June 15th year in year out marks an annual essential occasion that may as well be ingrained in the Apple iCalendar as it is as important as Christmas Day – Sonar festival. The backdrop of Barcelona with its surrounding beaches and mountains, combined with 1 euro street beers, and semi-illegal non air-conditioned Air BnB’s puts Sonar in the running as Europe’s greatest festival. With my fourth appearance coming to a close, I thought it would only be right to conclude the 4 main reasons why a fifth appearance is on the horizon.
First and foremost, Sonar is not just a festival, it is a holiday. Long gone are the days of lying in a pool of your own sweat in Pula for Outlook, shivering in your sleeping bag at Bestival, swimming through Secret Garden Party or drowning in mud at Glastonbury. When you rock up to Barcelona, you get a taxi to your Air BnB and open a couple of Estrella’s on your rooftop whilst deciding which tapas joint to hit first. Pre-drinks are on the beach, and post Sonar if you are over the rave you can go to a beach club. If you decide you don’t want to Sonar one evening you’re not going to be sitting alone in a pit of misery in a field, you can get a goblet of gin in Plaza Reial with a 20 pack of 3€ cigarettes and smoke the night away.
If regular festivals are like hamster cages, Sonar is like a dog’s park. Whilst Boomtown and Creamfield’s contains you to a field bounded by metal fences with suspiciously drunk and young staff on guard, Sonar lets the hamsters run free. For 5 days straight there are 8 day events and 8 night events on offer across the entire city. If you go hard core, you find yourself zipping in taxis from the Pool Fact Series at Hospitalet, to the Park del Forum beach party, then back to the monastery and ancient village at Poble Espanol. The venues are like Harry Potter Horcrux’s, each blessing you with a little bit more of Barcelona’s magical party powers. You really need to catch them all to become the ultimate Sonar Wizard.
Another great addition to the Sonar holiday experience, is the people. Unlike the Essex pirate ship that Hide Out has become, or the shell suit mosh pit that takes place at T in the Park, Sonar has real life Spanish people there. Even our Air BnB host, who was a late 30’s father of two, handed over the keys and said, “See you at Sonar.” He then even offered us 3am hugs or a Whatsapp voice note in case it all got too much. No one is lying in a pool of their own piss, everyone has obscene tattoos and facial piercings, and people in the crowd are generally speaking Spanish and living in Spain. Dancing away you could easily complete a few levels of DuoLingo when learning how to find the toilets or order a beer. Whilst yes there are a load of red brick university brits wearing ridiculous “vintage” oversized shirts and Nike’s, we are the minority.
Fourth and finally: the ability to culture vulture. The Barcelona government have shown real development in their party policies, as seen in their annual execution of fantastic Instagram opportunities that back up the festival’s tagline of “Music, Creativity and Technology”. From the “Bjork Digital” exhibition at the CCCB, to the David Bowie art installation, to the Barcelona late light show – you can take something home to show your mum. The Picasso Museum is free on the first Sunday of the month, and if you stay an extra two days after Sonar you get to enjoy the Sant Juan fire festival. At least when the fear calls you on your flight home on Sunday night, you can open up your photo album and try and remind yourself that you have talking points for work on Monday with older colleagues.
Clearly I am bias towards anything Barcelona related but if you are into Vitamin D, exploring cities, tapas, sexy Spaniards and modern art – book the 17 euro flight out for June 15th 2018. Not even rain could spoil the mood at Sonar.