Yet more undiluted sunshine pours through my window as I awake on the Saturday morning, only too ready to gear up for another pulsating onslaught courtesy of the Sónar machine. By 10, I’m already numerous beverages down and find myself on a sun-dappled terrace somewhere or other in Eixample. I can feel Sónar’s imminence nagging away at me, as I attempt in vain to tan my wan British skin. The remainder of the morning is then spent trying to decide who we’re to see among the plethora of fantastic acts on offer and, come the afternoon, we enter into Sónar de Día again blissfully unaware of the equivalent wonders that lie in wait.
Chromatics are today’s hors d’œuvre, and they do nothing to disappoint, instead drenching the early atmosphere with moody, synthesised melodies as the sun caresses our reddening necks all the while. Kill for Love – the title track from the statesiders’ breakthrough fourth full-length – is a song which positively yearns for such a setting as with arms raised aloft, there doesn’t appear to be a single soul failing to relish the lightly beer-soaked warmth of Ruth Radelet’s beguiling vocal delivery. Sónar’s welcoming embrace, under her jurisdiction, compels and holds us close.
The performance a mélange of old and new, although a fair few are only here due to the fame afforded the Portland troop following on from their contribution to the Drive soundtrack, the set impresses absolutely universally. Though as they depart, I dive deeper into the crowd for Saturday’s next offer.
London duo AlunaGeorge are the day’s unprecedented surprise: as though from nowhere, the otherworldly Aluna Francis emerges and proceeds to enthral with her seductive combo of bedazzling clothing, beautiful vocal execution and faultless presence. We stand, mouths uniformly agape, as she and George Reid tear through hit upon hit with Attracting Flies, You Know You Like It and Your Drums, Your Love all engendering frenzy although it’s the lattermost which most insistently pricks the ear. Incontrovertibly impressive, one less than innocent bystander yells: “She’s like a fucking good Rihanna, that’s talented and without all the shit!” A bold, and indeed brash claim but it’s quite so. And bravo AlunaGeorge, for theirs is a truly stellar performance to readily elevate the day’s entertainment to new highs.
Myself and my fellow montréalais then reconvene under the sultry, if never oppressive beats of Nacho Marco in order to wind down. An artist about whom I know absolutely nothing although enjoyed immensely, it’s with the sun expeditiously setting that we venture into the night. And what a night it would prove to be…
Neil Tennant’s Pet Shop Boys were Sónar de Noche’s first offering this time around. I last saw them delight and deftly lay Primavera Sound to waste now three years ago, and was unfeasibly excited to see them enthral similarly in Sónar’s bespoke warehouse setting. And in contrast to Kraftwerk some twenty-four hours ago, they astound almost reliably. Their stage embellishment never quite as appealing as that of their 2010 tour, the music is thankfully more than matched, with the London duo upping the tempo and raising the bar ideally for Sónar’s eternally insatiable audience. Smash after smash, the ‘Boys eventually hit us with a stunning trifecta to close, composed of It’s a Sin, Go West and last but by no means least, West End Girls. You would imagine that, at the fragile old age of fifty-eight and fifty-three respectively, Tennant and longstanding accomplice Chris Lowe would know exactly how to hand-deliver their monumental back catalogue and indeed they most certainly do. And camp as any which festive season, as we begin to jump in unison and sing as one at searing volume, they quite indubitably represent the best possible welcome into an evening of unadulterated bedlam.
Breakbot is up next on the agenda, although I personally am left feeling all but entirely ambivalent toward the beats that this particular bot breaks and if he may have an outstanding light show in tow, then the music itself – the ostensible focal point of it all – swiftly degenerates into little more than the substandard background glitch to which we planned the swiftly dwindling remainder of our debauchery.
Nonetheless Breakbot’s finale heralds – albeit inadvertently – a significant milestone in my life, for up next are a pair requiring of no explanation whatsoever. 2manydjs. I’d hankered to catch the Belgian buggers rip it up and start again for six years or so and cometh the hour, cometh the men. Two sonorous booms prelude a shower of confetti as the Dewaele sibs spawn a monster splurged right out across the floor. We’re only too expectant of the resultant hour, a voice of reason whispering in my right ear: “This is right where I need to be right now. Wow.” From then on, not one of us moves from our spot. Feet lift and sometimes lower, but the Belgians put not a foot wrong: hypnotically repetitive, it’s now all but impossible to recall the numbers they opt to grace us with although it’s ultimately insignificant, for the show as a whole proved totally exemplary.
Paul Kalkbrenner was another name I had heard of so many times previously in life’s great voyage, only to blindly nod and smirk with nary a veil of knowledge as to his output. Though how negligent I had been, for Kalkbrenner proved to be Sónar’s next smacking treat for my only too eager ears. As already confessed, my knowledge of his work is woefully lacking. Nonetheless what I can readily assure the similarly uninitiated is that, since this year’s edition, not one day has passed without his music soundtracking every last facet of my continued existence. An abiding memory endures of Dockyard blaring full pelt from SónarClub’s colossal speakers, allowing for a surging wave of joy to wash through the crowd as we shuffle thalassic. Should the chance to see Kalkbrenner ever again arise – as I’m sure it soon will – I will forever endeavour to be there.
And it was thus that Sónar 2013 drew to a close. All too soon, for I sit here still dreaming of Barcelona, its impeccable weather, and that interminable pulse of the purely electronic. That this was the festival’s 20th anniversary is sheer testament to its enduring excellence, for this really is one of Europe’s exceptional events and long may it continue to be categorised as such. From the night’s unrelenting thrust to the sublime daytime goings-on that provide light tonic to a full evening and early morning’s mayhem, Sónar remains a highlight of my year – each and every year. Congratulations Sónar, and many happy returns. You did it again. Now if only you could add a third night, the addiction to the unrelenting beat would be that little bit better satiated.
Until next time Barça, and may it come sooner rather than later.