In charge of the music and sound art programme at kunstencentrum STUK Leuven
I had never been to Sonar festival before. People told me it was amazing and that I should be there day and night. I tried, very hard, but it was easier said than done. Three days of concerts, expos, performances and party is a lot, even when you are in a Spanish sun trance. Talking to my friends, I slowly realized I had missed a lot of things I hadn’t scheduled for or which happened while I was at work. As a tribute, I made a list of all of them and promised myself that for next year I would do better.
Words by Valerie Steenhaut
Pictures made by Anna Baques and Valerie Steenhaut
On day one I saw nothing, literally nothing. While I was at work writing my ass off (I am an editor) I scrolled past beautifully posed pictures and super fun looking Instagram stories of my friends drinking beers and watching concerts of artists like Toxe, Princess Nokia, Dawn, Arca, Yung Beef, you name it. I heard it was great, as quoted by multiple people of all kinds and sorts, so I can can only conclude not taking the day of for Sonar day one was a huge mistake. Thank you friends.
On day two I was all settled to go, ready, prepared, ‘con ganas’ as they the Spanish would describe it here. Unfortunately, and because of a call of another boss I have (I do freelance stuff), I got there at 7, a perfect time, I thought, to still enjoy Sonar by Day. I entered, ordered a beer, went to look for my friends. It took me a while, as I had difficulty finding my way along the many dark and very intriguing inside concert halls.
When I finally found what was described to me as ‘SonarHall’, my friends came out freakishly enthusiastic and happy. They talked about the concert Evian Christ had just played, the king of trance, and how, once again, amazing it was. He apparently also played the following song:
What I did see was Floorpan aka Detroit techno legend Robert Hood. More beers followed as the beats raised and our mood got to peaking, higher levels. People danced, hugged, and they transpired a lot. Robert Hood reminded us once more we should indeed never grow old.
If I was a mess on Sonar by Day, I was an ever bigger one at night. The venue is so huge it feels you have entered a new society based on music and partying. At one point I even did a little tour just to take it all in. Friday night at Sonar was the one everyone lived for. We started off with the warm tunes of Anderson Paak, went screaming like a teenager at Cashmere Cat, feel in love all over again with Nicolas Jaar, felt the beats of Belgian Soulwax (Belgium forever) and ended it all with the elegant perfection Nina Kraviz until sunrise.
I was late again. I cursed myself for being this way, hated myself for needing sleep. After partying all night, I was so ready to see some art installations and designs for the future at a new Sonar by Day. I walked towards the doors, but was refused entrance: the production people were already breaking down the thing. ‘You can come back next years’, the nice lady told me, visibly feeling bad for me as I walked away into the crowds. I met a friend, he told me I had just missed an amazing light/dance performance by Daito Manabe, something I had written down as a definitely must do. I decided to get more beers again and go dance it off at Total Freedom, described to me as electronic reggaeton. Thank you friends, really.
Even though my entire weekend had been one of missing out on things, I was exhausted when we went to Saturday’s Sonar by Night. We got there at 1, and i could already tell people were either crazier, not going or planning on leaving soon, as the black circles under their eyes whispered to mine. I relived my youth again with guys like De La Soul and Justice (the French still have it), and was totally blown away by the two girls (finally, thank you) of Avalon Emerson & Courtesy. yet after that I could do no more, at 4, flanked by two of my closest friends I tiredly called for a cab, smiling, happily as he drove me to my front door.
If there is one lesson I learned from my weekend from Sonar is that one should come in prepared, because there is a lot to see both during day- and night time. Hearing stories and experiences from friends is a wonderful thing, you learn and discover a lot, but next year, I think I’ll just take the week off, forget about sleeping, and go see it all.