Toronto event venue Koolhaus was packed on Sunday, May 20, 2012 as EDM lovers from across the province gathered for trance legend Armin Van Buuren’s return to the city for FREEDOM – a night of electronic dance music heaven. In his first Toronto appearance for 2012, Armin tore up the dance floor with an intense three-hour set that had fans raging into the wee hours of the morning.
Starting promptly at 1:30am, after an opening set by Blake Jarrell, Armin had the crowd roaring with hits like W&W’s “Invasion” and “Megalodon”. Glow sticks in hand and arms in the air, trance lovers barely noticed the go-go dancers on stage – partly because of the light show, and partly because they were too carried away with the dirty beats belted out by Armin and his sound system. Blasting heavy hitters like Beat Service’s “Fortuna” and Orjan Nilsen’s “Amsterdam”, even Armin was in rage mode on stage. What gets a crowd more riled up than their favourite DJ dancing away to the tracks they so anxiously want to hear? I can’t think of anything better.
By mid-set, sweat was dripping as partiers made up the words to the tune of Omni and Ira’s “The Fusion” and Gareth Emery’s “Tokyo”. Though no one knew exactly what to say, everyone was singing something – thank you Gareth for making it perfectly normal to assume the lyrics “Marty, pass me a beer”. Hey, could you do any better?
As the party continued, temperatures rose – perfect timing for a cool-down track like Armin’s own “Suddenly Summer” which allowed for three refreshing minutes of calm as everyone stood still, hand-made hearts in the air. Other fan favourites were Orjan Nilsen’s “Legions”, Gareth Emery’s “Concrete Angel” and Armin’s “J’ai Envie de Toi”. Mixing in the classics, Armin had his bases covered with “Burned with Desire” and Andain’s “Beautiful Things”.
By the end of the night, the room felt like a sauna but no one seemed to mind as Armin closed the set with “Going Wrong”. Jumping in front of the DJ booth, he graciously offered high-fives and autographs, using his own Sharpie pen, to fans ripping the shirts of their backs singing, “and I can’t see today, and I can’t see tomorrow…” Armin hailed the crowd and left us with hand waves and thumbs ups, exiting the stage with a smile as big as the one he came in with. We love you Armin.
Shortly after Armin ended, the masses began to retreat to The Guvernment main room where Nicky Romero was finishing a set, just as John O’Callaghan was making mark on the turntables. By 4:45am the Koolhaus crowd was down from thousands to a few hundred. Regardless of the size of his audience, O’Callaghan brought it with tracks like “Surrender” by Full Tilt and Nitrous Oxide’s “Follow You”. He picked up the pace with his hit remix of “Concrete Angel” and the ultimate mashup, Armin Van Buuren vs. John O’Callaghan “In and Out of Love vs. Raw Deal”. Dedicated trance addicts raved the night away, paying no attention to a completely trashed dance floor. I must admit, it was quite refreshing to have the breathing room and finally cool down.
Unfortunately, O’Callaghan did not play a full two-hours – it turns out Koolhaus staff were refusing re-entry to those who had ventured off to catch Romero in Main Room. As a result, O’Callaghan closed his set around 5:50am, with none other than the beautiful “Rhea” – a bone-chilling vocal track that had us all smiling while holding our broken hearts. He made a quick exit, leaving the crowd yearning for more. We got the hint, however, when the Koolhaus garage doors lifted, pouring the morning sunshine into our dancing haven. That was our cue to move into The Guvernment Main Room, where it was still dark and local DJs Manzone & Strong carried the party until 7am.
Outside, cab drivers were fighting for patrons while memories of FREEDOM 2012 were revisited on the smart phones and cameras of a buzzing crowd – a perfect ending to a perfect night. The Trance Gods listened.
Anjali Handa – EDM TOR