It is always great to be in Barcelona and there is no better time to be in the city than Sonar/off-Sonar weekend. If you know me you’ll be aware I am something of a regular and this was my 11th Sonar! My clubbing itinerary this year would take in HOSH’s fryhide party on the Friday, Innervisions on the Saturday and Hernan Cattaneo’s Sudbeat Showcase on the Sunday.
It was good to see the Barcelona edition of Sudbeat Showcase back at its traditional home of La Terrazza after two years away at the Antic Fabrica Estrella Damm. Whilst I never went to Sudbeat there, what I do know is it is hard to top the atmosphere you get at La Terrazza, one of the city’s original open air venues. And of course, one of the best things about off-Sonar is being able to dance to great music outdoors. Situated within El Poble Espanyol, La Terrazza’s intimate courtyard setting lends it a proper club vibe. I had seen Hernan play at the club twice before and he did not disappoint so I was keenly looking forward to this one to finish my off-Sonar weekend.
On arrival at 7.30pm the impressive Nick Varon was laying down an impeccable warm-up set that really set the tone for what was to follow. It was the perfect demonstration of the importance of a good warm-set, getting the dancefloor in the zone for the arrival of Danny Howells on the decks at 8.30.
If ever there was a venue Howells was made to play, it would be an open-air club such as this – something I quickly discovered the first time I saw him play back in 2004 on the old, uncovered Ibiza Space Terrace. Howells playing before Hernan was something I expected to work well here. By contrast, when I have seen them play B2B before I have found them a bit too stylistically different. Talking of B2Bs that do work it felt strange not to see Nick Warren by Hernan’s side today especially as Warren had been in the city the night before playing Behrouz’s Do Not Sit party.
Howells picked up the baton effortlessly from Varon and delivered a signature set of deep, summery house grooves. His music built the night into a proper fiesta. It was great to hear out older tracks such as Danny Howells – ‘Laid Out (Fully Horizontal Mix)’ from his 2008 Renaissance The Mix Collection album. This being interspersed with newer, upfront sounds including music from Howells’ excellent new ‘Players EP’ on Nick Curly & Gorge’s 8Bit label.
If I’d have left the club when Howells finished at 10.45pm I would have had a great night. In fact, at this point I was actually contemplating leaving shortly after the start of Hernan’s set as I also had free guest list for Carl Cox & Friends taking place practically next door within El Poble Espanyol’s Plaza Mayor. Poble Espanyol was very much the focal point of the off-Sonar parties this year and in the above photo you can see Bonobo’s Outlier party taking place just above La Terrazza at El Monasterio.
Of course, from the first beat of Herman’s set I was instantly hooked as he took things up a level with his trademark blend of melody and groove. It was clarified earlier in the day that the night would be going an hour extra than billed so he would be playing until 1am. Leave the party after half an hour of one of my favourite DJs? What had I been thinking!
It was the third time I had seen Hernan play this year following on from Sudbeat nights in Amsterdam and the Ministry of Sound and he was particularly on form here. Early on we were treated to the soaring melodies of one of Spain’s finest producers, Dosem, and his track ‘Stay True’ on Anjuna Deep.
As is the way with a Hernan Cattaneo set, the music just built and built. Here he is playing Tom Zeta – ‘Catharsis’.
… and Booka Shade – ‘Curve’ on Bedrock.
Entering into the final 30 minutes and the night’s finale, the music continued to go up a notch. Here he is playing the Fideles remix of BOg & GHEIST’s ‘Venere’.
As the end of the night approached into the mix came the old skool sounds of Radio Slave’s breakbeat remix of Laurent Garnier & Chambray’s ‘Feelin’ Good’, a track I had seen Hernan close his set with the previous month at Ministry of Sound. It would have been a fitting track on which to end the night given the longtime connection of Garnier with Sonar. Garnier had certainly smashed it the year before at the 25th birthday (see here for my review of Sonar 25 and a retrospective look back). But there was still another 15 minutes to go and Radio Slave’s breakbeats gave way to the 4/4 beat of Garnier’s original.
Hernan then ended the night with Kolsch’s remix of Jam & Spoon – ‘Stella’, a remix of a classic and a perfect set ender. Having loved the original and in particular the Nalin & Kane Remix at the time of their release in 1998 I perhaps hadn’t fully appreciated Kolsch’s string-laden remix until hearing it now in a club. It was such an uplifting track to finish the night on – signature, catchy Kolsch.
As we filed out of the venue we were joined by the swell of people exiting the Bonobo and Carl Cox parties and so there was no chance of a taxi. It took an hour and a quarter to walk back to my base for the weekend and by now the body was broken after 3 nights out in a row. But it had been worth it, another great off-Sonar and another great performance from El Maestro!