Jon Hopkins by Matthew Eisman
Well… that’s all now done and dusted now for another year. Yup SONAR Reykjavik passed off for another year with nay a hitch (Well one or two little ones), and most of our reputations are intact.
So what did we like? Well below is the total coverage from The Grapevine over the weekend, spelling mistake, and shitty grammar aplenty! Go and click and have a good read!
THURSDAY – HERE & HERE
FRIDAY – HERE
SATURDAY – HERE & HERE
So in the end what were the pluses and minuses that can be gleaned from the festival? Let’s start with the pluses….
THE OVERALL PERFORMANCES: now this can be subjective because we’re not doing Airwaves here.You’re not stuck in one venue so if you get a bit bored you can be like a punter and go exploring. But across the board, the DJ and live performances I saw were really good this year. International acts such as DAPHNI and Jon HOPKINS exceeded expectations while many of the locals upped their game.
A MAN NAMED EXOS: He’s been away for a little while, and there’s a whole warts and all story about the guy and his exploits over the previous decade that one day needs to be written. But if there was one act that showed that there was something missing in Icelandic dance culture that needed to be filled, it was Addi Exos. Natalie Yamaho was brilliant, but I’ve gotta say that the level of mixing, set selection and timed drops we heard form Addi was on a major par with some of the best out there and definitely some of the best Techno DJ’ing I’ve seen in from an Icelander. Heck it was some of the best techno DJÍng I’ve heard in a while, full stop. And you could tell he was loving it big style, the way he was standing there, smiling and cheering the crowd on. He’s hopefully going to be releasing remixed and new stuff this year. I will be trying my best to my hands on the stuff.
HOUSE MUSIC IN ICELAND MAY BE BACK (It never went away of course!): One of my main bugbears with local dance music was that looking back a couple of years ago, the house scene was frankly stale as mouldy toast. There was way too much bland minimal house music being produced and played, and many of the older DJs were relying on tired old moves and classics to an audience that didn’t know any better. But the SONAR weekend showed that over the last 12/15 months, there have been major signs that good house music is making a resurgence on this Island. While they can’t take all the credit, you have to lay a lot of this at the door of the guys from BORG. As mentioned in the review, the three of them have the right attitude from the outset, with a clear identity and goals, as well as pushing in new styles, moves and sounds from good deep house to UK garage and footwork. All this has placed a bit of a rocket up the bums of some of the other DJs in the scene. FKNHNDSM was the best I’ve heard them in ages, while INTRO BEATS is turning from a hip hop beats man into a rather nifty deep house DJ/producer that took quite a few by surprise. There is going to be releases from BORG as well as Lagaffe Tales over the coming year. Lets hope that this can be built upon and people push each other to even better things.
LESSONS LEARNT: Overall the organisers learnt some of the lessons form the problems last year. They had a proper procedure with media passes this year (Last year was amateur hour over there). While their work at the bay view area venue showed the ability to change a venues sound and atmosphere completely for the better.
So what about the negatives? Weeeeell….
FUCKING DIPLO: Jesus man, he was just awful. A friend I know back in Blighty said that I’d find his live sets “interesting” and I did go to his live show thinking “Okaaaay, maybe he’s going to pull something interesting out the bag here.” But to be honest, everything about the man just sounded and felt wrong. As i was leaving another local DJ walked out with me and he was actually angry about what he’d just seen (“How can a guy that be so shit, yet so popular?”). Well he’s taken on that party hard/keep on slammin’ attitude to the nth power, along with getting the local women onstage to take some clothes off and “twerk”… and people seemed to like that. He’s the Slurms McKenzie of the EDM world. they can keep him. Not a good booking IMHO.
WE’VE GOT OUR EYE ON YOU (nick nick): Now every event needs security of some form. Something may happen or people get hurt or require assistance. This is accepted by everyone. But the level of security theatre at SONAR this year was way beyond anything I’ve seen for this style of event. It´s all very well organisers saying that the media focused way too much on the number of people arrested over the weekend for drugs offences (around 45 in total over 3 nights) but It was things such as the use of sniffer dogs on Thursday to the look the security projected (most of them had that look of a pissed of bouncers wearing leather fingerless gloves). It certainly surprised several of the tourists that I spoke to who came to SONAR this year. Add to that rumours of undercover security keeping an eye on comings and goings to the toilets, and it left a slightly paranoid taste in the mouth for quite a few people. Our bright future. Not wow.
SCHEDULING: Yup there were some great acts and some good performances, but there were a few occasions where the scheduling of acts made you think “why the hell did they do that?” It´s pretty much a science as well as an art and a perfect example of this was on Thursday at the bay view area, where you had Intro Beats building up a really huge crowd, only for the ’80s synth rock of Kiryama Family to pretty much bring the energy levels riiiiiight down. There were a couple of times you had things like this over the weekend, where you have dance music DJs playing to less than 10 people in places like Silfurberg which is DJ hell for anyone. That brings me to
YOU, THE CROWD: OK, overall you guys were great at dancing to music and stuff. And I get it; alcohol is expensive and the thought of having to go a whole night in a place that charged 1000kr for a 400ml plastic cup of beer filled me with dread as well. But on Thursday and Friday, there was a real lack of energy in Harpa over the first couple of hours, as people decided to wait until later to come and see most of the bigger acts who were playing. I found that this for me was a real buzzkill as you had are acts who in some ways are playing to no one and that sucked. Your apparently really cool party people who have this legendary reputation. Show it better.
There were other niggling issues about SONAR that made me go “Hmmm…” such as the lack of female representation among the international artists, the sense that a lot of the artists booked were from their mates in Denmark (SIX acts from there this year!) which seemed to show a slight narrowing in ambition and knowledge of what is happening in dance music out there*. Also some of the online discussions between locals DJs and the organisers about issues such as pay got a little too overheated, with accusations of lies and hatefulness, general oversensitivity from all concerned, comment threads being taken down and all round internet drama occurring.
But yeah…. SONAR was good fun and enjoyable this year. I’d give it a definite plus, with continuous room for improvement. Bloody ingrates, we’re never satisfied are we? Mind I lost count of the number of times i got my taps aff. Let’s see what happens next year, OK?
And while you’Re thinking about that, here’s a recent remix of a classic EXOS track from another Icelandic electronic Legond, Ruxpin…
* – What was interesting when I spoke to some of the local DJs and people in the scene, that when the subject of the upcoming Secret solstice festival came up, there was not a single negative comment about it! Everyone was really excited to be going and the consensus was that while it is slightly UK-centric in the acts, the dynamism of the music in the line up was absolutely brilliant. Can’t wait personally.