Off Sonar, Barcelona 2012 - Report

Words by: Marcus Barnes
Posted: 25/6/12 11:43

Off Sonar, Barcelona from 13th June to 17th June 2012 -  Party Report Every June hundreds of thousands of people flock to Barcelona to enjoy its annual Sonar Festival – an arts and culture event that is most famous for its musical programming, which includes electronic music acts from all different genres.

But, while the main festival takes place, promoters in the Catalan city seize the opportunity to put on parties featuring many of the DJs who perform at Sonar (and a fair number of those who don't too) – which means Barcelona is transformed into a week-long party destination during this period.

Off parties typically take place in bars and clubs dotted all around Barcelona, giving those who can't afford tickets to the main festival a decent alternative.

With that in mind, I went to Barcelona to sample the Off parties myself, avoiding the main festival to immerse myself in the many delights that the city had on offer.

 

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Wednesday:
Easing myself in, Wednesday was a relatively laidback affair, with just the one party pencilled in to my itinerary. That said, it still boasted a huge line-up and was organised by two hugely-popular contemporary record labels: Digital Delight and Mexa. Arriving at Poble Espanyol was a bewildering experience, just ahead of me was Alexis Raphael and some friends, who looked just as confused as me when they walked through the door of the fortress-like enclave. It's actually modeled on a medieval Spanish village and was constructed for the Barcelona International Exhibition in 1929 – nowadays it's an open-air-museum-cum-rave-location.

Music echoed around the innards of the Poble, but where it came from was a bit of a mystery... confused tourists looked to the skies as disco-esque house boomed out around them. Finally, I found the location, right at the very top of the 'village' – I was met with a crowd of 100+ all getting down to the WiLDKATS, who were rolling out in their usual fashion. Plenty of familiar faces were on hand, either to the side of the decks or behind them, chatting, laughing, dancing and generally having a great time - Matt Fear, Rebel, Ben Pearce, Russ Yallop and Lee Brinx among them. Clouds gathered and threatened to literally rain on our pararde, but it stayed dry and, as the crowd grew in numbers, the music got better and better.

Notable highlights include Jesse Perez's set, which was comprised almost all his own material, Richy Ahmed who worked the crowd into a frenzy with an infallible set, and the closing set which was basically around four or five DJs going back-to-back after the closing time was extended by two hours. A spot on start to the week.

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Thursday:
Among the multitude of parties that were happening on this day, was Rebelrave at Wild Villa. Starting early and finishing in time for everyone to head elsewhere, it was already starting to empty a little by the time we arrived early evening – though the atmosphere was still buoyant.

In Terrace 1 Amirali was getting started with his live show, while label mates Fur Coat jumped on the decks in Terrace 2.

Wild Villa is all red clay and open air although the sunlight was slightly lacking just because of the way it was laid out – no biggie though. The vibes in both terraces were great, Fur Coat built up just the right amount of energy before Subb-an took to the decks and unleashed his usual brand of powerful tech-house. As we left it was pretty empty, though by the fuzzy looks on their faces much of the crowd had had an amazing time...  Later that night it was off to Esferic BCN for Life And Death & Visionquest. In the semi-circular building, Lee Curtiss was in action upstairs, while downstairs Benoit & Sergio had just come on. Torn between them we finally opted for B&S and weren't disappointed – a mixture of their older stuff ('Principles' and so on), with brand new concoctions made for an entertaining show – Sergio as always working the crowd like a seasoned pro. In the crowd Seth Troxler danced away surprisingly undisturbed by those around him. He later went upstairs to play after Lee Curtiss while downstairs, Visionquest maestros Shaun Reeves and Ryan Crosson took charge.

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Friday:
Just the one party on Friday, almost a sequel to the previous night – this time Visionquest teamed up with Shonky, Dyed Soundorom, Dan Ghenacia and the Apollonia crew at the Mac Arena Beach venue.

There were plenty of people but sadly the sound didn't reach as far as the outer edges of the crowd where only the bass could really be heard. A shame as the Apollonia boys were in full flow, cracking out one superlative deep house track after another, seamlessly blending old and new as they always do.

Dancing on the sand was a little uncomfortable, although we dealt with it and cracked on for a while until nightfall when it got seriously dark and our legs couldn't handle the sand anymore. Rave fatigue took hold and took the daredevil motorway route back home.

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Saturday:
This was supposed to be the big one, Seth Troxler and Guy Gerber playing back-to-back at a pool party... it sounded like a dream come true. Sadly though, the event was marred before it even began when local authorities decided to shut down the venue it was originally supposed to be held at, which meant a last-minute change of location.

Regardless there was still a good 500-1000 people at the party when we arrived (after a frustrating cab ride with a driver who had no idea where he was going). The weather was blissful, as were the surroundings and all was well – apart from a ridiculous system at the bar which meant you had to queue up to pre-pay for your drinks, then get a receipt which bar staff would use to mark off the drinks you'd bought. Insane and very annoying. Bill Patrick kept everyone bouncing early on, while Subb-an stepped and rocked it, though his set was slightly marred by technical issues... these issues carried on into Mirko Loko's set and got worse and worse until Seth and Guy came on at which point the sound was so low that the crowd lost all its momentum, as the low sound continued a chorus of boos spread through the crowd while a helpless looking Seth Troxler gestured that it was out of his hands, he looked genuinely upset and even tried to use a microphone to apologise, but that didn't work either. In the end, the party finished and everyone left a little disappointed. By the time we got to the after-party it was one-in, one-out, so the night came to a very abrupt finish.

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Sunday:
The final day was the big one, the blowout, when everyone has a last chance to really let their hair down. And that's exactly what happened at the No.19/Social Experiment party that night – earlier in the day Culprit/Leftroom became yet another victim of the city's policy to shut down random parties, so plenty of people were out on the hunt for more good times.

This was indicated by the huge queues outside Almogavers 86 – inside, Russ Yallop was working the crowd with plenty of big tunes all mixed together tightly as you'd expect. Closing with Chris Mackay's 'Quit Claimin'' he handed over to Luca C & Brigante alongside Ali Love who took charge and smashed the place to bits.

An all-star cast of famous faces made their way behind the decks – Guy Gerber (who explained that the pool party fiasco was the fault of the organisers), Bill Patrick, Simon Baker, Miguel Campbell, Kenny Glasgow, Benoit & Sergio, Audiofly, Andrei from Droog and lots more packed themselves in – later in the night there were so many people behind the decks that security decided to make it one-in, one-out, so we took to the dancefloor instead, DJ and producers including Maya Jane Coles and Alex Arnout mingling among the crowd. Deniz Kurtel, Konrad Black and Art Department along with Dubfire all turned in great sets, Konrad's a particular favourite of mine - his track with Art Department, 'Graveyard Tan', a particular hightlight.

So, all in all, an inconsistent week marred by Barcelona's authorities closing down parties and organisers not doing their jobs properly. Hopefully a few lessons will be learned, or maybe the official Sonar Festival will be a better option next year?...


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