More than the music: a review

More than the music: a review of Sonar Cape Town 2014

After 20 years as one of Europe’s oldest and most eminent music festivals, Sonar,touched down in Cape Town on 15 and 16 December. 

More than the music: a review

Day one started off on a positive note with Sir Vincent treating the early crowd to an enthralling set right from the starting gun. He warmed up the Cape Town faithful with a dose of some snappy Dub-step and Electro House grooves. The stage later exploded into a hive of high energy with the arrival of Afro-electro proponent Spoek Mathambo and his latest experimental project Fantasma. They ran through a diverse repertoire which brought together a concoction of locally-brewed sounds, climaxing into a high crescendo with their biggest song to date, “Eye of The Sun”.

A 60-minute wait for a performance is no biggie if your name is Pet Shop Boys. Kicking off with the pulsating thump of Axis,which the pair perform behind a screen which falls to reveal the Brit electro legends in spiky jackets,making them look like human porcupines. Like a lot of their long careers, the show walks a tightrope between pop and art. Much of it sees the Manchester duo perform in extravagant outfits (bright orange jackets with disco balls covering their heads) in front of especially-made films, which ranged from from Google Earth imagery to a dazzling lazer display. The set takes in a catalog of their early yields, right up to their latest album, Electronica, and finishing off with classics like “It’s A Sin” and “You Are Always on My Mind”.

Those with an appetite for an injection of bass got what the doctor ordered with 2manyDjs. The Belgian double drove straight into a powerful DJ set to send the first night’s revelers home with broad smiles on their faces.

Welcoming more fans on Reconciliation Day, the festival kicked into full gear with an extension of features and activities. Most music festivals are just that — festivals that start and end with a rad drunk party. Sonar sets itself apart from its electronic music festival peers by incorporating the widest range of artists under the EDM umbrella, all the while celebrating the vibrant culture and contribution of the hosting city. To this end Sonar Cape Town played host to the Sonar + D Conference.

Curated by Breathe African Music Conference (CT), the conference hosted panel discussions looking into subjects such as the integration of music and new technology, film as a proponent of EDM, and the growth of the Mother City’s electronic music scene. Beyond panel discussions discussing these topics, documentary films were shown on South Africa’s burgeoning influence as a major EDM market – Spoek Mathambo’s Future Sounds of Mzantsi. Also shown was Bridges for Music, a documentary showcasing a project between celebrated Spanish DJ Uner, the EDM music portal Resident Advisor, and the City Of Cape Town to establish a full-time music school in Langa township.

Taking place alongside the film screenings and panel discussions was SonarLab, in cooperation with Pioneer DJ. Essentially a platform to showcase rising talent,the Lab also provided a stage for local up and coming artists to interact and network amongst themselves, and with music industry figures. Performances from Cape Town mavericks Mr Sakitumi and the Grrrl, DJ Fosta, and Terrence Pearce spiced things up for the evening’s grand finale.

Crisscrossing the entire plateau of EDM styles, the international and local lineup comprising Fever Trails, PHFAT, Sibot and Toyota, and John Hopkins unleashed a seemingly endless bombardment of euphoric dance floor anthems to ensure that the final act came into a Sonar Club packed with highly-frenzied fans in front of them.

The Bloody Beetroots can only be described as out of this world. Complete in their trademark masks and leather tight-fits, the Los Angeles based Italian electro house duo brought on the kind of onstage energy to send the crowd into a high frenzy to sign off Sonar Cape Town 2014 as a major success.