In the days leading up to the Sonar Festival’s 20th anniversary, most people had some expectations of what they might experience. They planned on partying, good drinks, meeting new people and, most importantly, getting a chance to see some of the most exciting new performers in electronic music alongside the legends who helped to pioneer the genre. But even the most seasoned veterans of the epic Barcelona festival quickly learned to leave their expectations at the door.
Sonar 2013 was unlike anything that anyone could have imagined. Much more than just a four-day party, this year’s Sonar festival proved to be something that many in the electronic music scene spend years trying to find: an unforgettable experience.
The first day at Sonar 2013 kicked off with the beginning of the Sonar by Day lineup. The festival is divided into two main categories: Sonar by Day and Sonar by Night.
Later that day, UK composer and producer Gold Panda touched off his own incendiary live set. His style, which features a deceptively simple approach, fell right into line with the spirit of the Sonar Festival. Rather than focusing strictly on EDM, Sonar showcases a broad range of styles, from ambient down-tempo to nonstop party beats. Gold Panda brought his unique mixture of straightforward beats and lush, organic tones to bear at the Sonar Village showcase and the audience loved every second of it.
Without question, the star attraction of the second day of Sonar 2013 was the Kraftwerk 3D show at Sonar Club. Kraftwerk are legends in the music world because of their part in creating the electronic styles that were the precedent for all the performers of the day. Their seminal 1974 recording “Autobahn” brought vocoders, analogue synthesizers and live performance art to the masses. Over a career spanning four decades, Kraftwerk have always been at the forefront of the evolution of electronic music.
Their live 3D show was mind-blowing. It combined the best of their recordings with the modern technology that brought their sound to new life. Behind their 3D glasses, the audience was breathless as they took in the scintillating graphics and lights that pulsed to the synthesizer hooks and rhythmic beats. Sonar 2013 brought in visitors from over 90 countries and it’s a safe bet that the Kraftwerk 3D show had adoring fans from all over the globe that night.
Nicolas Jaar also took the stage over at the Sonar Lab performance area. The US artist has risen to prominence as a leader in the global music scene. Glowing reviews from music critics propelled Nicolas Jaar to a top spot on Resident Advisor’s list of the best live shows of the year. The close, technical atmosphere of the Sonar Lab space was a perfect fit for Jaar’s set. His minimal techno sound pulsed at 100 BPM and his on-the-fly vocal collages added texture and depth to the groove. The crowd was enthusiastic and showed their love.
The third day of Sonar 2013 was the culmination of excitement that had been growing since attendees first arrived. At 5 PM, over at the Sonar Pub area, Laurent Garnier closed out a thumping DJ set to a packed house. Garnier is a familiar face at Sonar. He spun tracks at the first Sonar festival 20 years ago and his mixes have only gotten better over the years. Garnier is world-renowned and is widely regarded as one of the most consistently excellent performers working today. His thrilling set included tracks from Klaus Nomi, Jeff Mills and Emmanuel Topp. Even though many in the audience were tired from a long day of dancing and partying at the Sonar Pub, they quickly found new energy as Laurent took the stage, rocking and grooving to the exquisite music selection.
At the same time as Laurent Garnier’s set, Chilean DJ Luciano was kicking things off over at the Sonar Club stage. Well-known and respected as a prime proprietor of microhouse and minimal styles, Luciano was also celebrating the 10th anniversary of the creation of his personal label, Cadenza. He spared no effort in his performance and the crowd quickly matched his energy and enthusiastic style. His set was all about solid grooves, with a no-frills approach that still left room for embellishments and his own artistic flair. As his set drew to a close, the crowd was left wanting more and they had instantly become addicted to this DJ’s unmatched style.
These two DJ sets had created a massive, exciting tone for the evening and that spirit was continued at the Sonar Lab when American DJ Seth Troxler kicked off his set. Troxler is a native of the birthplace of the techno sound: the clubs of Detroit. Seth was named the number one DJ on Resident Advisor’s 2012 list and the audience at Sonar Lab quickly learned why he won that acclaimed spot. His set featured his trademark style, which encompasses influences from classic to modern. The tracks he selected showcased his respect for all forms of dance music and the result was a set that had something for everyone.
Sonar by Night was closed off that night by a live performance from UK group Hot Natured. Their full-length show was an amazing display of their unparalleled songwriting abilities. They are set to release their new album and the crowd showed off their appreciation and anticipation for the new songs. There really was no better way to mark the closing of this legendary festival than the high-energy, anthemic sounds of Hot Natured.
All in all, the 20th anniversary of Sonar was an event to remember. Veterans of the festival and newcomers alike were enthralled from beginning to end. There was truly a sound for every taste, and no one left disappointed. Sonar is set to launch a festival in the US and and the Sonar creators are excited to announce new dates and locations in the coming year. For anyone who missed this year’s incredible performances, there is no reason to worry, as by all indications, Sonar is ready to grow, expand and it’s definitely one of the best festivals for electronic music in the world.
Many thanks to mr. Ivan Vilovski