Sonar, Barcelona - Day One
Yeah so, the first rule of Sonar is - Don't ever, ever ever, ever-ever-ever challenge a Derry woman to a Mojito drinking competition - you will lose, in the worst way possible. ATL learned this invaluable lesson the hard way on the eve of Sonar in a rather cool little hang-out tucked away on one of the many side-streets off Las Ramblas and was left sitting on the pavement with a mouthful of fresh-mint wondering where it all went wrong. Being the professional outfit that we are, it was only fair that we got an early night ahead of everyone else to ensure we were in tip-top shape for Sonar - Day One, it was nothing to do with the Mojitos - honestly.
Sonar is a festival that defines the essence of European cool. You want to have 10,000 people have a rave all weekend long in a City-Centre park? - No Problemo. You want to make their experience as pleasant as possible, treat them with the utmost respect and encourage them to meet, mingle and share ideas of possible collaborations, future deals and ways to contribute to the future of music - No problemo. Sonar is more than just the basic ingredients of most major music festivals - beer, music and people. It's a place where in-between the bands and DJs you can check out 21st Century art installations, hang out with the M-nus Records crew at a record fair and maybe purchase an exclusive M-nus Records beach towel or maybe you want to just hang out on the grass in the middle of a park surrounded by a contrasting mix of 18th century and post-modern architecture. Everything about this place is effortlessly cool - no queues, no bad manners, no idiots and great music.
Wandering through Escenario Hall off the main Sonar-Park we catch a glimpse of the wonderful Dreya, a beautiful young vocalist from east London who has the Red Bull Lounge mesmerized by her amazingly soulful voice which she is sampling and looping up through a guitar effects unit, acapella. All this girl needs is a beat and the melodies just flow out. She's worked with the likes of RSL and Gilles Peterson Worldwide award winners Bonobo and she's a perfect way to start off a weekend which is all about discovering new music. 150 people stand around clapping along to provide the back beat to this very intimate performance from this future soul star, who despite her nerves, puts on a great performance.
Sonar Park is where the main daytime action takes place. We order up a couple of jugs of sangria, find a space on the grass - and chill. We check out a rather unconventional jazz-combo called the Setsubun Bean Unit who appear on stage and reconstruct the ceremony of the Japanese Setsubun carnival which is celebrated yearly to welcome the arrival of the spring season. It's a set that touches on Japanese folklore, space funk, cosmic Gipsy jazz, old school dub and tons of fun, complete with traditional 'Bon' dancers. From there, it's on to Mica & The Cluster, a sextext of grime producers and MCs who take one of this year's 'Sounds of Sonar' into new territories with a daring mixture of warped experimental breaks and unusual rhythms, the first outing of many for this, the newest of British urban sounds. We hang out by the bar for a bit and bump in to a rather flaky James Holden, who later on plays a tea-time set in Sonar Park which drops the minimal club thumpers in favour of a more experimental melody-driven vibe which is just right for that time of day. Every once in a while he threatens to let rip with some sonic boom, but never does - for this we salute him. Check his remix of the latest Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid single for a taste of what he laid on today.
From here it's siesta time, but we're not sure what to do tonight, do we head to Sonar - By Night and check out Beastie Boys and Narod Niki - (Ricardo Villalobos' ten-deck DJ super-goup) or do we maybe go to Steve Rachmads' night at Moog whose surprise special guest last year was none other than Jeff Mills? Maybe we'll go to the Get Physical party at Razzmatazz with DJ T and Tiga, or maybe check out the first of 7 appearances this weekend of Barcelona residents Funk D'void and Andy Cato? We could in theory spend a whole weekend just weighing up the options of what to do as there is so much happening right now. Maybe a nice Mojito will help us decide.