumping up and down in the mud, but give me an air conditioned room, a line up of cutting edge artists and an ice cold Estrella any day. 

Sonar, you may just be my new favourite place!

Read about our day one adventures right here.

Listen to our interviews with Black Coffee and Erol Alkan soon on Ministry Radio.

More Sonar:

The Tracks That Hit The Hardest At Sonar

The Artists You Have To See This Year At Sonar

The Coolest People We Met At Sonar

Written by Matthew Francey

24 Jun 2015