We have all just had a lovely time in sunny Barcelona at the Sonar music festival!
It's really hard to stop a big grin appearing across your face when flying up Barcelona’s coast looking out at the amazing view and thinking of what the Sonar Festival holds in store.
Touchdown and pick up in the glorious sunshine is smooth for everyone apart from Richie Hawtin who seems to be having baggage trouble. We are soon whisked off to the CCCB for accreditation where we pause briefly to have web cam mug shots taken for our passes – the award for funniest picture goes to Steve Beckett.
A quick drop at the Hotel Duc De La Victoria and then its straight down to sound check which reveals the full enormity of the new Sonar Night venue up on the North side of town in Montjuic park. Approaching the monumental building in our minibus is like entering the Deathstar gravity field. It seems even bigger inside and on entering the first room we’re like "soo this is the big room ,, where’s ours?” it’s only when we go into the second room which is easily 6 times bigger that we realise that the first room IS ours. Trying to imagine the main room full of people jumping to Jeff Mills is impossible.
The sound system is huge and crystal clear so checking it out is fun, the only tricky bit is explaining to the French lighting guys how we want the room to look for Russell’s set.
A few beers and a big meal later it’s time to head back down to the night venue. Its now 2am and Sigur Ros are still on .. their last track seems to last forever. Then we’re on: Boards Of Canada’s "Pete Standing Alone" cuts out into the massive room, people are cheering as the "Power of Ten" film comes onto the screens.
It certainly is a shame that Mr Pusher man couldn’t make it but as Brothomstates kicks into his MP3 set all worries are forgotten. His glacial, punchy electronics sound sweet on the massive, bass heavy PA.
Plaid come out on stage and kick off with 'Eyen' accompanied by its new animated film that has everyone transfixed. Then as the opening break of 'Squance' blasts out of the PA, people go nuts and Ed and Andy are grinning behind their G4s. The rest of their set is awesome, mainly songs from Double Figure plus tougher tweaked breakbeat tracks that work the whole room into a frenzy. No one seems to have noticed a ginger-haired head moving around behind the decks during Plaid’s encore.
Aphex starts off with a crackly, droning hip-hop track that builds and builds, before pulling off a mash up of ‘94 anthems and 'Super Sharp Shooter'. The jungle soon subsides into an onslaught of the hardest gabba ever heard. At one point there are loads of people lining the back wall covering their ears cos’ its so full-on. The constant harassing of the soundman on the front desk to turn it up has worked.
The room is packed as Russell steps up, evidently fired up by Richards gabba rinse-out he launches straight into his trademark screeching acid set. The guy on the front desk looks worried so we quickly assure him that it is meant to sound like the system is imploding – he seems to get into the idea of thrashing the speakers and nudges the level up further just as Russ fires off a distorted 2Unlimited MP3, big grins, people dance.
Sonar Day gives people a chance to unwind in the sun with plenty to see and hear. The downstairs Hall quickly fills up as we wait for Richard Devine to come on. He gets to work behind two laptops and soon has the crowd on their feet bobbing to loads of new tracks. His soundscapes are fuller than ever and when Swap Trigger kicks in everyone starts going crazy .. it sounds soo good through a tight system.
Leila and her entourage gets Friday night going, her nimble work behind the 36 channel mixing desk is projected up onto the screen either side of the stage for all to watch. Leila cuts in and out of strange samples and lush sounds giving people a welcome break from the relentless kick drums – her set sounds amazing.
Next up is Radioactive Man Keith Tenniswood with an endless supply of tweaked electro. As he bobs around behind his equipment the room slowly fill up and when Weatherall takes over at 3:30 the crowd are well into it. Andrew’s set is top! The sound levels are definitely lower than the night before but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Weatherall mixes quickly, keeping everyone on their toes and at one point drops an awesome track...imagine Boards making 4-to-the-floor and you get the picture.
We nip out to the open-air room for a go on the dodgems, even out here you can’t escape the relentless pound of the 909.
Saturday is pretty hazy and we’re back up at SonarDay for Felix Kubin and People Like Us v’s Matmos in the chapel. It’s very warm and the accoustics of the room make it sound like everything is in slow motion, with the beer flowing again the atmosphere is ultra chilled .. lovely.
As it gets darker the vibe changes as everyone prepares to rave again down at Sonar Club. The kids’ hero and Sonar headliner Jeff Mills is up next and we move down through the packed main room, there are easily 15,000 people in here.
Acid pioneers Phuture303 finish their set with an equipment crash, and try in vain to get going again, until Mills appears above and lets rip.
For the next two hours the Wizard takes us on a rigid and precise progression through martial techno, looking cool as fuck as he weaves around on the EQ and crossfader in efficient honed movements like a Fritz Lang industrial automaton.
Using less scratching and vinyl abuse than expected, the crowd are gagging for some Mills Skills, so when he cuts in 'The Bells' the place predictably erupts. For his last half hour Mills moves to the TR909 and metallic snare patterns and kick drums slice through the fog and sweat.
We hang around a bit longer as another DJ keeps the kick drum going. Hecker goes off with his digital camera to photograph the drug-fried mutants lying around in the half light. Everyone regroups for the bus ride back to the hotel, and while we wait no-one notices Rich climb into the drivers seat before trying to drive off - nearly mowing down a load of drug addled ravers. That would have been a weird end to the weekend.
Will Warp be at Sonar 2002? Erm ... yep.