Sonar 2011, a review

A brief overview in bullets:

  • When you have to get on a plane to go to a festival, the excitement increases tenfold
  • Sonar’s organisation is incredibly impressive. You can’t use cash at the bars, so instead buy tickets for specific drinks ahead of time. A combination spirit/mixer (with what I can only assume is a quadruple measure) was €8, a small cup of beer at €4. This cut down on queing for everything, the drinks were strong and it seemed like pretty fair pricing.
  • Festivals in hot climate are amazing. No pre-planned layering and bringing several jumpers to banish the cold at 4am.
  • Day one (of Sonar by Night at least) was definitely quieter than day two.
  • Diskjokke wasn’t given prominent enough position on the schedule, but was brilliant and I loved the Disney-themed SonarCar stage.
  • Having bumper cars at a festival is FUN.
  • SonarPub was easily the best area. It was the perfect size, therefore retaining a sense of atmosphere, while not feeling like you were getting crushed.
  • I didn’t see anyone get insanely messy or need medical attention, which was a welcome surprise.
  • Trentemøller was fantastic live. His band added to that; starting with a girl playing guitar with a bow, an incredibly energetic drummer and a host of others on stage. Moan sounded amazing as a crescendo.
  • Annie Mac fell a bit flat on the crowd. I’m usually a fan, but it was just too average. Katy B’s live bit with her was fun, but I’m not sure if it really had a place on the programme.
  • A-Trak was the best set of the entire festival. He’s been a favourite of mine since remixing Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Head Will Roll, and his Duck Sauce project with Armand Van Helden is huge, but to watch him mix live was in a different league. I’ve never seen a DJ work so fast, or with such little guidance from cans. He obviously knows his tracks inside, out, back to front, and blindfolded. Props for playing in a dinner jacket too. I’ll be seeking him out again.
  • The sun comes up quickly in Barcelona. At 5.40am A-Trak finished and it was pitch black, by 6.30am for Tiga(only so-so, but unfairly positined in SonarLab, which had no atmosphere to it) – it was light.
  • M.I.A. was, once again, terrible. Newly blonde, but apart from that, nothing has changed since I saw her at The Big Chill last year.
  • Chris Cunningham was equally as bad. I had high hopes, but his vibe is too dark to translate in that environment. We ended up leaving after two songs as it was such a downer.
  • Yelle is the epitome of a French act. I got to hear her do her cover of Robyn’s Who’s That Girl, which was great, as well as a few others I recognised/enjoyed. She’s 80s-tastic, all synth and electro pop, but was a little whiny live. I prefer the mixes of her tracks, which make them a bit more instrumental, but it was a happy antidote to our previous Chris Cunningham deathtrap.
  • Underworld were my other big win for the weekend. As we discussed at the time, you can tell you’re watching a crowd pleaser from the get go. They filled SonarClub like no other act on the programme, and kept an insanely high level of energy for over an hour and a half. Born Slippy was an inevitable closer, and it was definitely one of those moments I’ll never forget.
  • New artist spot of the festival goes to Buraka Som Sistema,  an act from Portugal that fuses techno with African kuduro. You’re left with something that knocks you off your feet you want to dance so much, so they were fantastic live.
  • Additional useful info. When you leave Sonar, don’t turn left and hope to find a cab. It’ll take you hours to get home. The buses run super regularly and cost €2 each way. They do get busy, but if you time it right, they’re a breeze. Alternatively, if you don’t want to face the crowds, get a cab on the way up. From central Barcelona it’s only €15ish.
  • I had a blast at Sonar. It had a totally different vibe to anything I’ve been to before and I’d definitely go back. The space isn’t as big as you’d imagine, so it’s all about the artists. If you spot a few you like, it’s totally worth a trip.
  • Ticket prices are €39 pp for entrance to one of the days (12-10pm), and €60 pp for Sonar by Night. SonarPass for everything is €155 pp, but we bought a two-day Night pass for €100 pp, which was definitely the best option for us. All info here.

9 responses to “Sonar 2011, a review”

  1. Jim Wild

    Sonar is my favorite festival ever!

  2. Ewarwoowar

    Loved it too. But not as good as previous years. The headliners just weren’t interesting enough and the little weird ones just weren’t new or bizarre enough.

    Janelle Monae was amazing though. As was Die Antwoord. Fourtet and Atmosphere in By Day cheered me up no end too.

    You should go “Pro” next year. Same price, but you get access to VIP area with bar and bogs. Plus there was a natty bus back and forth from By Night for the Pros.

  3. Jim Wild

    Happy memories of Jeff Mills, Chemical Brothers, Laurent Garnier and Richie Hawtin in 2005.

  4. Phil Zuni

    I had almost the same impression of sonar 2011. Only can add that Paul Kalkbrenner did an impressive set too and that I was pretty much disappointed of the bbc1 stage (even though Im a big radio 1 listener) and of mary ann hobbs.

    A-Trak was just incredible. Propably a league on his own…stunning performance

    and cunningham went better after the first 2 songs and had quite a nice ending with gil scott heron´s “new york is killing me”

  5. John

    had an amazing sonar experience for what was my first year attending, only wish i’d been years ago, loved it so much already dived in and bought the 100euro ticket as soon got back to the UK last week.

    Aphex twin (best thing I’ve ever seen), cosmin trg, djedjotronic, boys noize, underworld, trentemoller, james holden, steve aoki, jackmaster, lory d, Nicolas jaar, tiger & woods, how to dress well, hawtin @ fruit market (meeting hawtin in the the minus shop:-)lol, row 14 club, kenny larkin @ catwalk, I have to say I did enjoy dizzee rascal as well, got talked into going along to see him, and just enjoyed it for what it was, think he was trying to prove something with the other heavy dubstep/bass people on the bill as he was playing a lot more older stuff/grime than I expected…very good….overall the whole thing blew me away, sonar by day & by night, very good atmosphere in the city…as i say just wish I’d have been over to sonar years ago:-)

    would definitely recommend Sonar week to anyone who likes electronic music…and indeed is up for partying in the sun with a really good crowd of people. Also suggest that even if the sonar by day bill doesn’t initally cry out to you, that people should make it along at least one of the days just to check out what the setup is like and the variety of weird & wonderful activities going on.

    counting the days til sonar 2012:-)


  6. Cain Ullah

    The best thing about Sonar is everything going on outside of Sonar in that week.

    2011 was the first year I have missed Sonar since 2006. My Summer so far feels unfulfilled as a result!

  7. Things That Make You Say Tune » Blog Archive » Cashless festival trial to hit the UK this Summer?

    […] my eye, but the one below, from wristband providers ID&C caught my eye. Especially given how impressed I was with Sonar’s cashless set-up from last […]

Leave a Reply