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Sonar 2012 – Review

2012 June 21

So I’m fresh from Sonar… well almost, I’ve had a couple of (much needed) days in recovery and thought I should share with you some of my highlights of this epic weekend and awesome festival.

Until now, I’m ashamed to say I’ve been a Sonar virgin, It’s a festival I’ve always wanted to attend and always had good intentions to do so, but it just never came about, however this year’s line-up was too tasty to pass up and trust me when I say it didn’t disappoint.

So I flew out on the Thursday morning first thing, straight from my Wednesday night DJ residency, I was greeted by my good friends who live in Barcelona that were kindly putting me up for the weekend. We necked some breakfast, a Coffee, then straight to get our wristbands and to start on the Beers. I’ll spare you with the gory details of my weekend, but my musical journey went something as follows:

Thursday Day:
Eltron John (DJ)
Jeremiah Jae (Live)
Thundercat (Live)
Kutmah (DJ)
Flying Lotus (Live)
Blastto (DJ)
Om Unit (DJ Set)
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (Live)

Friday Day:
Austra (Live)
Daniel Miller (DJ)
Jacques Greene (Live)
John Talabot (Live)
Nina Kraviz (DJ)

Friday Night:
Amon Tobin (Live)
Nicolas Jaar (Live)
Jack Beats (DJ)
James Blake (DJ)
Friendly Fires (Live)
Annie Mac (DJ)
Simian Mobile Disco (Live)
Brodinski vs Gesaffelstein (DJ)
Squarepusher (Live)
Nina Kraviz (Live)

Saturday Day:
La Vampires (Live)
DJ Harvey (DJ)
Ital (Live)

Saturday Night:
The 2 Bears (DJ)
New Order (Live)
Metronomy (Live)
Hot Chip (Live)
Azari III (Live)
Deadmau5 (Live)
Modeselektor (Live)
Laurent Garnier Presents LBS (DJ)
Julio Bashmore (Live)

As you can see, it’s quite a musical feast I consumed. There’s too much to give you a full lowdown on each artist, but here are some of my highlights:

Om Unit:

This was definitely the hightlight of my first day at Sonar, I don’t profess to be a big DnB or Bass fan or know anything about it, I won’t even try. Om unit DJ set wasn’t on my hit list, but when my friends dragged me over I was pleasantly impressed. Even for a novice DnB head like me, I recognised and lapped up a welcome remix of Roni Size’s brown bag that was perfectly dropped, I was moshing like a pro.

You can actually stream his Sonar set live here:


Now these guys were on my radar and their set was as perfectly crafted as I’d hoped, aided by a playful stage costume and dancers, It was a perfect way to end day one. Here’s TEED’s latest track.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosours – Stronger


John Talabot

I didn’t arrive on Friday daytime until quite late (I had a wedding to attend) but the Sonar day was a bit bland in my opinion, luckily John Talabot with the help of label friend Pional totally redeemed it for me. I might actually go so far as to say, this was possibly my stand-out performance of the festival. Slow grooving electronic nu disco executed with perfect precision in an exhilarating live show. I often find this kind of music is difficult to transpose from production to live, but the energy and drive behind this performance was phenomenal. A perfect progressive blend of synths and electronic instruments, with vivacious live drums and haunting vocals and the sound was crisp and clear, but hard just how I like it, I was honestly blown away. This track was the one which received the best applause.

John Talabot Ft. Pional – Destiny


Nicolas Jaar

Friday night started with some slow grooving downtempo atmospheric ‘blue-wave’ electronica from young Nicholas Jaar, one of the main ‘must see’ acts on my sonar radar. I very much enjoyed this set and was a great way to kick start Friday night’s proceedings, much like John Talabot, I was impressed with the translation from the studio to live. This is a big track from Jaar for me, one I very nearly put on one of the lipstick disco mixtapes, sadly I didn’t hear it performed, but here it is nonetheless.

Nicolas Jaar – Time For Us

Annie Mac

Fridays line-up for me was a plethora of amazing DJs and bands, there wasn’t a moment I didn’t enjoy but Annie Mac is a bit of a legend to me and I wanted to catch at least some of her set. What I heard was outstanding as she weaved in and out of various electronic genres. The big moment for me however was when she dropped a remix of Burial’s Archangel, I literally melted. An ex of mine (who happens to be a rather talented singer songwriter) introduced me to Burial in particular the track Archangel, she told me Burial never gets played out, but if she ever heard it, she’d probably cry; I felt compelled to call her when it dropped.. a 5am phonecall from Barcelona wouldn’t have gone down too well, but the Boy 8-Bit sample remix did. I trawled the internet to find it.. goosebumps.

Burial – Archangel (Boy 8-Bits Simple Remix)


Simian Mobile Disco

I’ve seen SMD play a couple of times, but only DJ sets so was mega excited to hear them live. I love SMD and ADSR was a hugely influential album for me, Temporary Pleasure was a pretty tasty follow up as well, so I was excited to hear them perform some of my favourite tracks. Sadly they missed quite a few (I think, though I was rather inebriated by this point so I can’t be sure) I don’t recall them playing ‘Hustler’, ‘I Believe’ or ‘Audacity of Huge’, however ‘It’s the Beat’ went off, but by far one of my highlights of the whole festival was their performance of Cruel Intentions, a song I’ve played to death on repeat since its release.

Simian Mobile Disco ft. Beth Ditto – Cruel Intentions


The Two Bears – The Bear Hug

Hearing The Two Bears play ‘The Bear Hug’ set Saturday night off perfectly for me.


New Order – Blue Monday

I’m not a huge New Order fan, but I enjoy some of their early 80s tracks, but Blue Monday was a must see for me and as the biggest selling 12” single of all time, it would be a crime not to see it being performed live, It was a pretty special moment to say the least.


Hot Chip – Over & Over

I’ve seen Hot Chip live about 6 times and each time they get better and better and this song never gets tired for me. It was the perfect moment in my eyes, the climax perhaps. There was a huge group of me and friends all together jumping and shouting along, grinning from ear to ear like nothing else in the world was more important than this song or indeed that very moment, it’s the kind of memory that will stay with you forever.


Azari & III

Azari & III were the main band I wanted to see at Sonar, ‘Hungry for the Power’ and ‘Reckless With Your Love’ were two of the biggest and certainly best tracks to come out of last year in my opinion. I missed them when they played at Heaven a few months back, but this was going to be my highlight for sure. I was determined to be right at the front of the stage when they were playing, but sadly Hot Chip and Azari had a crossover and my friends weren’t game to loose teeth to fight their way through the crowds, so we watched from the back. The sound was a little muffled and I couldn’t really see them, but just to hear their songs live was enough for me, next time however I want to be sniffing distance from their crotches.

Azari & III – Hungry For The Power

Azari & III – Reckless With Your Love


Julio Bashmore

Saturdays line-up was immense, It’s hard to pick out or highlight the best DJ set’s or the best DJ’s, but Bashmore was one I was holding out for and when I found out he was closing, I was dead chuffed and it was the perfect end to a perfect festival. He started with a chilled groove of nu-disco and deep house, stepping up the pace with some old skool and classic house, dipping into Acid and taking us on a journey into the daylight. Three songs in particular I remember him dropping and filling me with joy:

FCL – Let’s Go

Alan Braxe & Fred Falke – Intro

Lil Louis – Club Lonely



As the last note was played by the final DJs and the remaining party goers slowly vacated the venue, raucous cheers, claps and whistles were heard echoing the long corridor as people paid their respects to what had been an Epic weekend. While being ushered towards the emtrance and spilling into the streets we were met by the glowing morning sun, a smile was firmly cemented on my face as I joined in the cheers to mark my appreciation for what was possibly the most enlightening, thrilling musical weekend of my life so far. I’m already thinking about booking my tickets for next year… they’re doing a special price, you can buy your ticket now and pay the same as 2005 – just 100 Euros!!

One things for certain, I’ll be back next year!

Photo credits – pic of Annie Mac is from BBC radio1 offical site. TEED, John Talabot, Nicolas Jaar, SMD, Azari II & Julio Bashmore are taken from the Sonar offical website. Om Unit & The End are my own pictures.

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