Sonar @ Fox Theater Oakland

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What do you get when you take Barcelona’s most progressive festival, wrap up all of it’s acclaimed eccentricity into a roaming tour, and put it on the road in the US? Sónar Festival, more specifically – last Friday at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Boasting a unique lineup of Die Antwoord, Azari & III, Seth Troxler, Paul Kalkbrenner, Nic Fanciulli, Tiga, & Gesaffelstein – paired with the artistic direction of Pfadfinderei on visuals this was sure to be a one of a kind experience no matter what city you were to witness it in. We were lucky enough to get most of the lineup save for Tiga & Gesaffelstein (much to this writer’s lament) in Oakland this past Friday.

If you’ve never been to the Fox Theater, it’s an experience in itself. The antiquated elegancy of the foyer gave way to an impressive welcome as we entered the floor of the main hall; an ominous piano chord laced with a pounding bassline fell on our ears. I had high hopes of catching as much as I could of Paul Kalkbrenner’s set after the recommendations of friends. Sadly it was only a tune or two before he was waving goodbye to the room and heading off, leaving an impressive projection wall and light setup ready and waiting for the oddities to ensue.

Up next – Die Antwoord. It was a little odd having a headliner (especially with as much energy as DA) on at 10:45 and before Azari & III, but that didn’t stop the packed house that was clearly there in full force waiting for Die Antwoord. My only experience seeing the South African trio had been at Outside Lands earlier this year, and with something that weird – you don’t really expect it to get much deeper than that. Well, I was wrong. Appealing to Oakland’s love for the bass, they sank right into heavier tracks like Hey Sexy and Dis Iz Why I’m Hot (zef remix). With enough outfit changes (including a pinwheel hat for Ninja!) and solo time to keep your eyes occupied in all corners of the stage, they took the crowd through the eclectic energetic roller coaster of a show the three are best known for. Ending with the infamous ‘Enter The Ninja,’ they made a triumphant leave.

I felt pretty bad at this point in the show, as it seemed fairly obvious that placing an act like Die Antwoord before Azari & III was just a recipe for nap time or an empty room. Turns out just such a thing happened, unfortunately for Azari & III as they proudly took the stage to a near empty Fox Theater and began to treat the remaining lot to a bit more “intimate” of an evening than the crowd was expecting, I’m sure.

Words: Jordan Spaulding

Photo: Joey Pangilinan