For three days in June, around 80,000 music lovers from all corners of the globe, together with the international music press, descend on Barcelona to see the world’s most exciting DJs and producers of electronic music.
The festival started in 1994 with performances from Laurent Garnier and Sven Vath, and has since played host to everyone from Kraftwerk to Skrillex. Sónar rivals the Miami Dance Festival and Ibiza as a Mecca of dance music, and has become legendary for both the quality of its line ups and the hedonism of its attendees.
Giving Sónar a run for its money, however, is Madrid’s more low-key Mulafest. Founded in 2012, and based at the city’s IFEMA, the festival runners describe it as a ‘celebration of urban trends’.
Daytime activities and attractions include street art, a tattoo convention, skateboarding, parkour, breakdancing and more.
The festival boasts a man-made island which, as well as providing a space for drinking and relaxing with sun loungers and various bars, will host the national finals of Street Workout – a worldwide craze and sport based around working out for free in parks and public facilities.
Street Food, the recently added and hugely popular part of the daytime festival, this year promises to bring ‘the spirit of classic American finger food’ to Madrid, with Spanish takes on the hamburger and hot dog on offer. The food trucks that line the venue’s terrace area will also be serving up tacos and sushi, and an outdoor market will run ‘from morning until dawn’.
But the main draw is surely the live music lineup for ‘Mulafest Noche’, which is decidedly impressive for a lesser known festival. From head-splitting techno to subtle R&B, this year’s roster caters to a range of tastes, with plenty to appease 48 hour caners and discerning chin scratchers alike. Here are our top five picks.
Irony-touting hipster or pop genius? Such is the debate surrounding SOPHIE, a founding member of London’s conceptual pop collective PC Music. He arrived on the scene in 2013 with the single ‘Bipp’ and has since polarised music critics with his saccharine, eurodance-aping productions. Whatever your opinion on the controversial producer, his music is like nothing you’ve heard before, and crowds at this year’s Mula can expect an experience if nothing else.
Desperados stage, 22.45, Saturday 27th
British experimental hip hop producer and recent addition to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music family, Evian Christ shot to success after posting his homemade beats on YouTube and catching the attention of the rapper’s production team. Since collaborating with West on 2013’s Yeezus, he's enjoyed critical acclaim with his Waterfalls EP and thrown a series of much-hyped ‘Trance Parties’ in the UK. To hear a DJ set from EC, head to the Desperados stage at 4.30AM on Saturday 27th.
Kicking off the ‘Noche’ section of the festival is LA’s soulful R&B duo Rhye, a welcome counterbalance to the festival’s abundance of dance oriented acts.
Desperados stage, 21.15, Friday 26th
A multi-talented composer and producer, Jon Hopkins has turned his hand to such varied projects as film scores, pop albums for the likes of Coldplay and Massive Attack, as well as his own textured ambient productions for Just Music and Domino Records.
Desperados stage, 22.30, Friday 26th
Headlining this year and promoting his new album Lantern is Hudson Mohawke, the acclaimed Glaswegian electronic producer and beat-maker to hip hop giants such as Drake, Pusha T and Kanye West, with whom he worked closely on Yeezus. Coming equipped with a brand new live show that’s beguiled crowds at London’s Field Day and Manchester’s Parklife, you can expect fireworks at the Scotsman’s early morning set.
Desperados stage, 3.15AM, Saturday 27th
Many of these acts will also be present at this year’s Sónar, but their appearances at Mulafest are a chance to see them in a more intimate setting, as well as to support a growing cultural event, the affordable admission prices (tickets start at €25) being the cherry on the cake. If you’re in Madrid in June, this year’s Mulafest is not to be missed.
By Rory Jones