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Sónar 2024: a look-back on three days of musical celebration

Barcelona did once more turn into the world’s epicenter of electronic music with the arrival of the 31st edition of the Sónar Festival and everything that comes along with the event. The city becomes one pulsating organism where everything revolves around the music which continues to play 24 hours a day in different locations all over town.

Photo Credit: Ariel  Martini / Nerea CollClara Orozco / Dani  Cantó

It was clear that the organizers had listened to the feedback of the attendees after last year’s heat wave in June, which created the feeling of being inside a greenhouse in the SónarVillage, and opened up the tent in several places for this edition in order to facilitate the circulation of air. This, in combination with much more pleasant temperatures this season and other organizational improvements, created a truly positive experience for the festival-goers.

But we’re not here to talk about shorter bar queues or free water stations. We’re here to dissect what truly matters – the music, the vibes, the performances – so let’s dive right in.

Thursday was the perfect day to get settled in, nice and easy with only the daytime schedule which was plenty, given that it was a school night. It offered both local artists, such as Barcelona’s own Meritxell de Soto with her deconstructed club sound and mesmerizing performances, as well as international guests like the incredibly talented ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U. The Japanese artist mixes just about any genre as naturally as breathing and the turnout for his set was, as expected, massive.

The SonarVillage closing came by the hand of the French rising star Folamour, who presented his new A/V show, bursting with his unique and joyful sound of house and disco mixed with afro rhythms, funk, and that special French touch.

The Friday lineup was “as Sónar as it gets” with both the day and night slots spanning across a wide variety of genres and subgenres which offers the crowd the chance of discovering talents they might have never heard of before. The daytime parties had a strong, urban presence through artists like Coco Em, a Nairobi-based DJ and producer, whose set made us dig along to tunes full of hip-hop, breakbeat, and dancehall influences.

Kenyan artist Kabeaushé, also known as simply “Shé”, brought the weirdness and energy we didn’t know we needed and pulled off a show dressed in a red velvet matador suit. His constant interactions with the crowd, making us sit down, divide into two camps, and jump around like maniacs, made the 40-minute live set fly by and leave us wanting more.

Other top performances on Friday afternoon and evening included Marie Davidson’s live set on the SonarPark stage where the Canadian musician presented her latest album which is said to be inspired by literature and comedy. There was also the half-Egyptian, half-Australian rising star moktar (yes, with a non-capital m) who closed the SonarVillage in style with his very personal club sound full of Arabic influences, which are a product of his many encounters with racism in his younger years.

But the main course of the day shift, and arguably the entire festival, was without a doubt Laurent Garnier’s sundowner set. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve seen him play, or how deeply aware we are of his finesse and ease with which he moves seamlessly across genres, old classics, and unreleased gems – it’s equally jaw-droppingly impressive every single time. The Frenchman has been one of the staples of the festival since its very first edition in 1994 but there are whispers about this year being his last Sónar before retirement. Only time will tell but it was a noticeably emotional man who stepped out of the booth to receive the roar of appreciation from the crowd after the final tunes of his last track which, in itself, ripped our souls apart and left our vision slightly blurry.

The Friday night shift was packed to the brim with “must-sees” and fairly well-distributed shows which made it possible to continue with the eclectic mix of genres we brought with us from the daytime parties. Air played their debut album ‘Moon Safari,  originally released in 1998, in front of a packed SonarClub and with an impressive stage design where the band members were placed in what looked like an old-school display window of sorts. It was the perfect starter to ensure a full house already from the beginning of the night and a much-needed breather to recharge the energies after the intense daytime shift.

The French band was directly followed by Jennifer Cardini b2b Haai who certainly didn’t hold back. The female powerhouses pulled off an unapologetic ripper of a techno set, often flirting with trance and acid influences, and oozing of good vibes between the two artists. It came accompanied by strong Pride messages and the new Progress Pride flag on the visual screens.

Meanwhile, on the brand new SonarLab x Printworks stage, a fresh b3b consisting of Eliza Rose, Dan Shake, and Sally C was taking place underneath the impressive 6x10m2 vertical screen which, in combination with the lights, served major vibes of the iconic London club. Back in the Sonar Club, the time had come for Ben Böhmer to take the stage, and while his characteristic, melodic, deep, and dreamy sound would likely have fit better before the techno ripper he still pulled it off admirably well.

The founders of house label Toy Tonics, Kapote and Sam Ruffillo, reigned on the SonarPub stage with a jam of their classic releases before the turn had come to the 2-time Grammy winner Kaytranada, one of the most awaited performances of the night. From here onwards it was pretty much full throttle until the end with headliner after headliner.

Adriatique played a darker and underground set without losing track of their melodic core. The duo was directly followed by another Sónar veteran, namely Richie Hawtin, who presented the European premiere of his new live show called DEX EFX X0X which aims to take the crowd back to the roots of clubbing, rather than focusing on massive screens and heavy visuals.

While SonarClub stayed on the darker beats until the end, closing with Polish artist VTSS and her characteristic hard dance sound mixing techno with acid, breakbeat, hardcore, and electro, the SonarPub stayed on a more groovy path with a double-serving of house vibes. Italian superstar – and a well-known Sónar face by now – DJ Tennis was back at the festival again, followed by the living house legend Danny Tenaglia, who wrapped up a truly remarkable second day.

The Saturday lineup was definitely not for the faint of heart, promising high-bpm counts and darker beats. The daytime offered a very Sónar-esque mix of new and old with techno veterans like Kittin and David Vunk right after the Estonian rapper TOMMY CASH and the galloping sensation horsegiirL. Her Eurodance performance dressed in a horse head mask opened up heated debates among the festival-goers with passionate advocates both pro and against this new phenomenon.

At night, Barcelona-based Raxon opened up the SonarClub with his own characteristic sound, making the home crowd bounce along to his latest banger ‘This Is The Way’, and setting the tone beautifully for what was coming on the main stage. A parade of techno, trance, acid, and everything in between presented by global stars like Charlotte De Witte, presenting her show ‘Overdrive,’, Marlon Hoffstadt aka DJ Daddy Trance, and Reinier Zonneveld (live).

Paul Kalkbrenner served up some goosebump moments with his classics ‘Sky and Sand’ and ‘Feed Your Head’, accompanied by the close-up visuals of his peculiar facial expressions and impressive mixer and the closing of the SonarClub came by the hands of Héctor Oaks and Partiboi69 with their heavyweight battle which was, unfortunately, interrupted on occasions due to the needle jumping from the vibrations in the booth.

For those looking for groovier sounds, there was still plenty to see on other stages, such as the SonarLab x Printworks where Sepehr and Cinthie, both playing live shows, went for more of an electro-house vibe mixed with nu-disco and acid influences. Another fun detour from the heavy electronic sound was California-born rapper Vince Staples who returned to Sónar with his personal and honest lyrics on the SonarPub stage.

The same stage also ended the night with a triple-serving of headliners. First up was the UK veteran artist Floating Points, performing before The Martinez Brothers, who seemed to have adapted their usual, playful sound to a slightly darker and clubbier sound.

But the most spectacular show of the night was, without a doubt, the reel-2-reel live set by house legend Kerri Chandler. The American brought his tape collection and a (specially designed for the occasion) rotary mixer, paying homage to the pioneers Frankie Knuckles and David Morales with this temperamental setup, which he has described as “juggling with knives”. It was nothing short of spectacular and truly a worthy closing of this year’s festival.

And with that, all we can do now is to wait for the 32nd edition of Sónar which will fall on the 12th to 15th of June 2025. For more info click here.

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