There’s nothing quite like festival season in Europe. With almost every major city hosting at least one leading festival, you’re never more than a two-hour flight away from a weekend of pure musical indulgence. The only way to top a 72-hour stint of music and partying is when you can combine it with a city break in one of the world’s cultural hubs, and there’s nowhere that does it quite as well as Sónar.
Taking place right in the center of Barcelona, Sónar has become one of Europe’s most respected festivals, merging music, technology, and visual arts. Courtesy of the festival’s apparel sponsor Desigual, we headed out to the Catalan capital to report on the event and capture performances from a stacked billing including the likes of Skepta, Octavian, Stormy, Vince Staples, Bad bunny, as well as local up-and-comer Aleesha.
What makes Sónar Festival unique is that it’s based in the heart of Barcelona – one of the most creative and culturally vibrant cities in the world. This means that there’s no trekking out into the middle of a field, pitching your tent in the dirt, and trying to get by without showering for four days straight. Plus, after being up all night, you can spend days recovering on Barceloneta beach or checking out the sites if you can summon the energy.
First held in 1994, Sónar was the brainchild of music journalist Ricard Robles and musicians and visual artists Enric Palau and Sergio Caballero. Their goal was to host an event that explored electronic music in all its forms hence the festival’s tagline “Music, Creativity & Technology”. Now in its 26th edition, Sónar continues to draw in the masses (attendance figures surpassed 126,000 last year) with its three-day program of around-the-clock music.
The festival is split into two parts, Sónar by Day and Sónar by Night, which take place in two separate locations. The former is held at Fira Montjuïc, an iconic exhibition space built in 1929 located on parkland shared with former Olympic facilities. The latter and larger of the two takes place on the outskirts of the city in a cluster of huge modern conference halls that house four stages in total with the main stage able to hold a massive 15,000 attendees.
Location aside, what also makes Sónar unlike other music festivals is its focus on technology. Running as part of the Sónar by Day program is Sónar +D, a fully-fledged side event that runs during the day of the dedicated entirely to artistic creation, innovation, and experimentation. On offer are workshops, talks, and immersive experiences with some of the world’s leading companies in audiovisual technology geared towards connecting fellow creators.
Although there’s more than enough to satisfy all musical and hedonistic desires at Sónar, another unique benefit of the festival is that it sees the whole of Barcelona transformed into a party location with bars, clubs, and music venues host their own bills for the seven days surrounding the event. Known as Off Sonar, this unofficial continuation of the festival brings in even more artists to the city and often see acts from the main event play again at more intimate venues.
If a European festival is on your bucket list then keep Sónar on your radar. It’s the perfect opportunity to dance, play, eat, immerse in the arts and culture, and indulge in some of Barcelona’s best nightlife.