Okay. So you’ve been the hot chick in school for the past few years. The jocks, the nerds, the geeks want you…maybe even the girls. You’re the queen of the scene…and then one day, it’s all over, just like (snap) that. First day of school, you see the new girl down the hall—everyone’s clawing at her. And you’re thinking, “Who the hell is that *explicative *?” Sonar Music Festival? Meet The “OFF” Sonar Showcase 2012. The real reason for my trip to Barcelona.
For sixteen years, The Sonar Music Festival has been the premiere global electronic music event, boasting only the freshest ear candy and DJ’s for a crowd of one hundred thousand over a four-day weekend in Barcelona. This year was scheduled to be no different, as friends of mine from various cities world wide made plans to meet in the “Rio De Janeiro” of Europe, for a weekend of partying until the church bells rang. Oh, and did we party. But to our surprise, it wasn’t the monster-sized Sonar that had us tumbling out of the clubs in the wee hours, it was Sonar’s “little sister,” the “OFF” Sonar Showcase that had me “sleeping it off” until six p.m. the next evening.
The Off Sonar Showcase or “OFF Sonar”, is a compilation of events that range from massive warehouse club nights and evening bar parties to interactive art shows and day time beach parties, thrown by local Barcelona promoters.
The showcase is freshly laced with global white-label DJ talent that the Parent Sonar used to cherish until it apparently became too “corporate” to showcase.
On our first night in the city, we were quickly ushered by a DJ friend (DC’s DJ Jahsonic) to BE COOL club, where London’s hot boy label HESSLE AUDIO tore the wheels to pieces alongside long standing mind-blower Four Tet. I stood in line (yes, I did) for this one, as I’ve been trying to catch the Hessle Audio boys in action, but The States has been kind of late (to put it nicely) on their moody mixes of electro, soul, and jungle beats.
The next night, after getting lost in La Raval’s endless maze of alleys and bar parties, we ended up at Hot Flush Recordings’ label party, at APOLO, where the sound system was just as sick as its selectors.
Saturday, due to a guilty conscience, we decided to pay the parent Sonar Festival a visit. After all, she is who we hopped on that transatlantic flight to see, right? Deep breath. First, the snobbery of the promoters. But hey, I can deal with snobs, long lines, I live in LA. Second, all the “rules”… “step here, don’t step there, move here, go there…” when you’re in “higher spirits” (as I like to call it) were super confusing to say the least.
We missed Nicolas Jaar’s DJ set, because the arena was so far from where the artists hang out that my buzz was completely blown by the time we arrived. But as it’s become more popular I do understand the need for space (Really? The suburbs, Sonar?) James Blake (a favorite of mine) did an decent job on the wheels, but let’s stay focused here. A singer and a DJ are two very different things. And when you have to sit through an “okay” DJ set for two hours…let’s just say we didn’t even use all of our drink tickets before we were back on La Ramblas, looking for the next Off Sonar joint to head to. I will say however, the bumper cars rocked. If you were there you know what I’m talking about.
The crème de la crème of Off Sonar Showcase 2012 had to be Octopus Recordings’ Sunday beach party at Mac Arena Mar Beach Club. Two thousand people at sunset. Twelve killer DJ’s. Sand, sun, killer tunes, beautiful people. Dopeness. Made the (old) Do—Over (LA heads) look like a glee club choir practice. And I loved the old Do—Over. Post sunset we were off to London’s well known joint “Secret Sundaze”. Then we checked out Brooklyn’s Machinedrum at spot called “Moog” with a sound system that made me think I’d died and gone to BPM heaven.
And I could go on. “OFF” Sonar, you’ve got my full attention. The parties were cheap, the drinks were heavy, and the people were so much fun. Sonar Music may want to take a few notes from its little sister. Don’t get too comfortable. And don’t let that corporate ‘ish get to your head. The global electronic scene is an “at will” employer and you will get replaced.
In fair balance, Flying Lotus’ Sonar By Day set was pretty damn dope. And we know what can happen to a party (*clearing throat * pick one), a neighborhood (Uhm…Williamsburg?), or a concept (Oh that’s Vintage, too?) when it gets too much exposure. So by Urban Outfitter’s standards, Sonar was still a great dance party to say the least. But by the standards of the “International Community of What’s Next”, lets just say the jury is still out on that one.
Either way, I’m already booked for next year. Hopefully The Sonar Festival gets her swag back. I have faith. She was one hot you-know-what.
T.P. Carter is a novelist by day and a trans-culturalist with an addiction to city hopping and cosmic beats by night. You can visit her at www.tpcarterbooks.com or contact Kensington Books for info on her latest novel “Lovestoned”.