I went to Off- Sónar parties on Thursday and wondered where the Spanish people were. Today I hit Sónar Day and found everyone, dancing and smoking in the sun.
The new Sónar Day location, Fira Montjuïc, is an intimidating structure. The building houses one of the biggest exhibition halls in Europe, and the location has been separated into four performance spaces; the outdoor main stage, adorned with the festival's signature Astroturf "lawn," a large concert hall, an auditorium, and a Red Bull-curated stage.
The lawn is littered with groups of squatters and dancers, as Matthew Herbert plays from a DJ booth to the right of the stage. Inside, the venue is complex. I wander up escalators, halls filled with installations, small experimental performances, a section dedicated to "Music Hack Day." It looks like a science fair, or a trade show painted in primary colors.
The Red Bull stage is emblazoned with Sónar's red, yellow, blue and black. Synth-enamored Catalan producer bRUNA begins his set to cheers, but his equipment shorts out.
I head downstairs to check Herbert, and run into a group of my Spanish friends wilding, passing out orange and brown-flecked pills that look like expired vitamins. The tallest of the group, a Moroccan DJ, is ecstatic, alternately making out with two or three girls.
"Matthew Herbert is a fucking genius!" he shouts.
There's a Brazilian woman sitting in the middle of the crowd, I almost step on her. Her friend whispers something to my friend, it seems like she's asking him to grab her ass, but instead he kneels behind her and gently massages the small of her back.
My friends explain that this is normal. Another mutters "people shouldn't take drugs in the sun," as they dole out more pills in the sun.
Herbert plays "The Audience," the crowd cheers when the keyboards drop. The Brazilian stands, towering, and glides from side to side. Herbert waves, with a rare grin.
Former collaborator Jamie Lidell takes the main stage in a black trench coat and silver shoes, accompanied by a keyboard player and the drums from Bel Biv Devoe's "Poison." His music's not really my thing, but his live show has always been impressive. His voice is strong, he sings effortlessly, runs through tracks like his 2005 single "When I Back Around."
This is a wildly different kind of musical festival than any I've attended. The vibe's great, people are relaxed, there's minimal security, entering and exiting are easy. It's obviously much techier, there's more concern for design. On the other hand, the lineup is a bit all over the place, and the only act I'm really looking forward to is Kraftwerk. I head up to the Red Bull stage and check out JJ Doom, which is as weird as you'd expect. Doom hardly moves, the sound is murky, it's hard to tell what's going on.
I run into the Warp Records crew, who had a late night with the Numbers guys, and vaguely regret calling it a night when I did. I head outside again for Modeselektor, who play a goofy, entertaining set, Sebastian Szary alternately holding up a lighter and flipping us off.
In the crowd, my Spanish crew has grown to include five or six Icelanders, people come and go, it's about a dozen people, including a shady-looking couple. The girl looks like she's recovering from Rhinoplasty, and the guy tries to steal my friend's phone. It's Barcelona, anyone can get robbed.
A short scuffle ensues, while Szary enquires "Barcelona, do want some champagne?" Modeselektor spray the crowd, then perform their remix of Bjork's duet with Antony Hegarty, "Dull Flame of Desire." Gernot Bronsert, the bald-headed member of the group, plays Antony, while Szary crawls across the decks, mouthing Bjork.
They close with a new Moderat song with a giant, swerving bassline, Szary rocks his 909 on its side, and my Morroccan friend has completely forgotten about the attempted theft, he's dancing, making out with a different girl.
I've lost track of time. My friends have run through their pills, so they're doing coke on the lawn. It's after 10PM, Kraftwerk are on shortly, across town, but now these guys want to eat. I see them sitting at a bar, staring at their food. I'm not up for it. I just want to see Kraftwerk, but the shuttle line to the Night venue at Fira Gran Via L'Hospitalet looks like airport security, so I head for the metro.
I buy things along the way, cigarettes, soda water, a couple of gin minis, gum. I check the schedule, I have some time to kill before Kraftwerk. I take a seat at a small bar, wolf a mealy tortilla de patatas, wash down a warm beer. The bar patrons don't care about Sónar, they're watching Barça Regal lose to Real Madrid.
There are no cabs. I see the Spanish crew loitering in a hotel bar as I head to the metro, so I stop in to say hi. The girl with the big eyes insists I come to their apartment, they're all heading to Kraftwerk next. I still have some time, so I pile into their car.
We drink beer at an apartment in Gràcia, an upscale neighborhood, and play pool jams, there's a whole squad. The Icelander has lost her friends to a drug buy. The big-eyed girl who insisted I come is asleep on a couch. I check my phone. Texts about Kraftwerk, we'll never make it. I should have rolled solo. I should have left earlier. Did I really need to watch that whole Modeselektor set? A million anxieties.
I'm trying to motivate a group that doesn't want to be motivated, they're buying Sónar Night tickets on the phone, doing lines, smoking. I drink three beers before they've touched one.
I ask two girls if they're planning to check Skrillex, imitate his hair, but they've never heard of him. They can't understand his name. I'm interested to see what happens. He's not as popular in Spain as I would have expected. I want to know how he'll adjust his set perform for Sónar, if people will stay, what they'll think.
We finally hit the road, and once again there's an extremely minimal security presence at the venue, no searching or pat-downs. The Night location consists of several huge airport hangars, There are bumper cars.
We've missed Kraftwerk completely. I've never seen them, maybe I never will. Having two locations is different too. It allows for people to take a break, eat, change scenery, but it also means planning ahead. I convince the group to head to Oneman, and he plays well, ripping through tracks by Koreless, Prince, New Order, mixing slightly less quickly than I've heard him do in the past. It goes over well.
The venue is cavernous. I wander alone, wade through a sea of zombies, and catch a couple of things I'm not very into -- Two Door Cinema, Major Lazer. I'm waiting to see Skrillex. A toilet overflows, leaking a lake of piss. I decide to reassess.
There's no way I'm going to make it 'til 5AM to see what happens with Skrillex's set, even if I wanted to.
Ben Klock and DVS1 are halfway through a seven hour set across town, Carl Craig and Moodymann are at the circus-style club I went to last night, Villalobos is playing somewhere, as well. I've missed Klock and DVS several times now, so I head across town. I figure catching a cab will be impossible, but I'm wrong. I'm wrong about most things today.
The Klockworks party is down the street from Razzmatazz, at a spot called Almogavers 86, a club I've never heard of before. It's upscale, I have a wristband for "backstage," so I can stand behind Ben Klock while he DJs, although I'm not really sure why anyone would want to do that.
I run into the Norwegians I met the day before at the Resident Advisor event. Everything I've heard about DVS is true, he's a machine. It's uncanny. Klock closes the night out with a solo set, playing a bit warmer than I've seen before. He murders the room.
At 6AM, they turn on the house lights, but Klock won't stop. He starts playing house tracks, Larry Heard, four or five more. It's almost 6:30AM when they kick us out, we leave happy.
When I get home, my Catalan roommate is just arriving as well. He saw Skrillex play a remix of the Barcelona Olympic theme, in a Barce jersey, which, if I think about it, is exactly what I should have expected.
Theo finally made it down from Montjuic but now he's lost on the beach drinking expensive beer.
Follow him on Twitter for more adventures in raving - @badbarks