By Mónica Franco
While last year, the presence of MF Doom made sure A Taste Of Sónar sold out immediately, this year there was no huge name on the line-up, which had a certain impact on the attendance of the evening organised by the Barcelona festival. The Roundhouse took its time to warm up, reaching a head when Buraka Som Sistema came on stage, and in the end it was a full and happy house. It would have helped if the mostly British line-up in the next room, tucked under the wing of the Red Bull Music Academy, would have been moved to the main room: MJ Cole, for example, was rammed. With the decisive moments of the night, Camden’s Roundhouse became hotter. It took some time, neither Rinse FM family member Braiden, nor Spanish representative Noaipre, attracted a lot of people initially. The first showed off his particular eclectic style –within the limits of current musical trends with a British flavour, without sticking to one sound; the second did what he did at Sónar 2010, and unfolded a live set based on grime and UK Funky structures (rhythms that make sense in the early hours of the morning), as he’d already shown the Madrid C.A.L.O.R. party, in front of a much more loyal audience. His sound isn’t for the late afternoon or early evening, when the crowd is still warming up or waiting for the next artist, but the Galician didn’t let the lack of audience affect his show. However, the ones who were there limited themselves somewhat to minor movements to the 8-bars grime sound of the Arkestra member.
The Galician’s relatively unknown status in London, or the speciality of his live show, could have been the reasons for the perplexity –followed by a certain passivity– on the part of audience members. However, rapper DELS was next, playing a home game and having had a good season with his single “Shapeshift”, and yet the Big Dada recording artist couldn’t animate the room, now much more full of people who came to the Roundhouse to see how the rapper would do on stage. His set-up works: DELS gets on the stand with a couple of girls who play keys, sing the choruses or play bass, plus a ?uestlove-style drummer. But the end result loses a lot due to the mechanical way it’s executed. When MCs want to do live shows with a band instead of with a DJ, they need to be aware of connecting the energy between everyone on stage and those attending the gig. In the end it turned out to be rather a cold affair. But we should bear in mind that by the time DELS and his band get to Sónar Barcelona, they’ll have played together a lot more over this spring, so the result will be better. Buraka Son Sistema could serve as an example for DELS and his musicians when it comes to uniting energies of a big group of people on stage and connecting with the audience. The Portuguese band were the biggest name on the line-up and it showed. The tracks from the marvellous “Black Diamond” (Enchufada-Fabric, 2008) are still able to wake the dead and get them dancing, even though they’re already two years old, and indeed these songs formed the greater part of the live set list of the kuduro ambassadors. While they were very energetic in these parts –the coming and going of band members on stage, the constant movement of the percussionists, the DJ who won’t stop moving, even the surprise appearance of other artists, in this case Roses Gabor– they weren’t when playing their new songs (the ones they did play), as if it were a bureaucratic routine to delight an audience that keeps surrendering itself passionately to the same songs they have been dancing to for two years and that doesn’t seem to want anything more than to jump around and shake their bones to kuduro rhythms for a good hour, regardless of whether it’s 2006 or 2011.
In ecstasy after the BSS show and taking a breath, half of the public stayed in the main room, waiting for The Gaslamp Killer, who turned out to be another crowd-pulling name. The man from LA has a good reputation in London. However, a lot of people preferred to go to the other room, where Tiger & Woods, Axel Boman and Benji B had been putting in their bit of work for the evening, to enjoy a living legend of UK garage: MJ Cole. With the godfather of the genre, the locals get nostalgic. In the end, the attendees of the GLK gig had enough room to drool over the technique of the Angelino, who still maintains the forms and ways of his turntablist training and puts it to use when he enters the stage. In the meantime, the followers of MJ Cole were having trouble dancing to the tunes of the man behind the decks, due to the lack of space in the room. Yours truly chose overall to be delighted by Cole, leaving The Gaslamp Killer for Sónar Barcelona. But in the end, the pleasure was not great as I’d anticipated. Hardly a couple of post-nineties nervous breaks gems could be heard. MJ Cole played tunes Braiden or Benji B could have played hours earlier. No paraphernalia – he just got out his Ableton and played the stuff he gets sent as promos. Although it was a bit of a deception to not hear the stuff from white labels and the golden age of garage, the truth is that spirits at that time of night were already so high that good music alone was enough to put a smile on everyone’s face.
We abandoned the scene at midnight, thinking that despite the slow start early in the evening, Sónar has this je ne sais quoi that makes everybody smile, and it’s nephew from London has it too. With the moon closer to Earth than on any other day, we exited through the doors of the spectacular Roundhouse. See you in Barcelona in a couple of months. We were at A Taste Of Sónar at London’s Roundhouse on Saturday, and this is how it went. London made for a slow start (they’re a tough crowd), but the end was epic, pure Sónar style.