In the moment we booked the airplane ticket for Barcelona, the excitement started to grow: OFF Week Festival was waiting for us.
Loud-Contact and Proyectual had just shared the massive line-ups of the brand-new festival they put together at Parc del Forum, and we were very curious to see how this new venture would have developed, being the first year Sonar Festival moved its dates from mid-June to mid-July.
It was a bold move to detach from the busy week of Sonar, which historically always attracts lot of tourists and music lovers in town, however being Loud-Contact both a strongly established promoter on the Barcelona scene as well as the real driving force behind several brands and labels showcase from OFF Week past editions, the feeling is that it was just the right time to try something new.
The city was already full of several interesting events: checkpoint x SUNRISE at GO Beach Club on 12th June, tINI and the gang at ZT Hotel Villa Olimpica, Toi Toi 9th Birthday at WOLF Club and Round Up at La Terrazza on 13th June as well as Art of Dark at ZT Hotel villa Olimpica, Berg Audio at Café del Mar on 14th June. 15th June had Melliflow x Seekers showcase at RED58 and we could continue forever, however the main focus of this review will be the OFF Week Festival 2019.
Running from 14th to 16th June 2019 at Parc del Forum, a waterfront complex featuring modern outdoor spaces for concerts and festivals, the Festival has involved some of the biggest brands in the electronic music including Tale Of Us’ own Afterlife, Solomun’s Diynamic, Jamie Jones’ Paradise and Maceo Plex’ Ellum.
If you know us well, it is needless to say what we were extremely interested in: [a:rpia:r] showcase at the “Auditorium” on Friday, Ricardo Villalobos’ FRRC x 20 years of fabric, again at the “Auditorium” the following night, and on Sunday FUSE at the “Temple” stage to close the three days of dancing.
After a stroll at El Born and a late lunch in Barceloneta, we headed to Parc del Forum, ready to see RPR Soundsystem providing their usual minimal infused rollers, a specific sound which over the years became a trademark formany generations of Romanian artists.
A short walk brought us to the gates where we collected our golden wristbands for the 3-days, and in another two minutes we arrived on top of the stairs of the main stage. By turning right and walking across a long corridor, the “Auditorium” stage was there in all its power.
The first thing I noticed, and that was confirmed across all three nights and all three stage, was that the sound was really on point: loud but very defined and precise – it is not easy for an open air venue to provide a perfect sound, and I have personally experienced festival where the acoustic quality was extremely disappointing. It was clear that the festival organizers did their homework well and, as a result, this did not deprive the audience of an essential part of the experience.
Another nice surprise were the visuals, casted on proper screens that looked to be made of a superior quality compared to what you can usually find around. With Dreamrec on visuals duty, the atmosphere was absolutely perfect.
Emi and Tulbure built up a nice warm up set of two hours each, confirming why they are very appreciated even if often developing their artistic career below the radar, in typical Romanian style. Around dusk, Raresh, Petre Inspirescu and Rhadoo entered on stage and from that moment to closing it looked like a unique 6-hours track. The flawless transition between each cut, the trio laser-focus as well as the always-on-point selection, made it a night to remember and, fair to say, met the high standards that we are used from [a:rpia:r].
I was able to recognize few tracks only, in particular Christopher Ledger’s new EP on Meander as well as a new unreleased by Patagonia, but I am sure some more of them will be discovered once released in few months’ time, while for others we might have to dig very deep on Discogs. Not being personally obsessed by the “track-id”, and most of the time lost in the music, I really enjoyed the night which went down quite smoothly – a perfect hypnotic introduction of what the festival was ready to give us.
Saturday was the turn of fabric: as still part of their 20 years milestone celebration, they joined forces with their long-standing friend Ricardo Villalobos’ brand FRRC and brought in Barcelona no-one else than Jane Fitz, Mathew Jonson (live), Vera, Sonja Moonear, Craig Richards for a back-to-back with Nicolas Lutz and Ricardo himself. Pretty impressive names on the bill for the middle day of the festival.
Unfortunately, we arrived just after Vera finished and Sonja Moonear was already hitting hard record after record. Her set was very playful and infused great energy. The Swiss blond is an outstanding selector and, in her yellow shirt and sunglasses, proved it once again, sending off the crowd in several occasions. A sneaky Beverly Hills Cop main theme edit and few gems like Truncate – WRKTRX 3 (Jimmy Edgar remix) and R10 – Banana D were probably among the highlights of her sets, but we feel is important to stress out how the style she played combined with the intelligent selection set up a joyous mood perfect for her timeslot.
Straight after, Craig Richards and Nicolas Lutz took the centre of the stage, providing a more electro and acid approach for the following three hours. It is well known that the UK and the Uruguayan artists have a strong bond both on and off the dancefloor, and Nicolas Lutz is probably one of the artists Craig Richards played together most in the recent months. Some recent back-to-back appearances included Gottwood and My Own Jupiter showcase at Closer, and will be proposed again for 6 full hours at fabric the next 20th of July.
The pair knows each other records bag very well and their affinity creates synergies which are further enhanced by their diversity in background and experiences – assisting their set is an explosion of contrasting emotions and often you don’t know who played what records if not by looking at the stage.
By midnight Ricardo was ready to embrace the crowd in a three-hour long journey to closure, for the only night finishing at 3am. The full moon was up in the dark sky illuminating enough to create a great atmosphere. Among the first tracks Ricardo played there was his own remix of Feater feat. Vilja Larjosto – Time Million, before turning to a much darker and techno approach. As he sometimes does during his sets, he tested the crowd reactions by quickly mixing in and out some tracks into the mixer, teasing Spanish vocals that intrigued the dancefloor.
The three remaining hours flew away quickly, with the Chilean increasing the pace record after record, rarely out of context, he often delivered the unexpected, always with his zero-fucks-given but playful attitude, confirmed by his constant chat and jokes towards the backstage, and the small fights with the long cable of the headphones.
With Vera and Nicolas Lutz still in the backstage having fun, Ricardo kept showing his magic: rockets-like sounds break into the mixer in a moment where the bass was less intense, just before his own remix of Señor Coconut and his Orchestra – Behind the Mask that was dropped abruptly 10 minutes before the end with the lights on.
Back at 4:30am in my hotel, I decided to rest the whole following morning in order to being able to catch every sets according to FUSE timetable: 3 hours of Rossko back-to-back Archie Hamilton, tINI and Enzo Siragusa for 2 hours each, and the closing set featuring 3 hours of Apollonia.
Once arrived, I quickly noticed that the Temple stage was already full since very early, with both Archie Hamilton and Rossko already hitting hard… FUSE crew knows how to party.
Both the London and Berlin-based artists are currently on fire, with the former releasing his first album on Moscow Records and the latter going out with his first solo EP on the mother-label FUSE.
Their b2b made history in several FUSE events around Europe, and this wasn’t any different despite the early timeslot: the two friends were clearly having lot of fun and this was transmitted to the dancefloor in a genuine way, resulting in a quite an energetic warm-up.
tINI stepped right after and kept going on the same vibe, alternating house, acid, breakbeat to some more techno-oriented track. One of the best moments of her set was when she sunddently dropped a cheeky female vocal repeating “Exstacy” – the crowd went completely wild.
tINI set was almost completely analogic, and for every record put on the turntable there was a contagious smile: for her FUSE is a family affair. The vibe as well as the expectations were building up rapidly when Enzo Siragusa jumped on stage, leaving tINI to a really deserved and thunderous applause.
The FUSE main-man was in top form, and being the last gig before a sought-after holiday, he put all himself into the set. The moment S.A.M. – Fury Laughter, newly released on PIV records (digital) and Delaphine (physical), resonated from the speakers, a new high was experienced: I already knew the track but never actually listen to it played at a gig… what a great feeling! There was also space for the new EEE007 and its infamous trumpet theme, among the multiple gem the UK artists filled his set with.
Enzo performance was so good that several friends who were both playing at different stage, in particular Guti and Martin Buttrich, came in to say hello and congratulated with him.
Dyed Soundorom, Dan Ghenacia and Shonky arrived few minutes before 9pm together with three bags full of records. Apollonia trio is always great to experience, in particular because their main skills and background are different within each other, but perfectly blended when they play together. In charge of the closing slot, the Frenchmen kept on with an increased and constant rhythm, no massive drop or edits but just consistent track delivered one after the other.
All in all, Barcelona and OFF Week Festival did not disappoint at all. See you next year!