If you know me in the slightest you would be aware that the word Barcelona normally occurs once in every conversation I have, hence it would be no surprise that I returned to Sonar for the second year running this June. Sonar is a week long “progressive techno music and arts festival,” – what does that even mean? Basically, there is live music, shows, performances and art presented across every bario, and every street in the city, for one week. Of course I was thrilled to return back to my beloved study abroad home, but I was even more excited to show my Leeds girls where I lived (/where I did not live) for one of the best years of my life.
After a dangerous first evening of €4 cava, not enough food and various glass smashing, I met Chipz to finally get the keys to our new apartment for the week. On arrival at our “budget” air bnb, myself and Chipz were greeted by Armando, a delusional and joyous 65 year old typical Spanish dad. As he shouted in Spanglish across the street from a local tapas bar in the depths of Barcelonetta, we knew immediately the place would have character. It is safe to say that was a huge understatement, as the crumbling bunk bed cave was not what we had envisioned based upon his very well angled online photographs. After leading us around his jumbled cupboards of suncream and various hair gels, pointing out that it “sometimes sleeps 6, other times 10,” he told us most important of all, that we could eat his rice. Good.
At this point, I was panicking slightly. After bigging up this “city of dreams” for a solid year, this may not be what my friends were expecting. However once finding Armando’s spare guitar and drums, and looking out our balcony to see the nearby “Fannies” tapas bar, I knew we would at least have fun here. It was only a few mere hours later that our housemate Emily announced that she could play the guitar, and after a few drinks, she serenaded us, naked.
Luckily we had 2 full days before the Sonar events commenced to explore the city, and of course me being overly organised I had a strict minute by minute schedule. The usual rounds of Sensi Tapas, Barcelonetta paella, the Bunkers, W beauties night and CDLC were instantly ticked off. I was so relieved because at least if everything else went terribly wrong on this holiday, everyone had seen the view from the W hotel.
Before we knew it, there we were, in full the bucket hat and bum bag combo at the side of a pool listening to intense Spanish techno with a goblet of Gin and Tonic. It was then I realised, we really didn’t blend in. It was a sea of dark hair, tattoos, bull rings, and beards with a fierce first pumping action from the crowd. We were indeed, the token Brits. Bindis, blond hair, the Victoria Secret style swimsuits, bum bags and Urban Outfitters overly sized sunglasses.
As each day passed we saw less beach, less Guadi, and we had less Sangria. Meals reverted to Burger King and can of Estrella, and we only saw the sights through taxi windows when on route to far away fortresses of music and lights.
Although we had perhaps budgeted too hard on our apartment, the boys had left it too late for theirs and had secured a small golden palace on Passeig de Gracia complete with chandelier and champagne glasses. From the minute we set foot in the place we knew there was no other option for pre drinks or post drinks, and we were not inviting anyone back to Armandos. We were claiming it as our own.
6 days later and we were finishing up with the renowned El Row, a 12 hour Spanish carnival techno freak show, and no words could prepare the team for what they were about to enter. El Row is perhaps the cities best kept secret, hidden away in an open air arena by the airport. After departing on the El Row bus from the city centre with a collection of strange characters, it took us over an hour to get to the arena. On arrival to the car park entrance I could feel shudders of Marc Maya and Solomon music blaring from the largest speakers I have ever seen in my life. It was a sea of gorillas on stilts, firemen spraying water in our faces, Spanish ravers and multicoloured inflatables. They played non stop intensely loud music and fired a stream of never ending confetti, making it at times hard to breath. Besides Olivia almost going to hospital from the melted, ripped, earplugs that were stuck inside her ears, Ellie having heat stroke, and myself loosing everyone in the venue, we made it back on the bus alive.
In true form we finished up with a Burger King and desperado on the beach, watching the sunset behind the W hotel, with our feet in the sea. So here are my conclusions. Sonar is the perfect blend of beach, city, festival, and culture (depending on how many events you chose to do). You can party and you can appreciate Picasso, you may even send your mum a postcard. If your thinking about going I will most likely see you there next June. If you would like the do the 3 day pre tour, please book in early.