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Review: Off Sonar, Barcelona 2015

We sent a writer deep into Barcelona's rooftops during OFF week... against all odds he not only returned, but wrote about it.

Until fairly recently it had never occurred to me to head to a festival outside of the UK. My summer ventures had become so synonymous with collapsed Asda smart-price tents, lukewarm watered-down lager and getting clattered with pints of urine that I couldn't bear the thought of anything else.

But there's only so many times you can sit through another Courteener's encore before the futility of it all hits you; so I began to look further afield. This took me to Off Sonar in Barcelona, where a heady mix of sunshine and techno gave me the best festival experience I've had yet.

Of course, Off Sonar isn't a typical festival experience, with parties taking place right across the sprawling metropolis of Barcelona for a week, but the atmosphere is much the same. The venues are absolutely sublime and the city was awash with house and techno lovers from all four corners; an eclectic mix of locals and those just visiting. The high spot of all the venues and I mean that literally with it being perched in the hillside, was El Monasterio.

Resident Advisor hosted the Thursday night with a line-up of fresh-cut house selectors, headed up by Numbers' Jackmaster who, in my humble opinion, can legitimately claim to be the best DJ in the UK. He played b2b with Gerd Jansen, who kept the set moving along nicely, but it was Jackmaster who stepped in for the high points. Teasing strains of Adesse Versions' 'Pride' were littered throughout the set until Jackmaster took the shackles off and dropped it as the set reached its climax. Earlier in the day we had been treated to sets by Erol Alkan and Leon Vynehall but something about the sun setting always moves the party up a notch.

The same was to be said of Ricardo Villalobos' exclusive show at Plaza Mayer. The man enjoys an enormous following in Spain and his show for FRRC was an example why. A textbook exhibition of big room techno which took us through till 1am and time to head to the fabled Catz Eatz Kink showcase. I'd bumped into Kink in a urinal the previous night but failed to put into words how excited I was for his set. His live performance was a fitting sight after Eats Everything and Catz and Dogs had gone b2b2b; predictably, cloud generator was pretty special.

Away from the grinding techno, the festival had a few more tranquil moments. Mobilee is a party which has been making waves across Europe, and specifically Ibiza, for a year or so. And their rooftop soiree with Anja Schneider on the Saturday afternoon was a perfect palate cleanser. With capacity capped at a little over 200 and Anja, who I've written about for this site before, providing the perfect soundtrack, it was one of the festivals lesser-known gems.

There's a lot to be said for the grim reality of British festivals but the bigger, badder European counterparts offer something extra and whether it's On or Off Sonar lies right at the pinnacle.


WORDS | Jonno Coll PHOTOGRAPHY | Jaime Peralta Photography and Giannis Kokkas, Photography Khris Cowley - Here & Now Creative Productions

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