Martin's Saturday at Sonar

Devolution is here, as DEVO were to state later – and I don't think they were talking politics.
One of the most thoughtful performances of Sonar, occurred at the end of the day sessions – Tres' Blackout Concert #20. A piece based on attentive listening and the qualities of silence, was disturbed by some people's penchant for continued play with their techno toys. Admittedly, my inability to find a comfortable seating position didn't help either, when I caused (what seemed like) an almighty screech when the soles of my shoes rubbed the floor. However, that was definitely “old skool” disturbance and the sort of thing that always happens (like someone coughing and yes that happened too). As I was listening attentively, I could hear the low hum of the “techno toys” in the crucial final moments of the performance even after Tres had seemingly (through the magic of a mobile phone admittedly) managed to even extinguish the sound of the Ramblas.
The techno toy culprit(s) left in the knowledge that they could say “I was there”, although I doubt they gained anything from the experience. A classic example of the “tick-off” culture and intellectual devolution.
Mira Calix's performance earlier in the Hall was accompanied by a classic simple abstract video – items being placed or drawn on the platen of an overhead projector and then filmed. A show I felt would have worked better from the sitting position (which many people did for White in the same space on Thursday), however they resolutely stood. Odd. I feel, the Hall doesn't really work as a space for these performances and I wonder at Sonar's bizarre decision to use the ambient/chill-out friendly Convent dels Àngels as a ticket office!
As well as DEVO, whose music deliberately stays uncompromisingly in the eighties, other artists on Saturday night were looking backwards too. Mogwai described as pushing “back the boundaries of post-rock as far as possible” could be best summed up by that immortal phrase “never trust a hippy”.The only boundary they pushed, being their scheduled time on stage. Our response – to explore the artistic visual possibilities of the building instead ;-)

Sonar – dia ultimo

Looking at the schedule, we certainly weren't going to be able to make a day
of it on our last twenty-four hours of music and multimedia in Barcelona.
According to my Sonar veteran companion, there are less and less acts each
year during daytime, and they certainly appear to have misplaced at least
one stage – SonarLab. It's actually been moved to the evening event, but I
miss the cosy marquee full of label showcases.
So, there wasn't much else for it but to post the previous day's Sonar
summing-up and hang about in SonarVillage listening to seemingly-Hendrix
obsessed French turntablists C2C. Their cutely-crafted and crowd-pleasing
assemblage fitted the Village stage well, being outdoors and thus the
perfect setting for the 'party music' end of Sonar's spectrum. It was a good
sountrack for finally soaking up some (weak) sun.
Our main event for the daytime, Mira Calix, wasn't due on until 5pm so we,
again, had time to kill. Instead, however, we took time out (of the venue)
for a spot of shopping and picture postcard pick-up.
I left Martin watching Mira Calix just prior to her timely ending, due to
slice-and-dice duties. Another storm rather of the teacup variety, although
this time my meal was augmented with tinned tuna to take away the vegan
taste. The reason for rushing back was not the quality of the laptop ambling
(and touching, ambiguous overhead – literally – projections) but an attempt
to cram a mealtime into our busy evening schedule. Although, as pleasant as
the set was – and it was, save for the odd spot of seemingly unintentional
digital distortion – there is only so much visual stimulation to be
experienced from one woman stood at a (very funky) red laptop and some
artful animations. I did leave feeling that this non-performance could be
experienced just as fruitfully in the comfort of my own (borrowed) home
whilst performing domestic duties.
The plan, after so-so supper, was to make another, more successful, visit to
SonarRama for Audio Kinematics followed by the Blackout Concert #20, en
route to the SonarBus to SonarHangar to indulge in some Devo. We made a
rapid dash up Las Ramblas to the venue, not arriving in time to take in
Audio Kinematics, but a few minutes early for Blackout. Eventually the doors
were closed and we were led into the smog-filled basement. “Tres' Blackout
Concerts consist of attentive listening to the machine derived buzz present
in the venues where they take place. During the concerts these sounds are
gradually switched off and create different moments of silence based on
their location and intensity. The concerts end when the maximum level of
silence and darkness is reached.” It certainly was intense, and far from a
turn-off for the 20 or so minutes that the performance lasted. What WAS, or
should have been, a turn-off was the fact that some members of the audience
refused, as requested, to switch off their phones. Others were insistent on
taking photos, and this undermined the blackout concert concept somewhat.
Personally, I found the time spent listening to the ambient sounds
(including, it has to be said, some squeaky shoe time from Martin) around me
gradually decrease around me as the gloom grew a welcome break from the
bustle of Barcelona.
Heading to the venue a little earlier, and the lack of a headline act of the
stature of Beastie Boys made for a much smoother transit. we grabbed a drink
and headed for the stage as Devo's intro music was drawing to a close. What
followed was a set peppered with tunes that I recognised from my misspent
youth, and whilst I appreciated that I was in the presence of a group who
had been a formative influence on many of my generation, I found their '80s
rock stylings and posturings incongruous to Sonar's Sound, and their quirky
time signatures and keys rather laboured. Once they stripped to their shorts
fromchem-suit looking garb, they resembled nothing more than a middle-aged
workout session. I toughed out the entire set, plus encores, and then we
headed to catch what we thought was the end of Mogwai. Sadly not. I shall
say no more about them, but I was not expecting pseudo-prog rock during my
time here.
Things picked-up somewhat after Mogwai left the stage, very late. Hip hop
stylings followed from Razhel and his cheerleader / DJ-JS One. We hung
around for hip hopper Mala Rodríguez (think Spanish Nelly Furtado as a
staring point, but with far more talent) via a stint in front of Black
Devil Disco Club, before wending our way back to the apartment to sleep a
little and pack-up for the journey back to London later that morning. Our
Sonar sojourn was over.
Richard, for Funkturm