Really glad I got that sleep ‘cause I was gonna need every ounce of strength I could muster. It was Friday – Day Two of Sonar and the first real taste of what the whole crazy thang is all about. I met with some friends at La Boqueria (which was the site of Richie Hawtin’s set yesterday) for the now stock-standard vino & jamon and began studying the programme for the best plan of attack for the day. The Sonar Dome was playing host to just the right kind of bass-assault with a large chuck of todays line-up and my best screwface couldn’t wait to get amongst it.
First stop was back to the Dome as Tokyo’s Daisuke Tanabe, and the man has a sound that uniquely his own – it’s a certain kind of alpine wonk that feels like it’s freshly delivered from a forgotten cave somewhere off the slopes of Niigata – or maybe it’s just awesome sounds and I shouldn’t over-think it. Either or, considering it’s early there’s a crowd a-gathering and Daisuke’s doing an awesome job of delivering the calm before the storm that was just around the corner.
More Kiwis! This time it was close buddies! Serato was having some proper representation at Sonar with a stand and some seminars and Aroha and Brigid were repping in fine style, Aroha is one of my favourite people in the world, especially when it comes to one-two-step buddies – so what better way to kick into Star-Eyes’s set then a Do-Sa-Do with NZ’s cutest Maori DJ!
As I mentioned earlier, I first met Vivian Host (as her parents call her when she’s naughty) at the Academy back in 2003, since then she’s gone from being the editor-in-chief at US music mag XLR8R to one of New York’s go-to-gyals if you need serious-bass-and-rave-up-in-
Right, it was time to have a look around at the other stages. See, there were two whole stages that I missed yesterday each with their own massive throng and buzz . The thing I love about Sonar is it’s the kind of place where you’ll see some of the fruitiest experimentations of what electronic music can be – (sometimes quite literally as you’ll see here from a few years back) – And the Sewing Machine Orchestra were a great example of just that.
You could tell by the crowd-swell around the Dome stage that something big was happening – pure roadblock. Unsurprisingly – yup, DJ Zinc is going in. Dropping his his signature anthem 138 Trek (inna 128 stylee) early on in the set, it was pure jump-up UK vibes spanning Funky, Grime, and Jungle B-Line’s all served up with an electro twist in a sound that we all know now as – Crack House. Monster after Monster. He killed it.
The scene was set nicely for fellow Rinse family member, former Red Bull Academy Participant and the UK chart topping sensation – Katy B. It’s been a mad year for Katy B who not so long ago was debuting as Baby Katy and slowly working her way to be UK Funky leading light. A slew of anthems at the production hands of Zinc, Benga, Geeneus and Magnetic Man later and she’s a bonafide star – the stage is her’s and the crowd are in awe of the reinterpretation of these massive club tunes at the hands of her full live band. Let’s hope we see her in New Zealand soon.
It’s hot. Find shade – Check. Drink Sangria – Check. Drink some more Sangria – Check. Have a random conversation while drinking Sangria with the guy that made Angry Birds – also Check.
Although Four Tet was getting underway at the main Stage and I was a big fan - it was Paris’s new disco don’s Discodeine who were next on the list. I’d met one half of the duo – Pilooski at the Academy way way way back, and it’s been crazy how far he’s come since a particpant all those years back. Set of the day for me for sure.
Okay, now I really gotta save some space before the night unfolds but all I can say is that B-Bravo blew my mind. Thank you - That is all.
Sonar By Day Deux – Cheer bro. You were rad. Roll on the night.
All I can say is that the Sonar By Night Venue is big, really really big. I wasn’t prepared for this. Just like I wasn’t prepared for the two random Spanish dudes that jumped in the car as I was leaving La Ramblas to join me for a good rave. The couldn’t speak English, my Spanish is fairly crap. But we both knew one word which was “paaaarrrrtttttyyyyy” (in a really shouty Dom DeLouise meets Mexican Bandito style). After twenty minutes of that the driver wasn’t happy. Anyways, by the time we got there it turns out neither of my new friends had tickets nor did they want to pay the necessary Euro needed for entry so they decided that they were my cameramen and I was filming for a new TV show for New Zealand. Seemed like a good idea at the time but the security guy soon realised that I-Phone’s aren’t really broadcast quality – even in NZ.
So where was I? Oh yeah, the venue is big. I actually don’t think I’ve ever been in a bigger venue in my life. To give you an idea – I spent most of my time at the SonarLab stage which was around the same size as the Boiler Room. It was about a third of the size of other two main stages – Sonar Club and Sonar Pub. Madness. Sonar Pub was host to the more commercially well known artists – Dizzee Rascal was up as I was walking in, which was followed by Steve Aoki, Die Antwoord and then rounding things of A-Trak doing his new flash thing with his new flash stage setup…. And then James Murphy as the sun came up.
Pretty solid line-up yes - but I’d seen all these guys before
I headed over to Sonar Club which is the biggest of all the venues to catch the tail end of M.I.A’s set, although it seemed that the gossip was more the attraction than the set itself. Maya chucked a tanty it seemed and was an hour late on stage – didn’t like the lighting. 30,000 people stood while not much happened. For quite a while. Cue epic intro and she finally got things underway kicking off with ‘Sunshowers’ which was great to hear. The set ran like a chronology of her career and was what you’d expect from Maya – old songs fire, new songs dire, and always Paper Planes provides that anthemic peak that came just a little bit to early in the set
Up next was Aphex Twin in the Sonar Club, which was as you’d expect from Mr James – disturbing and brilliant all at the same time. Much the same as the first time I saw him play in the Boiler Room at the Big Day Out many years ago – he plays the most dance-floor unfriendliest music possible and the crowds lap it up.
But then I found my new home – the best stage with the best vibe and I gotta say the best music policy – The Sonar Lab. BBC were hosting the stage this night, and it’d already missed killer sets from Benji B and Pearson Sound it had seemed. Annie Mac was just rounding things off with big tune after big tune made famous on her Radio1 show – the amount of influence that this woman has on global dance music tastes is incredible. She’s one of the coolest woman I’ve ever met, incredible Radio host and smashes it in the clubs. Shame I didn’t get to hear more.
That was okay though as it was the next set that I was keen on the most – Redlight with Ms Dynamite. He used to make Drum ‘n’ Bass as Clipz but under the moniker Redlight he really has been carving out his own unique niche of UK Bass Music. Felt like being at a rave during Jungles hey-day, vibes like nothing else. Big tunes came courtesy of his own ‘Stupid’, ‘Source 16’ and his collaboration with Ms Dynamite ‘What U Talking About’. First time for me seeing Dynamite too, and although she was acting more as Redlights MC rather than taking centre-stage, her charisma is second to none.
Up next Toddla T – the other DJ I had to check. I last saw Toddla at The RBMA Major Lazer Gig during Notting Hill Carnival a few years back which is still one of the best gigs I’ve been too in my life, he was killer then and was killer now. Again representing all that is wicked about the UK right now and of course on the eve of dropping his debut album on Ninja Tune – big things a’gwarn for Toddla. As you’d expect it was his current hit ‘Take It Back’ that got the most heat.
By this stage things were getting slight fuzzy, and as much as I wanted to get amongst the Sonar Car stage – basically Dodgem’s with world class DJ’s, I bumped into my fine German fellows and utilized the free transport. Good move.
That was my first taste of Sonar By Night….. and shit it was good.