While Sónar will hit eight cities next year, the 21st edition of the original, Sónar Barcelona, in June attracted 109,000 electronic music fans from 99 countries along with another 3,500 professionals at Sónar+D, the festival’s congress area. With record attendance figures of 52,000 attending Sónar by Day, it was an impressive turnout for what would be one of the most impressive editions of the festival ever held. Mike Barnard was there to live it all.
Love Saves the Day returned to Bristol’s Castle Park over the late May Bank Holiday weekend with nearly 100 acts from the electronic and bass music scene. Put together by half of team behind the city’s In:Motion club series plus the brains of Glastonbury’s WOW stage and See No Evil, this year’s two-day festival was headlined by SBTRKT, Annie Mac, Eats Everything and Jamie XX. It proved to be another fine showcase of the city’s exuberant music culture.
The first Metropolitan Arts & Dance Event in Birmingham, aka M*A*D*E, kicked off over the May Bank Holiday Weekend with Chase & Status, Annie Mac and and Steve Lawler getting behind the decks. Spread across indoor and outdoor areas in Digbeth including the Rainbow Venues, with the backing of the GlobalGathering Group, it also included the regional heat of the British Street Food Awards. We were there on Saturday, May 3rd for UKF Live in the daytime open air arena and Spectrum in The Textiles Factory by night to see what M*A*D*E 2014 had to offer.
Muscular electro was promised at Bloc at Easter, and the Autumn Street Studios system was fully flexed as Boddika and DJ Stingray took centre stage. They were joined by Hodge, Rubin and World Unknown’s Joe Hart on Saturday, April 20th for a dramatic blast of sound from the underground.
Rune Reilly Kölsch has been producing dance music since 1995, but while some may be fans of his productions as Rune, his 2013 album 1977 released under his Kölsch moniker has brought him to new levels of admiration. The 13-track LP on Kompact won Kölsch praise for his melodic electronic anthems which sparked a European tour at the end of last year. The Dane followed this up by kicking off BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix Future Stars 2014, and was back in the UK on Thursday, April 10th for a live set at Vauxhall’s Fire.
The ambient techno of Donato Dozzy and Neel in their Voices from the Lake incarnation took on an even more engrossing style at London’s Find me in the Dark as their live show proved the main attraction. For two and a half hours their deep 4/4 throbbed through room two, a warm but increasingly intense experience that was a complexly-layered treat for the ears. Meanwhile in room one, there was techno for a good stomp with Skudge, L.I.E.S. breakout artist Terekke and Papers blasting out the tunes.
Almost year after opening the doors to their Hackney Wick club Autumn Street Studios, Bloc celebrated with an all-night set from Detroit techno original Carl Craig on Saturday, March 3rd. For the last 12 months the Bloc crew have been restoring faith in their abilities to curate underground dance parties with respected artists who always seek to develop their music further. Omar S, Clark, Juan Atkins, Green Velvet, Dopplereffekt and Marshall Jefferson have graced the warehouse space, but this was the first time a sole figure had taken over selection duties for an entire Bloc night, and it was a real treat for the Bloc faithful.
The London club scene got a taste of Berlin flavours when Junk Department presented a Watergate showcase. On Saturday, March 8th Visionquest’s Lee Curtiss, Tiefschwarz and Metro were joined by residents Marco Resmann and Ruede Hagelstein for Watergate Worldwide Affairs at Shoreditch’s Factory 7.
Brazilian flair came to East London when Kubile hosted One Night in Rio soundtracked by Miguel Campbell’s label Outcross Records. On Friday, February 28th iCan Studios in Hackney Wick became a underground house warehouse party with a flamboyant side thanks to the production gloss from the Kubicle ladies.
For the second Find Me In The Dark at London’s Corsica Studios, the power and pace of the techno was upped considerably as Shed’s alter ego Head High was joined by Pariah in the main room for two headline sets which underline the new clubnight’s commitment to the underground dance scene. The darkly-lit main room was again densely packed while Marquis Hawkes and DJ Richard took control of room two.
Ahead of the last parties in 2013 for Manchester’s clubbing series Warehouse Project, the organisers have been rewarded with a Best Club Series gong from the DJ Mag Best of British awards. They’ve welcomed 150,000 revellers through the doors of the Victoria warehouse over the last three months, but their New Year’s Day party will be the curtain call for the current space as they look to move to a new venue in 2014. There were difficulties to overcome from the opening weeks, but WHP has bounced back with an impressive series that notched up another hit when Bugged Out! took over with a three-hour headline set from The Chemical Brothers.
Underground house and techno clubnight Find Me in the Dark took over London’s Corsica Studios on Saturday, November 30th with Omar S, Kassem Mosse, Tin Man, Palms Trax, Free-Care and Asquith playing the tunes. The packed-out venue had a lively vibe that embraced a wide-range of styles reverberating through the intimate space for an impressive debut.
Radio 1’s Annie Mac may have had a baby back in May, but she’s back on the road with her Annie Mac Presents clubnights mashing up garage, house and electro with special guests. For the Bristol leg of her 2013 tour she brought along chart-topper Duke Dumont, singer/producer MNEK and Cyril Hahn for the main room at In:Motion while local promoters Dutty Girl took over the Tunnel. There was a lively party spirit in the skate park for the sold out night, though a chill on the dancefloor before peak time and an oddly off-par Annie Mac left the stage set for Duke Dumont to impress.
A new party took over Vauxhall’s Fire and Lightbox venues to celebrate Halloween with a headline set from Omar S and a host of jacking music in what was dubbed a mini label festival with a spooky twist. The Random Magic Halloween on Saturday, October 26th was packed with fancy-dressed revellers, including some ghoulish prosthetic efforts, a Michael Jackson Thriller-style and, oddly, a Julia Roberts Pretty Woman, while every effort was made to turn the dancefloors into a creepy environment. But it was the music that impressed the most with Futureboogie Recordings, the Classic Music Company and Horse Meat Disco haunting Fire and the Mirror Arch while JG Wilkes and JD Twitch – aka Optimo – played all night long in the third arch.
The first of three shows for Bloc’s second season at Autumn Street Studios was a vibrant affair with a packed out Hackney Wick venue enjoying a diverse range of electronic music. Regular Bloc spinners Joe Hart and Rubin were joined by live acts Dopperlereffkt, Legowelt and Dave Monolith plus Alex Lover Fever on Saturday, September 28th for an all night session which never let up.
FOUND Street Party revelers were promised an education in house and techno when Kevin Saunderson and Frankie Knuckles played in the heart of London’s financial district, and they left following an uplifting lesson from the pair. It was the second time FOUND had closed off a street near Liverpool Street station for a day of dance music: late summer warmth, a crisp soundsystem and an enthusiastic crowd ensured the party helped many deal with their post-festival-season hangover.
Underground electronic music festival Dimensions held its second year at Fort Punta Christo in Pula, Croatia from Thursday, September 5th to Sunday, September 8th. From the people behind Outlook Festival, it featured headline sets from Model 500, Mount Kimbie, Tony Allen, Gilles Peterson, Theo Parrish, Moodymann and Daphni spread across a beach, boats and an abandoned fort from 12noon to 6am daily. We were there in what would be an impressive four days of music
South West Four celebrated its 10th anniversary over the August bank holiday weekend with another two days of dance music on Clapham Common. Saturday’s revellers braved the rain to see headliner Armin Van Buuren along with arenas hosted by fellow trance star Paul Van Dyk plus SW4 regulars Carl Cox and Mark Knight. On Sunday the sun shone and we were there to take in the music.
This year Guy Gerber kicked off a new Ibiza party: Wisdom of the Glove at Pacha. The weekly Wednesday night has featured Gerber with special guests, plus glove-wearing magicians, shadow puppeteers and fortune tellers paying sacrifice to a centrifugal £150,000 glove. Michael Wright was in Ibiza for the night featuring Guy Gerber, Four Tet, John Talabot, Midland, Shaun Reeves and Bill Patrick on Wednesday, August 22nd to get a feel for the first season of Wisdom of the Glove.
House and techno has been the at the heart of club brand Eastern Electrics from its first warehouse parties in 2008 to a debut weekend camping festival at Knebworth over the weekend (August 2nd – 4th). It has been putting on collaborative nights and extending its reach slowly, building up to an event spread over three days and two nights with more than 140 acts. We were on-site Friday and Sunday to see what the evolution of the their labours produced.
After a year break, the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts returned with aging rockers The Rolling Stones headlining alongside relative newcomers the Arctic Monkeys and Mumford and Sons making a surprise appearance at the top of the Pyramid Stage bill. Notching up its 31st edition, the festival saw 135,000 descend on Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset, and proved to be one of the finest yet.
For the 20th anniversary of Sónar Barcelona, there was the promise of a new venue for the three daytime segments, a revised layout for the two nights and huge anticipation for an event that prides itself on innovation. Headline acts such as Kraftwerk, Pet Shop Boys, Paul Kalkbrenner, Diplo, Skrillex and Major Lazer indicated the organisers were prepared to mix the old and new, while the introduction of Sónar+D offered more interactive elements than ever before. From Thursday, June 13th to Sunday, June 16, more than 121,000 visitors from 102 countries visited Sónar for an edition that sets it up well for another 20 years showcasing advanced music and new media art.
Bedrock has become a regular clubbing fixture on Easter Thursdays in London, and this year label boss John Digweed took on a mammoth seven hour set to see in the four day holiday. It also marked a Bedrock debut at Vauxhall’s Area, with support from Tim Green, Tom Middleton, Jimpster and John Barber, but it was Digweed who took centre stage.
Model 500, Juan Atkins, Billy Nasty, South London Ordnance, Joe Hart and Rebel Intelligence played the first Bloc London night on Saturday, March 9th. The latest incarnation of Bloc is as a series of 10 clubnights, and this was the first debut at the stripped-back warehouse space in Hackney Wick which Bloc organisers have taken on as their own.
A three-hour set from Cocoon head honcho Sven Väth was the centrepiece to the label’s London showcase which also featured a six hour marathon back-to-back session from Cassy and Carl Craig. The Cocoon Heroes Into the Magic night marked the start of December and brought with it a lively dose of techno at Great Suffolk Street Warehouse.