Sónar is redefining the festival experience via innovation and immersion

By Neshy Denton

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The idea of a festival sits differently in every person. Ask around. I gave up ages ago trying to dispel some people’s doubts on how these events can contribute to such a sensationally thrilling experience. Truthfully, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s about taking that logical approach towards the idea of being amongst thousands of people in a space where time finds a speed of its own, bending into an unbearable eternity for some, or a far too abrupt fun for others. 

What happens, though, when the festival concept distorts into a whole new meaning? You can easily park your average car into the usual slot in the parking lot – try and get a truck in there and you’re gonna need a whole new layout. This is how I see the live music industry, it’s moving at such a quick pace it sometimes forgets to tag everyone along with them. So, in a world where simplicity only thrives within the efficiency of time, complexity has wended its way through all areas of businesses disguised as the multi conceptual epoch. Where actors are now film directors, singers are now producers, record labels are now managers or promoters, then festivals are now… Well, where do I start?

There’s a particular festival which has managed to keep ahead of the curve. It takes a solid pair to happily bear such a responsibility, not only as a festival, but as a leading identity of the extrinsic advancement in what technology does to shape the live, electronic music today; it goes by the name Sónar. 

The Barcelona-founded festival emphasises a call and response between innovation and class. This year’s edition exceeds its own potential even further. Based on pushing past the hand-me-down manners, Sónar reimagines the initial purpose of a music festival and turns it into a complete immersive experience of digital creativity and AI technology in music. And if you know anything about the festival, you’ll be quite aware of the star-studded programme it never fails to deliver. Always offered to fans on a table like it’s an annual celebration of diversity; from electronic music to ambient, experimental, to drum’n’bass, post-punk, hip hop, etc. Intriguing, or tempting to say the least.

I bet you’ve already scanned for your favourite delicacies on Sónar’s menu. They’re bringing sweet heat to the event’s 31st edition. Paul Karlbrenner, Kaytranada, Sevdaliza, Charlotte de Witte, Vince Staples, Adriatique, Richie Hawtin, and more are decking in a leading stance. The lucky ones drawing in the sundown’s vespers will be hosted at the Estrella Damm stage with Folamour, Laurent Garnier, Kittin b2b with David Vunk and many more. Don’t forget one of our key figures from the French corners of the industry, Air will be performing their acclaimed debut album Moon Safari in full for the very first time. 

Amidst the vast sea of possibilities, breathing life into the space, one stands out conspicuously. It may be the 31st edition of the festival or the 12th edition of Sónar+D’s hub of innovation, but it’s the very first edition in collaboration with Printworks. Bringing the essence of the renowned UK venue overseas to be explored on Spanish soil promises to be groundbreaking and exhilarating. Everyone is eager to experience a stage known for their exceptional curation and cutting-edge audiovisual production in one of the most captivating spaces for fusing music and technology. The artists doing the performing honours involve Octave One, a b2b roistering energy from Eliza Rose, Dan Shake and Sally C, a live UK taster form CASISDEAD, DJ salute, alongside a handful more. 

On the other hand, Sónar+D dabbles again into the digital world’s extrinsic depth. Sónar lands an incumbent duty of cyber awareness in the faculty hands of this venue’s hub through masterclasses, interactive talks and interactive exhibits; leading figures such as Nicole l’Huillier and Marta Verde will be discussing the incorporation of AI into the creative process, a +RAIN Film Festival is to build an exhibition, featuring films that showcase a potential future AI-driven cinema put together by the university in Barcelona, Pompeu Fabra. We will grasp a new perception of digital ethics in the world of automated creativity and disorientating unbodied copyrights within the field of video games with Micaela Mantegna. The favourable insight on embracing these new technologies from a more inclusive perspective will be carried out by the writer, researcher and activist Sasha Costanza-Chock and, well, as you can imagine, many, many more. The appearances are a listful long but none are least in line. 

In a world where festivals come and go, Sónar stands as a beacon of what the future holds – where music, technology and creativity collide. This year, the lucky days struck are the 13th, 14th and 15th of June. Anyone ready to dive into the future; tickets are still on sale.

Sónar Festival website

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Cover photo: Air