The Sound of Sónar Lisboa
by Thore Damwerth
The warm Portuguese sun shone on my face as I arrived at the vibrant heart of Lisbon earlier this month. Sónar Lisboa was about to take over the picturesque Parque Eduardo VII, transforming it into an electrifying celebration of diverse electronic sounds. Overlooking the city, with a glimpse of the river flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, the location was truly breathtaking. I also noticed Lisbon’s laid-back atmosphere that, as it turned out later, was a pleasant balance to the festival’s wild parties that were about to come.
Sónar Lisboa, a festival that is known for blending technology and creativity with advanced electronic music, has been held in Barcelona and various other cities around the world for the past 30 years, but this time Lisbon marked the second edition as as a location. This made me even more excited to dive into a fresh experience of discovery and inspiration within the electronic music sphere, in which I was about to explore the scene’s talents from the underground and pioneers.
A look at the lineup with its over 50 performances and DJ sets already promised a diverse range of electronic music covering the entire spectrum of the genre, but Sónar Lisboa offered more than just sound exploration. The festival’s program Sónar +D, which emphasizes art, music, science, and technology, held inspiring talks and a large-scale audiovisual exhibition.
Dressed in tank tops and baggy pants, my friend and I made our way to one of the four festival stages on the first night. Connected to a vast botanical garden, SónarHall had a tropical jungle vibe that suited a fast-paced and industrial yet playful set by VTSS. That same night, the visceral sounds of I Hate Models blended irresistible techno with trance for a Sónar-exclusive performance, keeping us captivated until the early morning hours.
After exploring Lisbon’s colorful streets and charming energy the next day, we were ready for another round of dance and euphoria. With the sun shining on an outside stage, we grooved to Netherlands-born Colin Benders’ live performance ranging from glistening ambient to thumping techno – a unique aural experience. For a genre switch later that day, we found ourselves dancing to a back-to-back set of UK’s finest Sherelle and Kode9, combining her high-tempo drum’n’bass and Chicago footwork rhythms with his sound elements from jungle, garage, and grime. A highlight of that day also was Peggy Gou’s thrilling performance, setting a huge crowd in the festival’s largest stage, SónarClub, into a state of ecstasy with a set full of her distinct electronic sound identity from various genres and captivating Matrix-like visuals.
Later in the night, Patrick Mason took control over the decks with his Berlin house and techno sound and a performance of voguing, spinning, and dancing. When it came to the transition from his set to that of Herrensauna- and Bassiani resident Héctor Oaks, Patrick Mason sang to Oaks’ mix of the classic “Into the Night.” What followed was Héctor Oaks’ relentless, savage, and euphoric grooves in which we lost ourselves raving for hours.
After spending some time at a stunning beach near Lisbon to recover from all the footloose dance sessions, we returned for one last day at Sónar Lisboa. Berghain residents Cormac and Fka.m4a’s back-to-back set, full of Italo disco elements and brighter shades of house and techno, gave us a euphoric groove energy setting our vibe for our last hours at the festival. Amelie Lens’s powerful performance, true to detail, marked our final dance in the middle of a huge crowd full of collective euphoria, celebrating an unforgettable weekend of sonic exploration.
With the festival’s contagious energy and vibrant atmosphere, Sónar Lisboa’s highly anticipated third edition is returning from April 22nd to 24th, 2024, promising another unparalleled fusion of audiences, genres and creative disciplines fostering discovery and inspiration. However, this year the tour already continues on April 28 and 29 with the 7th edition of Sónar Istanbul, and culminates with the 30th edition of Sónar Barcelona, from June 15 to 17.