Skrillex is one of the shows of the gigantic Sonar By Night

Sonar 2013 review

By Sean Tizzard | Published: Fri 21st Jun 2013

around the festival site

Thursday 13th to Saturday 15th June 2013
various venues in Barcelona, Spain, Spain
combine ticket 175 euros
Daily capacity: 80,000
Last updated: Wed 22nd May 2013

How correct I was. We didn't know where we were headed on that Friday night but assumed that we might be able to nip onto the Sonar Bus to transit between venues. One glance at the queues that have developed are enough to tell us that standing in them will be a sure fire way to miss most of Kraftwerk's set. Navigating the Metro might be an option if we'd studied the directions before hand and the bus network seems complicated so we hail a taxi. '30 Euros', says the driver and knowing that we're being fleeced but knowing no other option we agree to pay this extortionate rate for the journey of a few miles. 

We arrive at the site of this big aircraft-hanger like warehouse to see queues of people. Our special accreditation moves us more towards the front but there's still a fair wait for us to get in. I doubt that people without accreditation got to see much of Kraftwerk. People in our queue say they've never seen anything like it before at Sonar and, based upon the fact that there were fewer queues the next night, I'm inclined to believe them. We''re hussled straight into the main warehouse, the Sonar Club and efficiently handed our pair of 3D glasses (perhaps it was the distribution of these that were holding things up?) I gasp giddily when I see the size and magnitude of what's on offer here. This is a gigantic venue that is off the scale. Nothing anybody says about Sonar By Night warns you for this. And we've only seen one of the warehouses. 

We precariously position our 3D specs over our ears and watch the four vertical soldiers of legendary electonica standing in a line behind their laptops and keyboards. Kraftwerk are dazzling us with lights, throwing shapes and images towards us and eliciting astonished yelps and claps from the audience as they do. There are tens of thousands of people in this room jostling for position in an attempt to get the most out of their special shades. It's claustrophobic but never feels uncomfortably so. Maybe, it's our desire to explore more of the site or maybe having missed the start of this show it's feeling a bit disjointed but we leave on an Autobahn to another space just as they break into 'The Model'. 

Directly adjacent to the SonarClub space is the SonarLab space. It's a smaller room than we've just come from but it's by no means small. Nicolas Jaar is getting ready to take to the stage in here. We keep exploring. Directly adjacent to the SonarLab is the SonarCar space. This is another big warehouse where a bumper car circuit takes centre stage. Here people are already crashing their cars in time with the beats that the DJ's are dieseling out from the sound booth. We walk away from the cars in search of the final venue, the SonarPub. In my mind, I had images of a cosy space, a bar where we could sit and drink, a hostelry to relax our aches and pains – But No – this is another warehouse also beyond comprehension in terms of size. Bat For Lashes are about to take to the stage.

I've never really been one for star-spotting. Celebrity Magazines and gossip columns leave me cold so I could have been mingling with some famous punters and not really known it. Dita Von Teese walks past me with her new man, Theo Hutchcraft, and I only know this because my companion for the night tells me so. We think we spot Jake Shears cutting his shapes in a corner. Earlier, we've seen Richie Hawtin chatting amiably to a bunch of admiring punters. You do get a sense, especially in the thriving hospitality areas of this festival, that this is a place to be seen although nobody's getting subjected to Papparazzi attention. Electronic music is the leveller here.

Tonight, we spend much of our time in the SonarPub area. After a day of some wild and different music it feels strangely comforting to spend some time in the company of Bat For Lashes and Two Door Cinema Club. Neither act are exactly pushing the boundaries of electronic music but it's fair to say that both go down a storm with the swelling crowds in this room. Natasha Khan is a whirling dervish tonight. She's giving it her all and the audience are lapping it up. Two Door Cinema Club prove that they have the melody and the tune to appeal – but do they really need to keep playing it over and over again? Sandwiched between BFL and TDCC is Eats Everything. Daniel Pearce from Bristol fills his DJ set full of house and his somewhat meteoric rise to festival glories shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

"Now, what is all this fuss about Skrillex", I ask my teenage son before I leave for Barcelona. He laughs at me and suggests that Bro-Step is perhaps not my thing and it's probably not worth this old man staying awake until he takes to the stage at 4.15am. But I'm unbelievably glad that I did. For me, this was one of the shows of Sonar. From the off, he has the audience eating out of his hands. He's zooming towards us in a futuristic vehicle, exhausting us and propelling us onto a rollercoaster of noise. We're living every beat, every drop, every fade and rise. If he's half this strong at Reading and Leeds this summer, it'll be one of those sets that goes down in folklore. 

Friday has been a day of surprises, of joy and of delight. Dawn is breaking and we look up to realise that, save for the SonarClub, none of these warehouses have ceilings. This is our cue to queue for a bus or a taxi to find rest and sleep before another fun filled day takes over. Getting home proves as challenging as getting to the venue but when my head hits my pillow I hardly care.

review by: Sean Tizzard

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