Sonar On Tour
Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall
November 10, 2012
To test its international appeal, Sonar, one of the worlds most prestigious electronic music festival promoters debuted its brand in North America with a highly-anticipated tour. On Saturday November 10th, the last stop on this eight-city excursion landed at the Shrine Auditorium with the help of Goldenvoice concert promoters and drew and eclectic mix of house heads and mostly rap enthusiasts ready to see Die Antwoord live. Starting early at 8 p.m., Sonar On Tour showcased an interesting array of artists including Paul Kalkbrenner, Seth Troxler, Nic Fanciulli and AZARI & III but failed to capitalize on the Sonar brand usually known for it's avant-garde artists and exceptional festival production.
Though we can't speak for the other stops, the Shrine LA show failed to give Angelinos a real taste of the Barcelona festival which has been a major part of the electronic music culture for almost 20 years. As you drove up to the parking lot of the Shrine which charged a whooping $20, there were noticeably a large number of spots open even when we arrived a little past 9pm. This venue which typically inspires lines around the corner for other events such as HARD Halloween in the past and Insomniac's Above & Beyond show a couple months back bared no resemblance of a festival of this caliber with little Sonar signage and most importantly little attendees. With the HARD brand hosting a show for Wolfgang Gartner at the Palladium in Hollywood down the street and the slew of other electronic shows over the the past months we can see why this event was passed up on many EDM fans radar.
Due to the early set times, we were saddened to miss Nic Fanciulli's warm up set, but ecstatic we got to catch the end of techno legend Paul Kalkbrenner's. Usually known for selling out stadiums around the world, Kalkbrenner still managed to amaze the 400 people in attendance at a 9:30 p.m. time slot. There were Kalkbrenner fans donning German soccer jerseys and signs welcoming him to LA as he played for what seemed like less than an hour. We made it just in time to catch the climatic point where his minimal sound eluded his hit "Sky and Sand" which had everyone's hands in the air praising him while shooting pictures and videos of the magical moment. At that point it didn't matter that it was freezing cold and the lines for the bar were ridiculously inconvenient. There was an obvious technical break, which you don't normally see at dance music festivals as they changed out the stage for the following acts however, which left down time in an uncomfortably lit up auditorium.
There was an obvious divide between the "Zef" inner city fans of the experimental rap group Die Antwoord and the Euro house lovers in attendance. When DJ Hi-Tek graced the stage with the rest of the group wearing a mask, the Shrine had finally filled to a little over a 1,200 people in a 4,000 person venue. It was evident why most attendees were willing to spend up to $50 for only an hour of music to catch the obvious headliners of the tour. The screen displayed a homage to the late Leon Botha, a Cape Town turntablist who's collaboration on "Enter the Ninja" helped make the video a viral phenomenon receiving millions of views nine months later. Known for their provocativeness and shock value the South African band rapped and sang hit after hit as Yo-Landi Vi$$ser's spastic rhymes (and annoying screams if you ask me) resonated over the mic in her native Afrikaans tongue as well as English. The visuals were a constant flux of ninja symbols and references to Zef culture which seemed to wow their fans and had everyone yearning for more.
After the Die Antwoord performance almost half of the crowd escaped during the set change in what felt like a typical Goldenvoice rock or hip-hop show and not the dance music production we are used to. However, the Canadian group AZARI & III's "Hungry for the Power" and it's Chicago house sound made it impossible not to want to keep dancing nor the party to end. Incorporating live vocals with groovy house beats AZARI & III was a good change of pace from the craziness we just experienced. By the time Michigan-born Seth Troxler took the stage he had less than an hour to close out the festival with his deep house sound. We felt the shortened sets didn't do anyone justice and would have much rather watched fewer acts with longer times to allow for proper build ups and the correct production. Towards the end we couldn't wait to get out of the Shrine already and back to Hollywood for Nic Fanciulli and Troxler's epic after party at AV Nightclub.
Critical Bias: Maybe we are spoiled, but we honestly think if Goldenvoice wants to compete with other EDM promoters they need to start treating these events like dance music festivals and not another rock concert like they are used to.
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Crowd: This all ages event had a diverse group of everyone from burners, kids, adult old ravers, real house music lovers and Zef hip hop crowds.
Overheard: "Sonar in Barcelona is by far one of my favorite electronic festivals ever and this does not do it justice."
Random Notebook Dump: What's the point of purchasing a VIP ticket if you still have to wait in a general admission line to get ID checked?