Sonar, the advanced music and multimedia art festival, takes place in Barcelona every year over the course of three days in June. This year, however, the festival branched out to hold a simultaneous event in A Coruna called Sonar Galicia. Having already attended eight Sonar editions in Barcelona, and curious to explore the northwest corner of Spain, I opted for A Coruna. With many big acts scheduled, a superb location (the new EXPOCoruna, right outside the city center), the thrill of attending the very first edition and the ocean in the background of it all, it seemed to have everything in order to impress.
The biggest difference between Sonar proper and Sonar Galicia is that there is no Sonar by day and by night in A Coruna. The doors open at 6 PM and the music goes on all night. The EXPOCoruna is a modern, airy structure and the Sonar facilities are well organized. (Even so, the SonarMatica exhibition was a bit reductive, presenting some sonic art installations that I had already seen the year before in Barcelona.) There were bars and food vendors intelligently distributed around the main areas, but on the first day not all of them were accessible. By the time Uffie took the stage, many people were still queuing to get in. Around 10 PM LCD Soundsystem and James Murphy, in his trademark white t-shirt, started to rock the festival. The concert lasted one hour, going back and forth between the band's new tracks and the old classics, but it took just a few minutes to warm up the crowd. Closing with "All My Friends," Murphy got the crowd to sing along and left the stage to enormous cheers.
More of the festival was opened on Friday night, including the state-of-the-art SonarComplex auditorium and the tiny SonarCinema, which showed music documentaries and Finis Terrae. On the main stage Fuck Buttons and The Slew featuring Kid Koala both delivered intense live shows, preparing the crowd for the techno-friendly night ahead. Not everybody seemed to be into Matthew Herbert's One Club show. If you didn't see him live during his Radio Boy days, it's hard to understand his one-man deconstruction of sounds; adding to the confusion was a tent and ladder on stage, which were left unused. Laurent Garnier (one of the few acts that played in A Coruna and not in Barcelona) soon got clubbers jumping to the sound of his live show, though. Saxophones, trumpets, synths, drum & bass and techno were all on offer. So was "Crispy Bacon." But it was the rocking bassline of "The Man with the Red Face" that was the triumph of the evening before Sasha took the stage and delivered a powerful progressive house set.
Flying Lotus received the first enthusiastic applause of the night for his set. Anbb, Alva Noto and Blixa Bargeld, took a slightly different tack to their performance. In the packed auditorium, the two veterans played with lyrics, samplers, filters and synths, creating abstract electronic arrangements. Air played their repertoire on the big SonarClub stage and 2 Many DJs, one hour later, took things up a notch with their set that spanned the history of pop music. Upon arriving back in Sonar Village, it was apparent that Hot Chip were having technical problems. The equalization seemed to be off and all their instruments were too heavy on the bass. The audio issues continued during the Carte Blanche (DJ Mehdi & Riton) set until a cable was unplugged backstage, and we were treated to a few minutes of silence and an impromptu ballet performance from Mehdi. Booka Shade had a far less troublesome time with their live show, with clubbers invariably cheering from the very first notes of songs like "Body Language" and "Mandarine Girl."