I can’t disguise the fact that I’m a huge Anjunabeats fan – I was over the moon when I found out they were kicking off their North American tour right here in Toronto! So when it comes to the music portion of this review, you’ll notice I have absolutely nothing to negative to say. Flawless set after set from each Anjuna artist; I feel bad for those who weren’t inside Maison Mercer that night. This event sold out not long after tickets initially went on sale last November and the final block of tickets that were released a few days before the show were snapped up right away, even though the price tag had risen to $60 each. Bravo to anyone who managed to claim those $20 tier one tickets because the night was an absolute steal for that price!
The local artist that opened the night was DJ DEECEE. I didn’t realize at the time, but he was the DJ that saved One Last Glow for me upstairs in the Platinum Room of The Sound Academy with an amazing mixed trance and house set. But his opening set for the Anjuna party had a completely different techno vibe. I can’t really give his set a fair review, partially because I don’t normally listen to the type of music he was playing, but also because I was hugely distracted by the long, long, long coat check, washroom, and bar lines. I’ve never been to a show where the lines were that long this early in the night; I quickly understood why – everyone I chatted to told me they showed up early to catch all four Anjunabeats artists starting at 11pm. The coat check line was backed up to the point where it wrapped around the far side, ending at the steps leading towards the washrooms. Even though this contributed to the reason why things moved so slowly, I greatly appreciated how the attendants wrote your initials on the paper tab portion that remained on the hanger, which minimized the chance of your jacket getting swapped or stolen. The ladies restroom line extended far out the door and the floor had already accumulated miscellaneous bits of garbage and areas of water. Drinks, as usual, were terribly overpriced but the bartenders were pleasant and efficient and the bar was the shortest wait time of the three.
By the time Grum took the stage, the venue was already packed. I settled in a spot on the right hand side of the dance floor, near to the path that exits towards the bar and toilets. Even though the crowd was incredibly dense (I’m still baffled that my friends somehow managed to find me in the chaos), there was a decently high level of respect as people moving in, out, and about would pass with minimal destructive behaviour (of course, there where a few assholes here and there, but what can you do?). Grum isn’t a new face to Toronto trance fans and last visited our city in July 2014 at UNIUN Nightclub, but this was my first time seeing him. The Scottish DJ began his set and warmed up the crowd with some melodic trance before hitting us with Jerome Isma-Ae‘s remix the huge Above & Beyond anthem Hello. He followed that with a few of his own tracks, including Something About You, which was debuted as the Record Of The Week on Group Therapy 144 last August.
Next up was Andrew Bayer, who took the spotlight around midnight. This was his second time at Maison; he brought his Do Androids Dream Part II tour there last April and headlined a phenomenal night. I had high expectations for Bayer, and he absolutely delivered. He played his entire “Anamnesis Trilogy” early in his hour-long set. I’ve been eager to hear Nobody Told Me live ever since I fell in love with the track the day it was released. The crowd, including myself, went absolutely bananas! Most definitely a highlight of my night.
Maison made improvements to their layout since I last saw Bayer there. Previously, there were bottle service booths all around the edge of the dance floor, shrinking the floor space and making an awkward division between the fans that where there for Bayer versus those who were out clubbing for the night. They made a significant improvement this time around by removing the booths near the front of the stage but keeping the ones at the back and around the edges of the venue – I can’t imagine how the massive crowd of Anjunabeats fans would’ve fit otherwise. The dance floor remained packed by the time Bayer finished his set with his 2015 hit Superhuman.
The next artist that took the stage is no stranger to Toronto crowds. Ilan Bluestone headlined the Anjunabeats Worldwide 05 Tour pool party here in July at Muzik Pool Bar where the Toronto Trance Family danced all day under the warmth of the afternoon sun (photographs from the event can be viewed on our Facebook page!). Sticking to the schedule, Bluestone took over shortly after 1am wearing an Anamnesis printed tshirt. The crowd excitedly sang along to Above & Beyond’s Thing Called Love, an Anjuna fan favourite which he mashed up with his own track, Tension. But Bluestone caught me completely off guard with what followed. He made a smooth transition into Spheres (my favourite original release of his) and when the song dropped, beautiful condensed lights of mixed pinks, purples, blues, and greens shot out above us. I found myself completely mesmerized with the biggest smile across my face. The same effect was used during Salva Mae 2.0, a track I’ve adored ever since hearing the ABGT 100 at Madison Square Garden recording. Bluestone rounded off his set at 2am with his remix of Above & Beyond’s We’re All We Need.
When I first arrived outside Maison waiting to confirm my name on the guest list, Bluestone and Ross came out bundled in their winter jackets and chatted with some of the fans in line waiting to get their IDs checked. Ross tweeted about a meet and greet with the Anjuna family between 10 – 10:45 inside the venue (many happy fans have posted pictures of themselves and a mixture of the boys on Instagram), but I suppose the boys took it upon themselves to say hello to the fans who were unable to make it inside during that time. In a world where many artists charge their fans a lot of money for a simple handshake and photograph, spontaneous meet and greets like this are wonderful and makes the night that much more memorable for fans.
He may have been the last DJ to perform, but the majority of us remained to see how he could wrap up a perfect night. Jason Ross kicked off his Toronto debut in the biggest way possible by playing his hugely successful Atlas. It wasn’t long before Ross was waving around the famous Toronto Trance Family flags and there was no sign of slowing down from there. Just like his friends, he mixed in a few A&B songs into his set, such as Blue Sky Action and his remix of Alone Tonight. His rendition of Alone Tonight gained international attention at ABGT 150 last fall and is featured on the “Anjunabeats Vol 12” compilation mix.
3am approached and the crowd had thinned as most expected Ross’ set to wrap up shortly and wanted beat the rush. After moving closer to the stage, I noticed Bluestone had come back out while Ardan played. To the surprise and pleasure of everyone who stayed, we were blessed to have an extra half hour of Ross b2b Bluestone. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect and feelsy finale – Lionhearted (Arty remix), followed by Satellite (Bluestone remix), finishing with Fly To New York (Jason Ross club mix).
This show raised the bar for 2016 – I went in with high expectations, and I left with them greatly exceeded. The several Anjunabeats logo pieces and decorative snowflakes that once hung from the ceiling were taken by fans throughout the night and turned into precious keepsakes. Maison’s Funktion One audio system was put to proper use, as were the massive LED video walls located on either side of the DJ booth that flashed artist logos throughout the evening. A warm thank you and much appreciation to Embrace, Vibrations, Lyme, and everyone and anyone involved with bringing the tour and these wonderful artists here! I wish Grum, Andrew Bayer, Ilan Bluestone, Jason Ross, and their crew the best of luck and success for the rest of their tour.
GRUM – 11PM:
11:33 Above & Beyond – Hello (Jerome Isma-Ae Remix)
11:36 Grum – Something About You
11:40 Grum – Lightspeed
11:47 Gareth Emery – Firebird (Grum Remix)
ANDREW BAYER – 12AM:
12:13 Andrew Bayer – Nobody Told Me
12:16 Andrew Bayer – Celestial
12:27 Andrew Bayer – Memories
12:31 Above & Beyond – A.I.
12:36 Andrew Bayer – Counting The Points
12:44 Andrew Bayer – Bullet Catcher
12:51 Above & Beyond – Sun & Moon vs Andrew Bayer – Once Lydian
12:56 Andrew Bayer – Super Human
BLUESTONE – 1AM:
1:13 Ilan Bluestone – 43 w/ Above & Beyond pres. OceanLab – Sky Falls Down (Acapella)
1:24 ID – ID
1:28 Above & Beyond vs. Ilan Bluestone – Thing Called Tension (Mashup)
1:34 Ilan Bluestone – Spheres
1:39 Ilan Bluestone – Bigger Than Love
1:45 Faithless – Salva Mea 2.0 (Above & Beyond Remix)
1:56 Above & Beyond ft. Zoe Johnston – We’re All We Need (Ilan Bluestone Remix)
JASON ROSS – 2AM:
2:02 Wrechiski & Jason Ross – Atlas
2:06 JES & Shant & Clint Maximus – Hold On (Fatum Remix)
2:11 Above & Beyond ft. Alex Vargas – Blue Sky Action
2:17 Jason Ross – Frontier
2:22 Above & Beyond – Alone Tonight (Jason Ross Remix)
2:38 Jason Ross – Cairo
2:43 Oliver Smith – Mirage
2:49 Jason Ross – Element
2:54 Jean-Michel Jarre & Tangerine Dream – Zero Gravity (Above & Beyond Remix)
ROSS B2B BLUESTONE – 3AM:
3:00 Fatum vs Judah – Ardan
3:02 Above & Beyond – Black Room Boy (Club Mix) vs. Ilan Bluestone – Big Ben
3:13 Jerome Isma-Ae & Ilan Bluestone vs. Florence & The Machine vs. Supermode – Under My Skin vs. Spectrum vs. Tell Me Why (Ilan Bluestone Mashup)
3:17 Porter Robinson ft. Urban Cone – Lionhearted (Arty Remix)
3:22 Above & Beyond pres. OceanLab – Satellite (Ilan Bluestone Remix)
3:27 Above & Beyond ft. Zoe Johnston – Fly To New York (Above & Beyond vs. Jason Ross Club Mix)
Ashlyn Doughty – EDM TOR