Wednesday, September 8, 2010

my tips for sonar chicago 2010

it is upon us! for the first - and hopefully not the last - time, sonar, barcelona's premier international music and arts festival, will descend upon chicago with a set of free public events backed by a variety of after-party options. there's a lot to choose from, and i may not be aware of everything, and i may not be familiar with every artist involved. but for now, here's my thoughts about the upcoming weekend...

first off, check out the official sonar chicago page and get informed about the venues involved. click here for more information about millennium park. it is the shiny, silver-green jewel of chicago's downtown loop area, and the jay pritzker pavilion is, in this author's mind, the best outdoor venue in chicago. besides the sheer beauty of the place, entry is free; the park is surrounded by amazing views of the city; and visitors are usually allowed to bring alcohol (and, in fact, entire picnics) onto the pritzker's lawn which stretches behind the seating bowl and which features impressive acoustics. capacity is 10,000+.

in contrast, the friday and saturday events (also free) will be held in much smaller rooms in the chicago cultural center. the building is more than a hundred years old and is chock-full of artistic and architectural goodies, but the main event spaces for sonar - the preston bradley hall, and claudia cassidy theater - can only hold a few hundred people. it may be a good idea to arrive early. and don't forget: besides the music noted below, the cultural center will host sonar cinema, which will be playing experimental films both friday and saturday.

another important venue for the weekend will be smartbar, located under the metro (concert venue) near wrigley field on the north side. as always, thursday and friday will have 4am closing times, while saturday night will close at 5am. if you don't know much about smartbar, click here to find out. the club is the best in the city for providing good electronic dance music in an relaxed, inclusive environment, and its program for the weekend is stacked. now, on to the music...

sonar in the pritzker pavilion, millennium park - what better way to start off a weekend of music than a night under the pritzker's arches, nestled against the city skyline? dutch dubstep maestro martyn will headline the festivities, and it should be interesting to see how the venue handles his bass-heavy dj set. i'm also looking forward to jimmy edgar; his recently released album xxx continues to push the young artist's erotic take on synth-heavy electro and glitch. he'll play a live set earlier in the evening. click here for set-times.

faltyDL at smartbar - the beginning of what should be an excellent trio of nights for smartbar... with a strong set of local support dj's (fun fact: dj warp oversees the city's public music program), the headline set goes to new york city's faltyDL, who has been producing some classy garage/2-step jams lately.

jimmy edgar at juicy wine co. - to those who are particularly turned on by jimmy edgar's set, he will also be playing an afterparty later that evening, just northwest of the downtown area. not sure if i'll make this one, but hey - it's free!

sonar in the chicago cultural center - friday sees the festival move indoors to the elegant confines of the chicago cultural center. my pick for the day activities is nosaj thing's audio/visual live set. i don't know much about the visual side of things, but i know nosaj thing has been winning over fans lately with his melodic take on glitchy dance music. i understand oval's live set is worth catching as well... click here for set-times.

sonar club night at smartbar - this is a very eclectic lineup... lush electro and weird disco seem to be the main course before things turn more dubstep-y with cosmin TRG and appleblim. each artist gets an hour to do their thing before appleblim takes over at 2am to close the night. i'm most excited about appleblim's set; hailing from the UK, the dude has been crafting cut after cut of forward thinking dubstep. click here for the lineup and set-times. and don't forget: only $5 cover for smartbar all night!

sonar in the chicago cultural center - the last day of formal sonar activities, with one last healthy dose of experimental sounds. my pick for the day is definitely ben frost; i've grown quite fond of last year's album by the throat which showcases frost's unique take on dark, distorted aggression... and i'm expecting his live set to fill the cultural center with a dense cloud of noise. also, chicago's own benn jordan will oversee a performance under his flashbulb moniker, featuring the new millennium orchestra (more info here). and keeping with the hometown love, barcelona's own bRUNA and huan show off their stuff as well. and then there's la chambre des machines rounding out the bill that should leave you certifiably insane by the end of the evening. aaaand back to sonar's website for set-times.

marcel dettmann at smartbar - fuck yeah! after some initial skepticism, smilecoldanatomy has grown quite fond of the berliner's eponymous album debut... mostly because the individual tracks are simply fantastic dj tools. dettmann is known as a musician without compromise (surely seen in the rough, repetitious nature of his music), so it should be interesting to see what and how he plays at smartbar, but the club will no doubt be filled with techno all night long. after missing him in barcelona last year at sonar, and having him cancel his detroit appearance earlier this summer, i'm looking forward to seeing what dettmann will do. go back to if necessary.

secret son@r gallery featuring roman flugel - a very recent addition to the weekend's festivities sees edm-chameleon roman flugel headlining a loft party *somewhere* on the north side that should go into the wee hours of sunday morning. not quite familiar at all with the guy's work (i know. i suck, right?), but a squad of chicago dj's and what should be a relaxed afterparty setting sounds like a good idea if you need to clear your head a bit after smartbar. check out the RA event page here.

hi five mobilee! at green dolphin - after a long weekend of all sorts of electronic and experimental sounds, wind down at green dolphin and celebrate 5 years of operation for berlin-based dance music label mobilee. last year label co-owner anja schneider helped provide an excellent soundtrack to the 'varsity all-stars' day party at moretti's. this time around, she's joined by another mobilee artist:, who will be performing a live set. the action takes place on green dolphin's back patio, which has seen a handful of excellent day parties already this summer; this looks to be a proper way to 'celebrate' the change of seasons. more lineup info and advanced tickets at the RA event page.

... and, from my current point of view, that about covers it for the weekend. i'll be busy all weekend with music, but expect some reviews and final thoughts sometime within the next week or two. let's all hope for a successful debut of sonar in chicago... cheers!

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