Excitement isn't strong enough a word to describe the full body euphoria I felt as soon as my graduation trip came together and my tickets were booked for both Portugal and Spain. I'm not sure if I was more pressed to visit two completely new cities or to return to the one I'd caught a glimpse of once before and had already fallen for -- Barcelona, Spain. A stop over after my study abroad trip to Italy and before a Mediterranean cruise brought me to Barcelona for an all too brief two days back in 2011.
That 48 hour affair was enough to capture my heart and make me fall in love with everything about the Catalonian city. I knew the flame would be rekindled one day and I couldn't have been more thankful that it happened sooner rather than later.
I was extra giddy to touch down at BCN after
impatiently waiting in the airport for an extra four hours due to missing my original flight from Lisbon. Once we finally landed later that evening, though, every bit of ‘pissed’ I felt dissolved into thin air -- who has time to be mad when you've only got a few days in one of your favorite cities ever!? I was ecstatic to be there and ready to take Sónar by storm.
Since we were late, we didn't have much time to settle into our new digs or properly pregame for evening one of Sónar by Night. We took no longer than fifteen minutes to check in, scope out our room, and dash back out the door.
We stayed at Hostel One Paralelo, which wasn't as nice as my previous/first ever hostel stay (I had totally been spoiled at Yes!), but it' still met the expectations I formed based on its great reviews. Like Yes!, One has won several hostel accolades for environment, cleanliness, staff friendliness and their overall resources for helping travelers discover Barcelona's best. Its location was just a few blocks from the metro, great places to eat, and in walking distance to the La Rambla (Barcelona’s centre).
My four bed mixed room was a lot smaller this time, however it was just enough space for a short stay. Everything was cleaned spotless daily, the bathrooms were nice, and the staff lived up to their acclaim by being amazingly friendly and helpful. Communal areas included a kitchen (free for all to utilize), indoor and outdoor seating areas, and a terrace with a jacuzzi -- the perfect hang out spot. Hostel One also provided a small breakfast each morning and free family-style dinners (tips encouraged) each evening. We felt welcome from the minute we arrived.
A Canadian traveler named Al was the very first person we’d met at our hostel, and our first friend in Barcelona. He was headed to Sónar as well, so the three of us hopped in a cab together and zipped our way to the festivities. This was my very first music festival ever. I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t worried about looking too deep into it beforehand, either. I wanted to embrace the spontaneity and welcome whatever the trip had in store for me. I did have an idea it’d be muy loco, though, and I couldn’t have been more right about that.
Officially established as Barcelona’s International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art, the three-night electronic music and arts festival has now surpassed twenty consecutive years running and a yearly average of 80,000 visitors. To be honest, I was completely unfamiliar with 99% of the live lineup that I paid $160 to see, so I was really leaving my enjoyment of it up to chance.
My party nights had rarely consisted of anything other than a hip hop/top 40 sountrack, nor had I ever been to a multi-set, multi-night type of concert, but hey,
why else do you travel other than to expand your horizons and experience new things?
At the time, I was just starting to dig dubstep music. I looked forward to seeing Diplo, Major Lazer, and Skrillex (literally the only DJs I recognized out of over 100 acts -- pitiful, I know!) and rocking out like the Europeans.
The scene I walked into was enthralling to say the least. A dope mashup of T.I.’s ‘Bring em Out, Bring em Out’ blared through the speakers as we made our way into the action, which I thought was the perfect indicator that I was in the right place at just the right time. I first took notice to the tons upon tons of people and their eye catching festival fashions, a salad bowl of all things trendy, Euro-chic, hipsterish, and costumey.
I was caught by surprise when we came across some sort of drug info booth, that apparently served as a place where festival goers could actually go learn about their substance of choice before deciding to consume it, and even get it tested to make sure they weren’t duped by shady drug dealers. It made sense, however, when I realized how rampant the drug use was and how freely people were taking them. Not that it was an all out haven for vices, but it was definitely a bit of a shocker, for example, to see substances being snorted out in the open.
I happily stayed far away, remaining high off of the thrill alone as we explored more of the musical playground. There was a maze of stages -- at least 5 -- both inside and right outside of the humongo hangars that held Sónar by Night. They even had totally trippy and very fun looking glow-in-the-dark bumper cars. I missed out on that because I didn’t have any loose Euros, or some dumb reason like that. Womp!
I made up for it by essentially having the time of my life for the remainder of the night. We met up with one of Al’s friends from the hostel and hit the main stage (as close as we could get behind the sea of people) to prepare for the night’s headlining sets. The young DJ superstars and their ability to get the crowd hype beyond words was incredible. We raged, jumped, and danced non-stop as the beats dropped and pulsed through the crowd, with well engineered colorful light shows adding to the pandemonium. It was mayhem! It was marvelous!
Skrillex hit the stage at 4:15am -- oh, did I not mention that this was an all nighter type of party? -- and the audience, including myself, went crazy. It was an all out rave and his lyrics “wild for the night, f*ck being polite” were epitomized to the nth degree. The A$AP Rocky collabo is my favorite Skrillex song, btw; it was over when he played that. I transformed into a Skrillex head and you would have really thought I was true to this rave life.
I fully absorbed the wild vigor, the exploding energy of the thousands of music lovers around us. I can only say that it was thoroughly amazing.
We danced from 1:00 until 7:00.
YES, 7:00am is when we finally trickled (well, poured) out of the venue, only because night one had ended. I was hysterical over how bright it was outside, in disbelief that we lost track of time and that the sun had already taken rise over the city.
And I had a whole ‘nother night to do itall over again.
I would have NEVER imagined having so much fun
while sober at Sónar despite not knowing most of the artists. I take pride in taking interest in a wide range of musical types, but again, a whole EDM festival was entirely new for me. I was so happy to step out of my concert comfort zone and become introduced to a more international genre. Sónar was an excellent reason to return to Barcelona! I now know I can hang with the best of the global partygoers, and I’m even ready to graduate to the likes of mega-fest Tomorrowland (anyone wanna come with!?).
What's something you've done for the first time while abroad? How was your experience?
Read the full story: My Graduation Escapade: Traveling Across the World with a Stranger; Budget Breakdown: What Two Weeks in Europe Cost Me; Checking in: Becoming Acquainted with Hostel Life (Yes! Lisbon); Charmed by Lisbon & Saint Anthony's Festival; Beaching, Biking, and Basking Barcelona; Island + Party Life: Ibiza Style