I arrived on Thursday afternoon after a painful flight from Brussels airport. 2 of the 3 runways were closed off, resulting in a long queue of planes waiting to take off. Fortunately, they managed to cut back some flight time and I didn’t have to make Priya and Ade wait too long at the apartment before heading down to Sonar by day!
Sonar (€185 for the 3-day, 2-night pass) is my first non-camping summer festival in Europe, and I love how you can live in the comfort of a home and just head down to the venue via the metro! The weather remained at the low 20s throughout, which means it’s still cool in the shade.
Kindness properly kicking off the festival.
The entire thing was extremely well organised; we hardly had to queue for drinks or toilets. It’s held at a spacious exhibition venue, so it has a main stage in the middle, and a few other smaller stages and booths that spread out from main stage and “village” (above). It’s all very practical and easy to find your way around, but the entire place isn’t very photogenic.
I hardly recognised anyone in the entire line up, and it was wonderfully liberating. No stressing out over time and running from one stage to the other. We were happy drifters most of the time. The only band I wanted to catch on the first day was Kindness, and damn, they really got the party started! It’s just so enjoyable to see a band with amazing chemistry on stage, singing and dancing and having a ball with each other. The whole gig was very informal. Adam Bainbridge came down into the crowd to sing, and invited people up on stage to dance like it was a big karaoke party. Jets was also another DJ set that got the entire crowd dancing.
After that we followed Ade’s British friends — who have been coming to Sonar for years — to a recommended dinner spot. We passed the amazing Arc de Triomf on the way there.
The Spanish love to queue too!
We got to La Paradeta at 10:30pm and there was this massive queue outside. But our friends were all like “It’s going to be so worth it, don’t worry.” So we waited. And waited. And got in at about 11pm. And there was still a pretty long queue.
Very impressed with their efficiency. Before you go to your table, you pick from an array of fresh seafood. They price it by weight, so it depends how big your group is. I’d say it’s best to go in large groups so you can try as wide a variety as possible. We ordered prawns, razor clams, mussels, rape (lol) fish, and cuttlefish.
Everything was fresh and cooked to perfection. Our table was made up of seven people, and we only paid €15 each! Such a good meal to end day 1.
[stag_dropcap font_size=”88px” style=”squared”]S[/stag_dropcap]tarted the day off rather fancily at Suculent, an upmarket restaurant that’s also much raved about by Ade’s friends. As our group was huge, we couldn’t order individual dishes as the tiny kitchen would not be able to cope with bringing them out all at once. So we picked out 3 types of starters and 3 main courses, and allowed them to gauge the right amount to feed all of us. The indoor seating is extremely limited, so be prepared to sit outside if you’re in a group that’s bigger than 5. It’s shaded but some of our friends sitting at the edge of the canopy still got scorched by the afternoon sun.
All of the dishes were incredibly refined, with tastes that surprised and satisfied. The portions look small and delicate, but it was all very rich. So I was surprised at how satisfied I was after a spoonful or two. After all, it’s a place for one to appreciate how tastes are put together rather than chowing down huge portions of average dishes.
Didn’t take much pictures because I really wanted to relax and enjoy myself. The beef tartar on bone marrow was heavenly, and the strawberry dessert with chocolate and cream topping was sooooooo good! The damage? €40 each. We ordered a magnum bottle of white wine too.
Within walking distance from Suculent is the La Boqueria market located near the very, very crowded and touristy La Rambla street. It’s a beautiful place to see all the neon candies, fresh meat, vibrantly-coloured fruits, and… skinned rabbits. Eek.
Then it’s Sonar by Day again, where we caught Kiasmos’ super sexy set. We arrived late and didn’t stay too long, as everyone dispersed to get dinner and rest up for Sonar by Night.
Ade recommended lobster rice at Abrassame for dinner. It’s within the Las Arenas, the coliseum-looking building, near the Sonar by Day venue. The restaurant is located on the top floor of the building, which has an open air viewing deck overlooking the Museu Nacional D’Art De Catalunya Mnac. You don’t have to pay to go up, and it’s a great spot to see the sun set!
The lobster rice cost €26 each, and they cook it in a huge pot before dividing it up into individual servings.
I always miss soupy dishes when I’m in Europe because most of their style consists of either dry or creamy dishes. And this lobster dish — with its flavourful broth — was the perfect meal to satisfy that craving and soothe my inflamed throat.
I hear that the locals usually only just go for the night party, held at an even larger fair, exhibition-type venue, the Fira Gran Via L’Hospitalet. It’s not as accessible as the day venue from where we’re staying, but thankfully the cabs in Spain are affordable. It cost us about €14 for a 20 minute cab ride there.
And again, because it’s not a temporary event space, there were non-portable toilets and good facilities to cater to the crowd. There was adequate space, and everything was in order.
Friday night was a lot less crowded than Saturday night. It didn’t get any rowdier, but the crowd was slightly more dodgy on Saturday, and the regular Sonar goers among us mentioned that they’ve never seen Sonar this crowded. I guess we went right before its tipping point. Perhaps it’s becoming too mainstream for its own good?
Anyway, my highlights of Sonar by Night include Maya Jane Coles, and Siriusmodeselektor. Chemical Brothers was rubbish as expected, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs should just stick to playing music live sets instead of DJing, and Flying Lotus was so schizophrenic it killed our buzz.
The walk of shame towards the metro station in the morning as there weren’t enough cabs to go around.
[stag_dropcap font_size=”88px” style=”squared”]T[/stag_dropcap]he overnight partying wrecked our body clocks, so we skipped Sonar Day and headed out to Barceloneta beach for lunch. There were so many good looking people out and about! Definitely one of the main attractions of this hot blooded city.
It was way too hot out in the sun, and we were content with just walking along the line of restaurants facing the beach.
Many of the restaurants at the heart of Barceloneta beach was packed, but you just have to walk in the direction away from the W Hotel and you’d arrive at a slightly more high-end but still affordable stretch that’s slightly quieter. We picked Shoko, which had Japanese dishes and looks really tacky in a Los Angeles kind of way too. But the staff were so warm and friendly it made it all up. They were the right type of friendly — not over enthusiastic. We even got party tips from a waiter and veteran party boy who lived in Ibiza some time back.
The girls had paella (the sharing portions are ridiculously huge, so always order for 1 less person). The salmon avocado starter (above) was a winner too!
Then we headed back to our Airbnb, napped, and headed out for Sonar by Night round 2.
That wraps up the festival! Totally did not have time to properly experience the city, so I’m glad I have another full day tomorrow to do that.