Posted by Gosia Mrugala
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Toronto’s first two-day EDM festival, Digital Dreams was exactly that: a dream. The community that came together for this event was just awe-inspiring. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, more heart-pumping beats, and more enthusiastic fellow music lovers.
Anticipation for this event was high. For weeks beforehand, just looking into store windows and seeing the Digital Dreams poster brought euphoric goose bumps. The team behind the festival was nothing short of the best. And they couldn’t have chosen a better venue for this historic EDM event than Ontario Place, a famed local landmark that opened to the public more than 40 years ago.
I wish I could have morphed into three people with a single mind and been at all the stages, experiencing each and every artist’s set. Instead I found myself running from stage to stage, trying to experience a bit of everything.
Can I pinpoint one set that I favored? In all honesty, I can’t. Every artist on the bill brought something unique and extraordinary to their performance. Still, there are a few that keep replaying in my mind.
Saturday, walking towards the Dreams Stage, feeling your mind and body pulled forward by the sounds dancing through the air, getting closer and closer to where BT (a.k.a. Brian Wayne Transeau) was rocking the crowd. A veteran of the scene for more than two decades, he knows how to keep an audience moving and cheering.
After BT’s set, Montreal-born A-Trak stepped in and quickly had the crowd under full control. Local hero JELO not only dominated the crowd during his own day-one set on the Dreams Stage, but returned later to fill in for Afrojack, who couldn’t make it for the first day due to travel delays, and once again gave a stellar performance. Meanwhile, over on the sandy dance floor at the Echo Beach Stage Hed Kandi DJs Andy Warburton and Sarah Louise gave noteworthy sets.
Back on the main stage, rising star R3hab turned in a set that people would be buzzing about for days to come. It was mind-blowing to watch the young Dutch DJ interacting with the crowd, standing up on the decks, and sharing his extraordinary passion for the music. British veteran Steve Lawler rocked the stage as one knew he would, and was followed by the equally well-traveled Canadian stalwart Richie Hawtin. Throughout the day I’d been hearing people talk excitedly about Lawler and Hawtin, and the prodigious sets from these two elder statesmen more than justified the anticipation.
The second day was a continuation of the madness. Mother Nature continued to lavish us with perfect summer weather. The bodies slowly began flooding into Ontario Place, and by 4pm the stages were absolutely swarmed. Entranced by the beat and the bass, by the ecstatic atmosphere, I couldn’t help but feel proud looking around and seeing the community that EDM creates, the shared love for the music flows through everyone. It’s so admirable to see people coming together this way to be a part of musical history.
The artist schedule for the Dreams Stage on day two was thrown off quite a bit by Afrojack’s travel mishap. He finally arrived on Sunday to give his fans the set they were eagerly awaiting — and Live Nation generously offered those fans who’d bought a single day ticket for Saturday free entrance the next day to return and see Afrojack.
Thunder Bay native Sydney Blu rocked her performance, and reminded the audience several times during her set how proud she is to be from this country.
The one set from day two that really stands out in my memory has to be Dubfire on the Echo Beach Stage. He was so hypnotizing, his musical selection so spine-tingling, he kept the crowd in a trance throughout. I have to say, every time I’ve seen him live I have been impressed; that kind of consistency is rare.
This was a weekend I spent dreaming in digital. I can’t speak for the organizers, but in my eyes the festival was an absolute success: a primo experience for the fans and music-lovers — and judging by their comments on Twitter, for the artists too. Check out some samples:
The explosive popularity that EDM has acquired in the past couple years is beyond belief. But the spectre of commercialism hovers over it now, and I pray the genre doesn’t lose it’s magic. Here’s hoping that we can look forward to more festivals and events like this that offer an opportunity for new appreciation and shine a light on some of the artists that you won’t necessarily encounter on Z103 or MTV.
Gosia Mrugala is a Toronto-based blogger and reviewer. You can read her blog HERE, and follow her on Twitter HERE.