*Disclaimer: In case it isn’t already obvious – if you’re not into trance, I’m sorry but this article just wont cut it for you!
The winter weather this season has been very mild, yet we all yearn for the return of long, warm summer days. It’s that time of the year when many look towards the future and begin assembling their summer music festival plans. It’s hard to make practical decisions when you’re so passionate about the music and creating an experience. Your heart screams “YES” while your brain and bank account shout “NO” – especially while Canada is in the middle of this economic slum.
After much research, it seems that Montreal‘s Trance Unity, held on June 4th at Circus Afterhours Nightclub, fits both my heart’s and brain’s criteria of enjoyment and practicality. In short, it is perfect for those with a smaller budget and offers three rooms with full lineups for you to float between. And although it’s a long, single Saturday night event, you can take advantage of the remaining time left in the weekend to explore around bits of Montreal to satisfy that travel bug. With a lot of contemplation, I’ve compiled an extensive list of reasons why to sadly forgo major music festivals this summer and consider attending Trance Unity instead.
International exchange rates
This is a very obvious and logical reason. As of today, one American dollar is equal to 1.39 Canadian (and it’s probably fallen since you began reading this). It’s been nearly thirteen years since the Canadian dollar dropped this low, and it greatly effects any hopes and dreams of traveling internationally this upcoming festival season. The United States hosts many high calibre events from mid-spring to early fall and Canadians would flock to these parties when the dollar was comparable. This year is a different story. I’ve compiled a list of the current ticket prices of the more popular EDM themed festivals from our brothers in the south and I’ve converted the American funds into Canadian dollars:
Ultra Music Festival in Miami, FL (March 18 – 20) – $1249.95 + $262.55 sf (GA SOLD OUT, VIP ONLY) >> $2101.05 CAD
EDCNY in New York, NY (May 14 – 15) – $229 + $24.50 sf >> $352.37 CAD
Movement in Detroit, MI (May 28 – 30) – $135 + $12.20 sf >> $204.61 CAD
Mysteryland in Bethel Woods, NY (June 10 – 13) – $234 + $42.43 sf >> $384.24 CAD
EDCLV in Las Vegas, LV (June 17 – 19) – $355 + $74.99 sf >> $597.69 CAD
Electric Forest in Rothbury, MI (June 23 – 26) – $297.75 + ?sf (SOLD OUT) >> $413.87~ CAD
Electric Zoo: Wild Island in New York, NY (September 2 – 4) – $199 + ?sf >> $276.61~ CAD
TomorrowWorld in Chattahoochee Hills, GA – uncertain of a reappearance in 2016
Bonus: (1 Euro to $1.55 CAD)
Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium (July 22 – 24) – € 272,50 + € 29,75 sf (SOLD OUT) >> $468.49 CAD
The prices are greatly scattered depending on the length and scale of the festival and which pricing tier tickets are currently being sold at. Not only is Movement the cheapest, it would appear to be the best choice for EDM fans from Toronto because it’s the closest and money will be saved on transportation; however, it is the only festival dedicated to one genre of music – techno. This is perfect for those who enjoy that type of music! But as someone who leans towards the trance, electro, and house categories, the decent price and closer location do me no favours. All other shows book a wide variety of DJs from all genres and have many stages to pick and choose from.
Some might not think the ticket prices are all that bad after the conversion, but there are many other factors to consider outside of the entrance fee. Flights and transportation is the first obstacle: getting from Toronto to the other city, and how to get to the festival grounds each day. Some of these events have camping options, which makes it easy to walk from the stage to your sleeping bag at the end of the night, but you have to pay additional fees for a tenting spot and a parking permit. Others offer round-trip shuttle services from designated hotel locations for an additional fare. Lockers and portable chargers are available for rent if needed. Even simple things like food and drinks at the vendors become fairly pricey under our miserable exchange rate (that $5 Gateorade now costs you $6.95! That $9 beer now costs you $12.51!). On top of that, most banks and credit cards charge a percentage when converting physical cash or credit statements. Lastly, and one of my greatest personal annoyances, is the unavoidable, overly expensive international shipping costs just to receive your wristband and a bonus poster or magnet the promoters bundled for you – and you’ll be lucky if the border doesn’t hit you with customs fees as well!
By all means, if you have a lot of cash to blow and can afford going to these incredible international festivals, DO IT! I went to EDCLV last year and it was the most wonderful experience – if circumstances were different, I would go back in a heart beat. This article was not written with the intent of bashing any of those festivals listed above; it’s merely a guide to how pricey things can get and to bring some enlightenment to various aspects of travel you might not have already considered. And if you do want to go to one of the sold out shows, be weary of scalpers and scams.
Great value for your money
As of now, GA tickets for Trance Unity are going for $60 (CAD). The first pricing tier of $50 sold out the same day they went on sale, and once these sell out it will jump to the third tier of $75. There is an option to upgrade your ticket to VIP for another $25 – this gives you priority entrance (a separate and less crowded door), access to special VIP lounges and areas behind the booth, and it includes VIP coat check and lockers if desired.
Monkey BuzinezZ has booked twenty DJs to fill fifteen hours of continuous trance. From 9pm on June 4th to 12pm (noon) on June 5th, the crowds can drift between three differently themed rooms with DJs representing many different countries from around the globe: Germany, UK, Brazil, Egypt, Finland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, USA, and, of course, Canada! With the current ticket price, that works out to be $3 per DJ or $4 per hour! Some sets will overlap, but the promoters have promised to stagger the set times from room to room to avoid major conflict. There is a minimum of two hour sets per DJ and there will be no live recordings – you’ll have to be there to experience it.
Allen & Envy
Giuseppe Ottaviani – Live 2.0
Sied Van Riel
Dave Nadaz & Leblanc
Trance Unity will be housed inside Circus Afterhours. Peaking at #19 in 2012 on DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs from across the world, this club is powered by a Funktion-One sound system and has hosted some incredible trance, techno, and house parties since its grand opening in 2004.
And as a bonus, here’s a reminder that alcohol is much cheaper in Quebec than it is in Ontario!!
Avoid Toronto’s curse of poor festival weather :'(
As much as I love this city, I can’t deny that 2015 was a terrible flop for festivals in Toronto because of unlucky weather conditions. The entire first day of Digital Dreams last June was cancelled in the interest of public safety Live Nation and Ink Entertainment announced on the day of. Twenty DJs, including Armin Van Buuren, Steve Angello, Carl Cox, and Porter Robinson, were scheduled to perform opening day at The Flats at Ontario Place. Fans raged on social media over wasted money on hotels and transportation. Fortunately some performers rescheduled to play at afterparties that evening, but the damage had already been done.
A similar experience happened to those with Veld wristbands five weeks later. A massive thunderstorm rolled in on the second day of the festival and Ink Entertainment was forced to cancel it around 6pm, stating “due to approaching high winds, lightning and hail storms, we are engaging in our safety protocol and evacuating the site. The safety of our patrons is our number one priority.” The first half of the day carried on as planned but main stage headliners Hardwell and Above & Beyond plus others were missed. In similar fashion to DD, some DJs rescheduled to play at various afterparties, but fans had to figure out their own transportation methods and routes from Downsview Park to downtown Toronto.
Both of these festivals offered partial refunds to make up for the cancelled days. Veld issued a 40% refund and Digital Dreams issued a 50% refund to all customers who purchased tickets directly from Ticketmaster and authorized points of sale. DD’s went through within a few days, but Veld’s took much longer. People complained over the long process it took before receiving their money because they purchased hard tickets versus etickets. Although this was a decent reimbursement for those who purchased tickets for themselves, this put those who purchased tickets off of scalpers in a terrible situation as they were put at the mercy of the seller’s honesty and integrity. And keep in mind, those rescheduled afterparties were not included in the original wristband price.
(The silver lining here is that at least Toronto festival goers didn’t have the same misfortune as poor TomorrowWorld 2015 attendees did – the terrible weather destroyed roadways and made it impossible for shuttle buses to get in and out of the grounds for those who opted out of on-site camping. As SFX Entertainment was not prepared for such an ordeal, people were forced to either walk several kilometres through muddy forested areas in darkness before reaching drivable roads, or find a nice bit of cloth or cardboard to sleep on. The last day was cancelled for anyone who relied on vehicle transportation. It became an international media frenzy as the news and photos spread and is a major factor in why SFX Entertainment recently filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, making TomorrowWorld’s return in 2016 uncertain.)
Use Trance Unity as an excuse for a mini-break
I’ve sadly never been to Montreal before and I want to maximize the experience to offset the 5.2 hour, 545 km drive (or the 5-8 hour Via Rail train ride, or the 8-10 Greyhound bus, or the 31-33 hours of cycling…)! Last year, they announced a series of parties leading up to Trance Unity exactly one week before the main event: Opening Party at Penthouse Nightclub, Throwback Thursday at Circus Afterhours, and Warmup Party at Penthouse Nightclub. With expectations of a similar marketing technique, it will be worth your effort to arrive a couple days earlier to catch some of these shows as ticket were cheaply priced between $10-$25. Keep your eye out for these announcements on Trance Unity’s official Facebook event page. Also keep tabs on New City Gas to see who they will book for that weekend (they may or may not be trance acts).
There is a lot more to Montreal besides its nightlife. I’m not a tour guide, but here are a selection of attractions in and around Montreal to check out during non-raving hours (the ones with *asterisks are the ones I’m personally interested in):
Mont Royal* is a 233m mountain that presents a lovely view of the surrounding city. There is a small lake and several walking trails surrounded by the lovely rich foliage the summer sun nourishes, with lookouts towards the St Lawrence River and the 1976 Olympic Stadium. Some areas of the park are drivable with designated paid parking lots, otherwise it’s a perfectly free attraction for those on a budget.
Old Montreal* is home to many cosy restaurants and boutiques, perfect for wanderers. Areas to explore include: Place Jacques-Cartier, Old Port of Montreal, Place d’Armes, Montreal Town Hall and the St. Lawrence River.
McGill University* was built with grand Victorian style on land donated by Scottish-born fur trader James McGill in the early 19th century. If you’re interested in visiting Mont Royal, the campus is located just at the eastern foot of the mountain and it’s worth the detour to see the classic architecture.
Downtown Montreal* and the Underground City* is a safe bet for leisurely wandering and window shopping – there are quite a large variety of shops, restaurants, and pubs to check out.
Notre-Dame Basilica* is currently the number one rated tourist destination for Montreal on Trip Advisor. For $5 you have access to the city’s oldest Catholic church that is loaded with historical merit and beautiful architecture. Go and pray for your sins committed during the weekend.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts* admission fee is $12 for guests up to 30 years old ($20 otherwise) which covers the regular gallery showroom plus access to the Major Exhibition and The Collections & Discovery Exhibitions. The Major Exhibition on display during the week of Trance Unity is devoted to “Pompeii & Herculaneum” (Pompeii’s neighbouring city), and The Collections will have several shows including “The Recovery of Antiquity: From the Renaissance to Neoclassicism in France and Italy” and “Partners In Design: Alfred H. Barr Jr & Philip Johnson” (the two gentlemen involved with the art direction and architecture of the Museum of Modern Art in New York).
Just For Laughs is one of the world’s most famous comedy clubs and it’s hosted an incredibly large selection of famous comedians. It’s too early in the year for the summer line up but keep checking their website to see who will be in town the weekend of Trance Unity.
Schwartz’s Deli* was established in 1928 by Jewish-Romanian immigrant Reuben Schwartz and is home to the famous original Montreal-style smoked meat sandwiches. I haven’t found one negative review of the food but it’s generally considered an expensive menu because of the portion size.
Space For Life (Espace Pour La Vie) is a large exhibit that covers the Biodome, the Botanical Gardens, the Planetarium, and the Insectarium. Each division is rated well on Trip Advisor with high educational value – however, there is a separate admission fee to each area and this excursion will get pricey fast.
Stade Olympique is apparently looking a little worse for wear, but is a historical Canadian landmark nonetheless. Montreal hosted the 1976 Winter Olympics and it’s an interesting spot for sports enthusiasts to visit. It costs $23.25 for a tour of the stadium and the iconic Montreal Tower.
And if self-guided exploring isn’t your forte, there are loads of informative tours that will show you the ins and outs of the city! You’ll surely find one that suits your interests: Fitz & Follwell Co.’s cycling and walking tours of various locations, free Old Montreal tours (only available Monday to Thursday), a wide selection of food and drink tours (from the “hipster” area of Mile-End to Montreal’s popular craft beer tour), and many, many others.
If you desired something a bit flashier and bigger scale than Trance Unity, Ilesoniq has built a good reputation for itself over the last few years. They have already announced the two-day festival will take place on August 5 – 6, taking place one week earlier in the month than it did in 2014. That being said, Veld historically takes place the first week in August which lands on that weekend as well. There is a good chance the lineups will be very similar and the artists may just switch daily performing schedules, in which case it there is no real reason to choose Ilesoniq over Veld; it might be worth taking the risk on a Toronto festival if it means saving money from unnecessary hotel and transportation costs.
But for it’s great money value, unique artist lineup and a proper excuse to travel, nothing is going to beat Trance Unity. Purchase your tickets here and do it soon before it jumps to the next tier price (and definitely before the event sells out)! TeamEDMTOR will be seeing you there!
Ashlyn Doughty – EDMTOR