Just around this time last year, I remember watching the after movies of Sensation White, EDC Las Vegas, Ultra Music Festival, and Tomorrowland, wishing with all my might that, one day (and hopefully soon), Toronto would have an electronic music festival to call its own. With virtually every University/College campus in Southwestern Ontario rabidly embracing EDM and DJ nights at local hotspots selling out to fans new and old, I could feel that something big was about to happen. And boy, was I right!
This summer, Toronto was spoiled with an onslaught of electronic music festivals including Canada Day’s Digital Dreams, The Full Flex Express Tour with Skrillex & Diplo, HARD Fest Toronto, and of course, this past weekend’s VELD Music Festival held at Downsview Park hosted by INK Entertainment.
I had my reservations about VELD, and how my experience would be, but as soon as I walked through the gates and into Downsview Park, all expectations (however high they were) were immediately blown out of the water.
Merch booths and refreshments lined the perimeter of the park grounds, with ice cream and free Mike & Ikes carts scattered in between. The Bacardi Tent was already pumping out hard electro beats and the faint rumble of the bass could be heard from the main stage speakers just across the field. Hoards of fans opted to dance instead of walk and high-fives were being swapped left, right, and center. Hundreds of people had already got their hands on the official neon VELD tank tops and I <3 VELD sunglasses and there was no shortage of colourful furry moon boots, tutus, “kandi” bracelets, and Deadmau5 fan-gear.
As soon as I got in, I headed straight to the Main Stage, where Michael Woods had just started. Unfortunately, I missed the sets of Toronto’s very own MC Flipside, and rising Turkish star, Deniz Koyu, but from the thousands of people already piled in front of the main stage, I knew that they had served up one hell of a warm-up for what was yet to come. I met up with a friend who had gotten to the festival earlier than I had, and they gushed about MC Flipside’s set which featured Christian Burns’ Bullet and Zedd’s chart-topper Spectrum. He also played his unreleased song titled VS Zero, which had his Twitter fans asking for more. Deniz Koyu didn’t hold back either and ripped his two bombs, Tung and Bong – both of which have been rocking festivals around the world all summer. The energy of the crowd was electrifyingly contagious and whatever sluggishness I was feeling as a result of the 30-plus degree weather quickly subsided. Woods’ set was filled with his signature style of fat basslines and high-energy melodic drops and included fan favourites Last Day On Earth ft. Duvall and We’ve Only Just Begun ft. Ester Dean (which is a vocal edit of No Access). Before I knew it, the crowd was saluting him with a loud roar and Chris Lake took over.
Lake opened his set with an unreleased collaboration with Tommy Trash featuring a beautiful male vocal and chilled out piano riff that had the whole crowd clapping in anticipation of the drop. The next hour of the Scottish DJ’s set ripped through the speakers and had my bones literally vibrating to a point where I could not stop moving even if I wanted to. By the time he played Stand Alone and Sundown, my shirt was soaking in sweat and I wasn’t sure if my knees could handle the rest of the evening.
After Chris Lake wrapped up, I managed to peel myself away from the main stage to take a much needed water break during Steve Aoki’s set. Cell reception inside was a write-off and eventually I just camped out on the hill until I was lucky enough to spot a group of my friends coming up for some air.
Next up was Knife Party, a new electro-house/dubstep project by Australian duo Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen (formerly of Pendulum). Their energy behind the decks had main stage jumping and fist-pumping to electro-bangers from start to finish and even my friends who do not normally like electro/dubstep could not stop dancing. A massive shout-a-long ensued during Zedd’s remix of Breakin’ a Sweat and with the sun only slowly starting to let down a bit, it seemed as appropriate as ever. When it finally came time for them to play Internet Friends, Steve Aoki came out onto the stage with a bottle of champagne, sending the crowd into a frenzy before timing his champagne shower perfectly with the drop.
With the recent announcement that Swedish House Mafia would be disbanding after a final tour this year, the anticipation for Steve Angello could be felt in the air. Dark rain clouds were beginning to form eerily above Downsview Park as if something of epic proportions was about to go down – and it did. The Swedish vet started with SHM’s hit, Greyhound, and almost right on cue, the rain started coming down. The crowd erupted, with hands up in the air to embrace the much-needed relief from the jungle temperatures of earlier in the day. After a few minutes, the rain subsided and Angello jumped on the mic, joking about how he had brought some special effects with him. For the rest of his set, he played crowd favourites like KNAS, Leave the World Behind, and Coming Home. During the build-up of Save the World, Angello demonstrated just how well he can control a crowd when he managed to get everyone to crouch down and then go absolutely insane for the drop. My two favourite moments from his set had to be his mash-up of Dirty South’s Walking Alone with SHM’s Miami 2 Ibiza and when he played the final SHM single, Don’t You Worry Child.
As Angello started to wrap up his set, I started making my way over to the left stage where I assumed Deadmau5’s new production would be unleashed upon his hometown crowd. Tommy Trash had just wrapped up in the Bacardi Tent as well and the main stage crowd grew exponentially in a matter of minutes. It was my first time seeing Deadmau5 live and, after all the hype that my friends give to his live shows, I was not disappointed. Homemade Mau5 heads bobbed through a sea of glowsticks as Joel Zimmerman took the crowd on a musical journey, including old hits such as Strobe and newer ones like The Veldt and Aural Psynapse. At one point, he debuted a new part of his production which featured a touch-screen controller. After the show, Deadmau5 tweeted that the rain had interfered with some of his production but nonetheless, I still thought it was a great way to end Day 1 of VELD.
Overall, I thought VELD Music Festival was a huge success and a great demonstration that electronic music is alive and kicking in Toronto. The lineup turned out to be absolutely spectacular and I was pleasantly surprised that I was not just hearing the same songs set after set (which happens a lot at big festivals). I would put my Veld experience right up there with my EDC one, and I can’t wait to see what next year’s installment will bring. My only gripe would be that it ended too early but lucky for us all, there was still a massive Day 2 to look forward to.
As Swedish House Mafia puts it so nicely: “We came, we raved, we loved.”
Until next time!
Sarah Chiu – EDM TOR