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On the road: Sonar Music Festival 2012 

istock photoContributor Mark covers international travel and music festivals for Style Wylde from his current home base in London, England. Previous posts from Mark include the Postcards from the End of the World series, and recaps and reviews from both the Sonar and Latitude festivals


There's nothing new about New Order...

Long term readers may well know of my fondness for music festivals and particularly Sonar. The International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art is held each June in Barcelona and I can’t think of a finer city for it. Spanning three days and two nights there’s electronic music from around the world covering a range of genres as well as professional seminars and art installations held in and around the Modern Art Museum and Contemporary Culture Centre which makes it unique and for me the best music festival in the world.

With so many acts over the three days it’s often difficult to decide what to see, but the beauty of Sonar is that with such a compact site it’s easy to get around and see a whole load of different things.

With one of the best starts to the weekend that I’ve seen Monki Valley got us going with some funky electronica in the Red Bull Music Academy sponsored stage. The Academy hosts the Sonar Dome stage all weekend and showcases emerging talent as well as established stars. The afternoon belonged to the main stage where the Brainfeeder label presented a range of its artists including the supremely talented Flying Lotus and Thundercat. For me the highlight of the day was British electronic dance music producer Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs who was the closing live set on the main stage finishing the day on a high with floor filling beats and crazy costumes.

Once the day time was over and with no night sessions we met up with some other friends for a few drinks and some food before heading to a label party in a hotel and finished the night at a respectable 2.00am.

After a lazy start to the day, the Friday sessions gave us some great live sets from Esperanza, Psilosamples, and Austra as well as a second chance to see Flying Lotus, but more than anything, it was a chance to sit in the sun, have a beer and listen to great music whoever you chose to see. For me though, it was the night sessions that was the main event. Friday night began with an incredible audio visual show from the Brazilian musician Amon Tobin with his ISAM show which was breathtaking at times. After a very brief stop to watch the predictably dull Lana Del Rey, the only disappointment of the festival, sing along to sepia images of herself, it was time for a long run through until almost 6.00am. It started with the absurdly young and talented Nicolas Jaar playing live, through to a DJ set from British artist James Blake, then on to the dance pop gems Friendly Fires, a BBC Radio 1 showcase including an incredible live set from British pioneers Simian Mobile Disco before heading back to another stage to see Fatboy Slim who tore up the site with some of the biggest anthems of the last twenty years for a crowd who didn’t want it to end but for me it was home time.

A very slow Saturday morning and some great day sessions with sets from Keys N Krates and Nicolas Jaar’s side project Darkside were rounded off with a superb DJ set from XXXY that got the Red Bull Music Academy stage pumping ready for a long night.

One of the highlights of the weekend was New Order. It wasn’t the original line-up as there was no perfect bass guitar delivered by Peter Hook due to his spat with the other band members but it was still superb. Given an early spot on the Saturday night I was concerned about the crowd but they must have had one of the biggest of the weekend and the mix of ages only emphasises their enduring appeal. A medley of New Order and Joy Division songs including Blue Monday, Temptation, Isolation and finishing with Love Will Tear Us Apart was outstanding and it was hard to believe that some of those songs were over 30 years old yet they could remain fresh. So there was nothing new about New Order but that’s the point, they remain so original that you wouldn’t want it any other way.

After this we had some disappointing live sets from British artists Metronomy and Hot Chip (who should have been better) and then a  fun interlude from DJ2D2’s AV show playing anything and everything before we got down to some serious business with the room filling, huge show of deadmau5, the deep bass of Hyperdub’s Kode 9 and a superb closing set of huge house music from Julio Bashmore. What a night and what an end to a superb weekend.

Sonar brings together the best of the past, present and future of music so well that you’ll always want to go back for more and I can’t help but go year after year.

If you ever head to Sonar, or visit Barcelona, I’d recommend staying at Casa Camper, a great boutique hotel with fantastic facilities that’s right in the City and with some of the best staff you’ll find anywhere.

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