Sónar+D Barcelona is the best music, arts and technology festival in the world. Why? Because there's no camping (unless you really want to), it's in beautiful Barcelona, the weather is nearly always excellent, and the music is an eclectic mix of everything from experimental electronics to big-name DJs and bands. There's also a load of interesting gadgets to look at, largely in the music and creativity fields. And those are the only 'fields' you'll see all weekend when you're there.
Although it may be musically intense at times, Sónar+D, which runs from July 17-20, can also be a very chilled event, especially if you do it right. We went there last year with sponsor and supporter ME by Meliá, and they certainly know how to do things right…
The hotel: ME Sitges Terramar
Perhaps the best festival idea anyone has ever had, ME by Meliá actually put us up in Sitges, 30 minutes drive from Barcelona, rather than in the throbbing metropolis itself.
ME by Meliá is the more youthful, artsy wing of the Melia empire and it is a staunch supporter of Sonar+D. The brand has its own space in the SonarHub, 'inspired by the architecture and shapes of the Norman Foster-designed ME London hotel, while a collaboration with Memo Akten has led to the creation of immersive art installation Deep Meditation, 'an audio-visual experience based on the artist’s performances and cutting-edge technologies.' The artist will be on hand to explain what it all means, too.
The ME Sitges Terramar, where we stayed, will host a Holistic Brunch to celebrate, as well as new activities based on the concepts explored in Deep Meditations.
Sitges is a stunningly picturesque beach resort with a storied history. It's always been a bohemian paradise, and ME Sitges Terramar fits perfectly into that vibe. It's among the nicest hotels at which I've ever stayed, in fact. From the immaculate rooftop chillout area to a seafood bar selling the plumpest oysters you'll ever see, everything about the Terramar is just so.
It's also just 16 miles from Barcelona's El Prat airport, and a short jaunt down the motorway to Barca itself.
The hotel will hold a Sonar+D 'Holistic Brunch' on Friday July 19, wit on-trend fermented cocktails from highly regarded mixers Dave Elliot and Magel Monroi. 'Based on ingredients such as kombucha, they have designed various cocktails that aim to connect the attendees with the healthiest and most organic facet of cocktail making' – and who doesn't like healthy cocktails, right?
This neatly sums up ME by Meliá's heady blend of utopian wellness and sun-drenched hedonism. Hit their beach-side bar for beers, then get a massage or use their top-class gym. During Sónar the Terramar's wellness programme will also host 'Sound Healing meditation' by Lesya Starr and Andoni Leiva. Like Akten’s art piece, this explores using sound as a tool for healing the body, mind and soul.
There's something for everyone…
• ME is opening in Barca itself in spring 2020, at the intersection of Carrer de Casp with Passeig de Gràcia, one of the main arteries of the Catalan capital. ME says it will 'create an unbeatable bond between ME Barcelona and the urban, modern and cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Ciutat Condal.'
The festival: Sónar+D
From 15-17 July, Barcelona will host Sónar by Day and Sónar by Night. Unusually – perhaps uniquely in fact – these are at different venues, with the garden space of by Day giving way to the cavernous, sweat-soaked halls and walkways of Sónar by Night. There is a huge list of performers across the venues, with headliners including A$AP Rocky, Disclosure and Underworld.
There's no other festival like Sónar. The feel of it, and the exciting variety of electronic and dance music on offer is in invigorating contrast to its Mediterranean setting – normally you'd expect to hear this sort of music in a chilly part of central Europe, or a damp field in Wiltshire. Barcelona is a much more agreeable spot for techno, hip hop and downbeat electronica and by Day, if it all gets too much you can usually guarantee there'll be sun to soak up in the large outdoor area. The hot summer evenings of the by Night portion are also fantastic.
ME by Meliá's audio-visual art piece will take up 96 square metres of the Sónar Hub mini-expo part of the by Day festival.
And the gear to take
Bose's first noise-cancelling headphones since the all-conquering QC35 II, the 700 is its new flagship. Multiple mics mean it not only crushes noise that might spoil your enjoyment of music, they also enhance your voice so you can be heard clearly on calls and Alexa, Assistant and Siri will respond to your commands more consistently.
Stylish but hardwearing, this is the perfect urban festival carry-on spinner. An internal compression system keeps everything in place. The telescoping handle efficiently transfers power to the wheels, while the rigid, 100% polycarbonate body with internal corner protectors and reinforcing front panel is lightweight, stylish and built to survive anything Barcelona and El Prat can throw at it.
Still buzzing after Sónar by Night, or missing that out and staying home for the evening after Sónar by Day? Wonderboom 2 is perfect for playing driving dance and electronic and pop music with 360 degree sound and the option to link two of them in a stereo or dual mono pairing. It's also waterproof, dust- and sandproof (IP67 rated) and highly robust. Just don't annoy the guests now, please.