Originally published on Monday, 22 June 2009
Sonar 2009 - Review
In the last couple of years, the festival of advanced music has struggled with maintaining its relevance in a world where electronica has gone mainstream. This year, the challenge was one of cut budgets, but the programme was perhaps the most audience-friendly of late.
New this year was the addition of a SonarKids session on Sunday, with kid-friendly acts and decibel-levels, but the main festival went back to its electronica roots, so no Madness, but lots of other golden oldies like Grace Jones, Jeff Mills, and a re-united Orbital. Inspiring vintage performances from all three, who - unlike many of the newer acts - played to and dazzled the audience. Grace showed that 61 is no age for an accomplished show pony like herself; her rendition of Slave to the Rhythm while gyrating a hula hoop throughout made a mockery of some of her younger colleagues.
The promised showdown between La Roux, Little Boots and Ebony Bones for the British pop diva crown never materialised. While La Roux surprised positively with a perfectly passable set, she was burdened by being a relatively obscure and unknown name among locals (a pathetic attempt at joking in Spanish didn't help her cause, either). Little Boots had the bad luck of sharing time slot with Grace Jones, so most people arrived with little idea of her existence and left the same way. Ebony Bones had no such excuse; a tired, luke-warm perfomance simply didn't cut it.
Other big names like Animal Collective and Crystal Castles also somewhat disappointed - the former failing to make much of an impression with a mechanical performance ignoring the live audience, and the latter marred by an inept sound technician - but this was compensated for by exotic, lesser-known acts who thrilled the crowds. Highlights included Ryoichi Kurokawa with his strange audiovisual soundscapes; the retro-kitsch Syrian Omar Souleyman crooning Arabic ballads; and Mulatu Astatke accompanied by The Heliocentrics and Congo's Konono Nº 1, who both showed that they know how to put on a party.
Sonar 2009 took place June 18-20 in Barcelona
Who's that on stage?
Gravity-defying faux-mohawk didn't help recognizability for La Roux among the Spanish audience
Grace Jones gyrating the hula hoop throughout Slave to the Rhythm
Grace Jones Hurricane
Stage-invasion with grace Jones
Anemic Animal Collective
Fever Ray showing off some Nordic cool
Orbital re-united for the occasion
Taking a bumper car break from the gigs
Some kids couldn't wait for SonarKids on Sunday
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