All About Sonar Festival

October 07, 2022
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© @SonarFestival / Facebook

Barcelona, Spain

Other, Indoor & Outdoor

XXL – 50k+

Electronic, Latin


Underground, International, Alternative

3 Days

Sonar Festival embodies contemporary art as it marries current technological advancements with experimental electronic music.

Its futuristic and eccentric take on festival culture manifests in more ways than one, making it stand out amid commercial events of the same scale.

The Barcelona festival was inaugurated in 1994 by Ricard Robles, Enric Palau, and Sergi Caballero.

On a much-awaited summer weekend of every year, Sonar takes Barcelona by storm. The sought-after festival takes place in a trade fair venue close to the center of Barcelona.

With plans to garner the love of varied festival-goers, Sonar spans two locations. One of the venues is idyllic and embodies the spirit of summer, while the other is industrial and raw.

Experimental music and electronic beats take center stage at the iconic Barcelona festival, bringing in electro-heads and EDM die-hards. From highly decorative fits to laid-back party attire, Sonar is a sure crowd pleaser.

Sonar created and filled the niche of hi-tech festivals alongside hosting renowned and up-and-coming talents with the sole mission of bringing unique artistic expression to the forefront.

Here’s everything you need to know about Sonar Festival.

The end of Tiësto’s set saw Stuart’s ashes rain down amongst the confetti | © Stuart Lee / Youtube

Sonar Barcelona is a love letter to contemporary art

The alternative mega event started with a passion for bridging the gap between diverse art forms. Sonar’s founders are established musicians, writers, and visual artists, which shines through with the festival editions.

In its 1994 inception year, Sonar was marketed as the “Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art,” only to develop into a cutting-edge hub of artistry.

© @SonarFestival / Facebook

Sonar’s attendance was magnified over the years as it brought in industry titans, relocated several times to accommodate raging crowds, and developed its concept into a more holistic event.

The late ‘90s witnessed colossal changes to Sonar, with performances from electronic music pioneers, such as Kraftwerk and Daft Punk.

What consistently makes Sonar stand out in a sea of festivals is its immersive events, panels, and performances, blurring the lines between music, technology, and entrepreneurship.

The festival is a siren call for devoted electro-heads

Though now a mainstream festival, Sonar’s aim is clear – shedding light on up-and-coming and international talents with an experimental take on electronic music. With over 100 artists scheduled to hype up the crowds every edition, Sonar proves that musical diversity is its trump card.

© @SonarFestival / Facebook

From budding talents like serpentwithfeet, an experimental musician and singer from New York redefining electronic and soul music, to renowned artists like Bonobo, the Barcelona festival is a feast of eclectic sounds drawing 100,000+ partiers.

It caters to hardcore ravers who want to be surprised with every beat drop and synth melody. Jhene Aiko-loving flower children who want to sway to familiar sounds are also part of Sonar’s audience.

As a festival celebrating all that is current, Latin sounds have been added, with Maria Arnal stealing the spotlight.

Sonar Festival doubles the fun

© @SonarFestival / Facebook

Sonar had humble beginnings in its first few years when it occupied the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, an art center, for day events, and Sala Apolo, a music hall with a club, for nighttime affairs.

The diverse festival remains divided into two main events occupying different locations within Fira de Barcelona, a trade fair venue.

Sonar by Day takes place in Fira Montjuïc, situated atop a hill and surrounded by elements of Spanish heritage. While enjoying the summer breeze is essential, Sonar by Night comes to life in Fira Gran Via, a cutting-edge space.

The options are unlimited at Sonar

With dedicated venues, the festival’s stages get more elaborate each summer. Fira Montjuïc’s SonarVillage is the largest and only open-air stage at Sonar by Day, where groovy electro-pop entertains partiers.

Alongside the outdoor setting is SonarHall, a draped venue where Björk held an iconic performance in 2002 with backdrops of captivating visuals. SonarPark is the newest addition, bringing innovative sounds and hard-hitting beats in a Sonar by Day intimate location.

© @SonarFestival / Facebook

Things get wild and edgy at Sonar by Night when the sun sets. SonarClub is a covered rave house where 15,000 festival-goers release their inhibitions and relish in its larger-than-life energy. Fun fact – SonarClub is where Kraftwerk brought back the synthwave of the ‘80s to Barcelona.

If you’re looking for a laid-back ambiance amid the electronic madness, SonarCar at Sonar by Night is an immersive listening experience where music aficionados can savor experimental sounds.

The underground haven SonarLab is all about off-the-wall listening parties, while SonarPub is an energetic, dance-till-dawn event space.

Leave camping behind and enjoy the city life

Though camping is an essential experience for many festival attendees, Sonar takes place near Barcelona’s center.

Since Sonar Festival is known far and wide, many Airbnb options, hostels, and hotels are up for grabs.

Pro tip: the sooner you book, the better.

© @olgissbe / Instagram

Make your inner theater kid and art hoe happy

Circling back to how the festival is the brainchild of three pioneering artists, Sonar by Day is a hub for various cultural and artistic endeavors. Stage+D is where comprehensive audio-visual events wow crowds, ranging from acoustic acts and acting ensembles to NFT exhibitions.

© @SonarFestival / Facebook

Alongside the mind-blowing, tech-heavy performances and installations, MasterClasses, panels, lectures, and Q&As tackle current media and production trends.

One talk that particularly struck interest discusses the sonic effect we leave on the planet by Michel André, a biotechnology engineer. The events span Stage+D, StageÁgora, Sonar Complex, Sonar Mática, and Lounge+D.

Taking an esoteric approach to art

If our ramblings weren’t enough, this coming fact would take the cake. To solidify its legacy beyond time and space, Sonar sent a curated playlist of electronic sounds to an extrasolar planet, Luyten b, which is light years ahead of us earthlings.

Some artists who made the cut for the playlist were techno powerhouse Nina Kraviz, American DJ The Blessed Madonna, and electronic dynamo Laurent Garnier.

We can only imagine that said DJs will forever have a show-stealing story at family dinners. The playlist will arrive on the planet in 2030, with an online countdown website dedicated to its journey.

© Sónar Festival / Youtube

Navigate the festival like a pro

Like every festival, Sonar offers SonarPass (regular) and Delegate (VIP) tickets. With the SonarPass, you’ll have free reign over music events at Sonar by Day and Sonar by Night. But suppose you’re in it for more than just the music.

In that case, the Delegate Pass is how you fast-track access to events, VIP bars, restaurants, free WiFi, and buses to either the venue or other cultural activities organized by the festival.

If you’re on a budget, worry not – you can still access pop-up restaurants for daily and nightly affairs with the regular pass.

© @SonarFestival / Facebook

Staying true to its ethos, Sonar developed apps to minimize the irksome wandering around. The Sonar Festival app is available to all festival-goers and contains the full lineup for concerts and conferences, while the Sonar Networking app is exclusive to those with Delegate Passes.

If you’re a foodie, the Delegate Pass will embark you on a culinary journey worth every penny. La Balabusta by Ronit Stern & Mariana Maio blends Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cuisine in a feminist-orientated restaurant.

If you like keepsakes that serve as a not-so-subtle flex of your wild partying, windbreakers, T-shirts, and Adidas bags – exclusive to and branded by Sonar – are sold at various merch booths.

For clumsy partiers, don’t worry about losing your wallet. Sonar is now cashless with wristbands that can be topped up either online or at a SónarCashless booth.

Stay woke at Sonar Festival

To keep party-hoppers safe, Sonar collaborates with No Callem on an initiative to successfully prevent sexual harassment and gender-based violence in nightlife. The Barcelona City Council promotes No Callem, and purple stands are spread across both venues to handle reported crimes.

Alongside this inclusive policy, Sonar shows its dedication to bettering the nightlife industry by using renewable energy from solar panels.

© @SonarFestival / Facebook

With plans to be fully sustainable, the Barcelona festival localizes its vendors, implements a cycle of reducing, reusing, and recycling, and eliminates single-use plastic to a great extent.

Cups are purchased and returned to bars with a prized free drink for those who collect 10 of them.

Sonar Festival goes global

The Barcelona festival has toured the world with events of its namesake initiated in London, England, in the early noughties. Sonar lends the spotlight to worldwide, homegrown talents as it plans on expanding its altruistic motive of giving a platform for independent artists.

From events in Colombia and Japan to concerts in Canada, Sonar established itself as an indispensable advocate for contemporary art.

© @SonarFestival / Facebook


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