EVENT REVIEW: Monkey Buzinezz presents Trance Unity Rave @ Circus Afterhours 24-02-18

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I arrived at Circus Afterhours right at 10PM so I wouldn’t miss a moment of Trance Unity Rave 2018. I had been hearing how unique an experience Trance Unity is for a couple of years now, and I was anxious to experience it for myself. Monkey BuzinezZ‘ yearly event has become a staple in the lives of #TeamEDMTOR and this year was not about to be any different. Ramy Barghoud and team were nice enough to offer media passes to numerous members of our team for maximum coverage. The annual event was going to be kicked off in the Heaven room with an opening set from local Montreal producer and DJ Alexandre Nadeau, who goes by the name Tomac. Tomac is a favourite artist of Adele, our manager, so of course she pushed us to get there early to catch every minute of it. Right at 10PM, after recording a quick promo video for EDM TOR’s Instagram, we climbed the staircase to the top where we received our VIP passes to enter the venue. As we walked in, the spacious entry immediately told me that this venue did not mess around. I could already hear the music booming through the walls and my excitement built to get this night rolling.

I turned the corner and was immediately greeted by a life-size unicorn. My dreams! There were explicit instructions not to touch it, and I can see why, as every raver obviously loves a unicorn. There was also a store right across from the entryway selling essentials for the night ahead: fruit, glow sticks, gum, Gatorade, and more. I hadn’t been exposed to many after-hours clubs at this point, but Circus was already impressing me by how ready they were to serve its patrons. We went straight ahead to the Heaven room from here. They had decorated it appropriately, with angel halos dangling above our heads and white sheets draped around the corners of the room. The lights on the ceiling were a nice touch and added a soothing, heavenly vibe. In each corner, there were stacks of speakers, and fans for some much needed heat reprieve (especially later on in the night).

Tomac already started his opening set in Heaven and was doing it proper, with a slow progressive build. There was a decent grouping of local die-hard Tomac fans at the front right, one being the familiar face of Eric Dore-Boivin, an event promoter in Montreal. They were dancing and talking to each other when Shannon, our social media maven, found us. Together we danced to the smooth progressive music Tomac was feeding us, like Dee Montero‘s In The Wild ft Meliha. Karl K-Otic showed up early into Tomac’s set and was talking to everyone with a big smile on his face. He was giving out hugs left and right, and handed out plenty of his K-Otic rubber bracelets to fans – so nice! Trancers slowly trickled into the venue and wandered around to get their bearings, but eventually came back to Heaven to get their groove on. Tomac dug into the Anjunadeep and Enhanced Music release pile and played LTN‘s track with Nina Carr called Illusions as well as The Ants by Graumann.


I decided this was a good time to get the lay of the land so I wandered off. I immediately encountered one of my favourite spots in the club – the swings! Glorious wooden swings were hanging from the ceiling, making this section of the venue look like something out of a Shakespearean play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Other than being slightly too close to one another (it was easy to collide with another person swinging, as I later found out), these swings were one of the most unique things about Circus. Whenever I was feeling adventurous, restless, or even if I just wanted to have a more intimate chat with a friend, these swings were my go-to space. To the left of the swing room was a sort of in-between room, with benches lining the sides and placed in the centre. At first I was a bit confused by it, but later it became clear that this room is a type of sound barrier between Heaven and Hell so the music wouldn’t bleed from room to room. I wandered back into Heaven, perplexed as to where the Earth room was located. After asking someone, I realized it was up the stairs to the right of Heaven but it was not yet open. I’d have to wait to explore that room later.

By the time the first DJ in Hell, Tim Penner, started his set at 11PM, Tomac had everyone in Heaven properly grooving by quickening the pace a bit. I headed over to see what Penner had in store for the beginning of the darker-themed room. Hell was decorated with chains hanging from the ceiling with red lighting, which aesthetically I really liked. Penner was starting his massive three-hour set with slow progressive techno, something you would expect at the beginning of a long journey ahead. I was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t ID any tracks in this room, however it’s always harder to ID tracks in this progressive of a set because it’s meant to be that way, as each track seeps into the next. The vibe in this room was very chill at this point in the night, but with only four DJs on the room’s line up (mostly progressive ones at that), the entire night in Hell seemed to have a purpose, as if there was a logical place for the music to end up and each artist added to the night as a cohesive whole. Initially, I believed I would be spending most of my time in Hell, but I soon learned that you can’t plan out how your night at Trance Unity will go – it’s a journey in and of itself.

Back in Heaven, Karl K-Otic was riding off of the high energy Tomac ended his set with, and slammed out a banging set from start to finish. Karl’s set was the first time that I heard Gareth Emery and Standerwick‘s popular tune Saving Light – you’ll notice it comes up a few more times in this review! This was my first time seeing Karl in action, though I had seen his name all over social media prior to attending this event. I can see why the fans love him so much – he has an incredible amount of energy and passion when he plays. Some believed the set to be a bit too high energy for how early it was in the event, but Team EDMTOR was loving the pace pick-up.


When Monkey BuzinezZ announced that the Earth room would feature classic trance this year, it was to the pure delight of trance veterans and elitists. At midnight, the much-anticipated room finally opened, so I ascended the stairs to explore the room. It was a smaller space than rooms on the main floor, which gave it a more intimate vibe. There was a bar at the back, opposite the DJ booth. The DJ booth was raised a bit off the dance floor, and there were benches on either side of it. There weren’t many people in the room when I first ventured in, but those present were already dancing happily to DJ Hammaka Chris Hammond. Chris also happens to be one of the masterminds behind the Monkey BuzinezZ team. When Adele walked into Earth to check out his set, she walked right into the sounds of Bliksem by Sander van Doorn and went nuts! Hamm also played Johnny the Fox by Dakota (a Markus Schulz alias) and Cosmic Gate‘s wildly beloved Exploration of Space. Thanks to DJ Hamm, Earth was off to an energetic start. JCP, a resident DJ for Monkey BuzinezZ, took over in Earth after DJ Hamm’s set finished and it wasn’t too long before we heard another Cosmic Gate top track, Fire Wire.


Back downstairs in Heaven, Nifra was playing Apache by Fisherman and Hawkins. By the time she came on the stage, my group of friends were there in full-force. There were so many of us that we took up an entire portion of whatever room we chose to be in – it truly felt amazing to be going through this experience with so many wonderful people. Heaven was dense with ravers at this point, but it still didn’t feel as hot as previous summer editions of Trance Unity. Nifra is a favourite among the Montreal trance scene, and her fans were eating up every note she was delivering. She played one of her own releases, Army of Lights, which features the vocals of songstress Seri. The crowd sang along: “you rage against the night, and in my darkness you bring me an army of lights!” I always find myself more intrigued by female DJs as they are harder to come by in the male-dominated music scene, and Nifra certainly delivered a set I will remember!


Super8 & Tab
‘s first set of the night began in Heaven at 1:30AM and they weren’t messing around when they opened with Seconds Away featuring Sarah deCourcey, which is from their newest album, “Reformation Part 1.” They delivered an energy packed set that I couldn’t force myself to move away from. When their famous song Mega came on, the entire crowd sang along, even though it doesn’t have any lyrics! They played several newer songs, including my personal favourite True Love. This set was also the second time I heard Saving Light, and by this time, the energy in the venue was through the roof! Looking around the room at Team EDM TOR, my friends, and so many others in the crowd, it was clear that everyone was right where they wanted to be.


Back in Hell, Airwave had taken over from Tim Penner and was continuing the dark journey. Hell certainly had its own vibe all night long – when you stepped into that room, you were immediately transported. The clear distinction between rooms was impressive, and something I won’t soon forget. Airwave was playing groovy progressive tunes at this point, with some deep progressive house mixed in. At one point, the crowd began to chant Airwave’s name, Laurent, which clearly displayed their passion for his art. He played his own release Rain Beneath My Skin, as well as Sebastien Leger‘s Lost Miracle, Jerome Isma-Ae & Tone Depth‘s Keira, and Rick Pier O’Neil & Chris Gavin‘s India.

Upstairs in the Earth room, Tomac had started his second set (classics) with the PUSH remix of Mauro Picotto‘s Back to Cali. Veteran trance fans know classic Mauro Picotto and Mike Push tracks very well, and it was obvious how many trance vets were in the room when this track dropped. The vibe in the room was unreal as people let their bodies move to the beat with carefree abandon. Tomac kept the momentum up for us as he mixed in WippenbergChakalaka (Heatbeat Bootleg), Fade to Black by John Askew, Andy Moor and Ashley Wallbridge‘s Faces with Meighan Nealon, and more. The classics just kept coming and coming. We heard old tracks from Leon Bolier, Breakfast, and Akira Kayosa. The Earth room was giving everyone mega nostalgic feels! Adele had raced up the stairs to get in there for Tomac’s entire set and stayed in Earth for Super8 & Tab’s classics set. She had been the most excited for these two classics sets at this year’s TU.


Downstairs in Heaven, crowd favourite Gabriel and Dresden came on at 3AM. The majority of my group were super stoked about this set, as it was a tour stop promoting their new album “The Only Road.” We made our way through the crowd to secure a spot at the front. If you were there, you couldn’t miss us – we were the group that had light toys, glowing clothes, and not to mention a few in the group have brightly coloured hair. G&D played a lot off of their new album of course, such as You and my favourite, Only Road.  This was the first time I was seeing Gabriel and Dresden and was expecting a relaxed Anjuna set. I was happily proved wrong! I was not expecting such hard bass lines to rumble out of the speakers from these seasoned DJs. Because of this, I’d say this was the most positively surprising set for me all night.

Back up in Earth, Adele and Ryan were firmly situated to hear the much anticipated Super8 & Tab classics set. They started their set with an intro mix of their track with Julie Thomson My Enemy – the same song Adele said she heard them start their Electric Zoo NY 2011 set with.  Janne and Miika played so many favourites that still are played today, such as the Gareth Emery Metropolis mix of OceanLab‘s On A Good Day. They mixed in their own fan favourite originals Helektra and Black is the New Yellow – and surprised us with a bunch of their own remixes! They dropped their remixes of Markus Schulz featuring Justine SuissaPerception, Luminary’s Amsterdam and Above & Beyond presents Oceanlab – Satellite vs Super8 & Tab – Awakenings (Super8 & Tab Mashup)! With these gems, as well as classics from Verococha, The Thrillseekers, and Binary Finary, it’s obvious why this set was a favourite of the night for many in attendance. 

As John 00 Fleming began his four-hour extended set in Hell, the sound shifted to an almost tribal feel with heavy rolling percussion. All of the transitions in this room were nearly flawless to my ear but still carried subtle changes that gave away the fact that a new artist was on. What I really liked about Hell was that it felt reliable and consistent, so if I was ever restless in Heaven or Earth, I could pop back to Hell for more subtle and technical music, such as Christoph‘s EPOCHE. That is, at least until the end of the night when all bets would be off and Christopher Lawrence would take over. Towards the end of his set, Fleming started playing more aggressively, adding in some psytrance tracks in preparation for Lawrence’s closing set, which we expected to be 145+ BPM, full-on psy. Fleming mixed in a lot of his own tracks, such as We Close Doors and The Devil’s Gate of Heaven with Roby M Rage, to get the energy levels up. At this point in the night, the Hell room was quite packed, as J00F has a solid following in the trance scene.

Back in Heaven, Marco V had gone on stage. The threw down a dark tech-trance set and I loved what I heard of it. He played Godd, a complete crowd favourite, as well as the trance classic Bullet in a Gun by Planet Perfecto and ATFC’This is not a Test. 


At this point in the night, the crew was getting a bit tired, so we all decided to take a bit of a break. In the middle of the venue near the washrooms, there were benches lining the walls and a strangely placed (but amazing) bathtub in the middle of the floor. We all sat down and chatted with each other here for a while with Marco V’s beats playing in the background. This was one of my favourite parts of the night: having the opportunity to sit and bond with the people I was with. Connecting with others at raves is so unique – so much is shared, and trust never seems to be an issue. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, so I revel in the opportunities I have to do so. This resting space also featured one of those claw game machines with what I believed were only stuffed animals. However, at one point, we all noticed that one woman had been standing at it for a very, very long time. Upon further inspection, it appeared that she was specifically determined to fish out… wait for it… a vibrator! It was not simply stuffed animals in that game after all. There seemed to be no end to the surprises that TU had in store for us.

Up in Earth, the DJ to follow Super8 & Tab was Carl Müren. A hard set to follow but he pulled it off with a little more than grace. He kept the classics rolling with a favourite from Tiesto and BT, Love Comes Again, and Cosmic Gate’s Back to Earth.


Alex M.O.R.P.H.
 was next up in Heaven, which we initially heard from our comfy resting spots near the bathrooms. He played a lot of psytrance and hard trance, as well as some crowd favourites like his remix of Above & Beyond’s A Thing Called Love. No one can resist belting their lungs out when that song comes on. He also played Tiesto’s Lethal Industry and Underworld‘s Born Slippy to mix it up a bit.

It was at around 6:30AM that I decided I had better get back to the Earth room because Toronto’s own Kris Morton was starting his classics set. There were several people dancing around, each with a bit of space between them. At this point, I don’t think anyone minded having some space since it had become fairly crowded and hot up there. I noticed a lot of familiar Toronto faces there to show their support for Morty and was happy to see new faces enjoying his sound. Kris was the second DJ to make our manager Adele happy with a Mauro Picotto song when he dropped Like This, Like That in the Megavoices Claxixx Mix, followed with Voodoo & Serano Blood is Pumping and Wamdue Project‘s King of my Castle (Sander van Doorn remix). Everyone in Earth was dancing their faces off and Morty just kept just smashing it. As I went to leave the room for the last time, I heard him play the Cosmic Gate remix of Ferry Corsten‘s Digital Punk and a bunch of fans yelled out with joy as I descended the stairs once again.


I couldn’t stay in the Earth room for too long, as it was SO hot up there. At certain points in the night, some friends and I would dance on the stairs so we could simultaneously hear some classics but also be a bit cooler. Eventually, though, we would always make our way back to the draw of Heaven.

One of our team members spoke to Roger Shah just before his Heaven set and he said that he was going to totally uplift us. He played his song with Aly & Fila and Susana, Unbreakable and even dropped one of his Sunlounger tracks, Lost. The mood in Heaven was upbeat and euphoric just as everyone wanted it to be at this point in the night. The crowd seemed lost in the music and we still had hours left in the night.


Back in Hell, Christopher Lawrence came on to close out the room for the second year in a row and right off the bat he dove into his signature psytrance style. I always love his style of progressive psytrance – you can hear the melodies building underneath the aggressive, pounding bass, which adds a whole other dimension to the music. Every person in the room was stomping to Lawrence’s set, and you could tell he loved every minute of it with a euphoric smile on his face! He played high bpm slammer after slammer, with tunes like Vini Vici & Astrix‘s AdhanaVoyager‘s Space And Time, and SidekicksWhere’s The Psy? blasting through the speakers. At the end of the set, #TeamEDMTOR member Paul spoke with Lawrence, stating to him that everyone “left everything on the dancefloor” during the set, and Lawrence laughed in appreciation for the compliment. What a fantastic way to end the night in Hell!


To close out the night in the Heaven room, Standerwick provided us all with a banging high-energy set with recognizable track after track, such as Gareth Emery’s Reckless, John O’Callaghan‘s remix of Craig Connelly‘s How Can I, and Simon Patterson‘s Now I Can Breathe Again. My tired feet felt invigorated by his tracklist as he got me up and kept me moving right until the very end. Even when Saving Light came on for the third time (we can all forgive him for this, since it’s his song) everyone sang along. I briefly went to sit down when I heard the beginning of my favourite trance track, Standerwick’s remix of John O’Callaghan’s Find Yourself, get introduced to the beat. I quickly pulled my friend back to the dance floor and sang my little heart out. While hearing this track was the perfect ending to Trance Unity for me personally, a friend of mine lost her mind when Standerwick ended the event with his own remix of a P!nk song, What About Us?


The end of Trance Unity was bittersweet. Our feet were aching and our bodies were exhausted, but we wanted more. Even after 13 solid hours of raving, I craved not only more trance, but more of the overall experience. My group was the last out of the venue and were hit with quite literally cold reality, as it was hailing outside. We quickly walked home with bass lines still ringing in our ears, and people looking at our dishevelled rave appearances strangely in the 11AM broad daylight.

In my initial preview for this event, I stated that many people had told me what an unique experience trance unity is. Although I believed them, nothing could have prepared me for the night I had at Circus! I felt as though I had lived an entire lifetime in those rooms, learning about myself, hearing the music I truly love, and creating bonds that will last a lifetime. Nothing will stick in my memory as much as looking around in those last moments of the night at all my friends, new and old, and seeing them having the time of their lives together. I truly felt a part of something in that moment, and it wouldn’t be possible without Monkey BuzinezZ’s amazing efforts in the Montreal trance community. Trance Unity now holds a special place in my heart, and it will be hard to pull me away from it in the future. It also solidified Montreal’s hold on me via the music scene… I frequently drive/fly into town for shows now. I think all of this amalgamated into a life-changing experience and I know it has for others as well. For now, I look forward to the next Trance Unity in 2019, which has thankfully already been confirmed! I hope to see everyone there – you seriously don’t want to miss experiencing this!!

If you want to relive a bit of this year’s event, listen to the track list we created below of songs we heard!:


LINKS:

HEAVEN ROOM:

Gabriel & Dresden
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Youtube
Super8 & Tab
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Youtube
Standerwick
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Youtube
Alex M.O.R.P.H.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Youtube
Marco V
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Youtube
Nifra
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Youtube
Roger Shah
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Youtube
Karl K-Otik
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Youtube


HELL ROOM – JOOF TAKEOVER:

John 00 Fleming
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Christopher Lawrence
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Youtube
Airwave
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Youtube
Tim Penner
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram


EARTH ROOM – CLASSICS:

Tomac
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Youtube
Kris Morton
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
Instagram
Rob Naylor
Facebook
Soundcloud
Carl Muren
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
DJ Hamm
Facebook
Soundcloud
JCP
Soundcloud

Amber Wilkinson – EDM TOR

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About Author

Amber Wilkinson

Amber dove headfirst into the trance scene when she moved to Toronto in 2015. She feels at home on the dancefloor with the rolling basslines of psy and techtrance, and you’ll often catch her saying that "the dark side of trance understands her." She lives and swears by Giuseppe Ottaviani’s mantra “trance is music with a soul,” although lately she has been exploring the sounds of techno and bass house as well. She’s always looking for more people to tear it up with at events, so say hi if you see her around!

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