Western University (formerly and better known as the University of Western Ontario), has long had a strong reputation for an amazing student life experience; and while there are a wealth of great on-campus clubs and activities that consistently lead to some of the highest rates of student satisfaction, many people know that a lot of the student life experience comes from Western’s ‘work hard, party harder’ atmosphere. This year, it seemed as though every Ontario College and University campus had great EDM lineups to welcome back students and for a school like Western, it was only fitting to wrap up the week with a massive 7,000 person Block Party headlined by Calvin Harris.
The Scottish DJ/producer has been having an immensely successful 2012 with chart-topping solo releases and collaborations with pop superstars such as Rihanna and Ne-Yo. He had just finished DJing the MTV Video Music Awards (where he also won two Moon Men!), so it seemed a little surreal that he would be making his way to small-town London, Ontario for what I can only describe as probably the biggest party London has experienced to date. If this is a sign of what’s to come in future years, I may find myself returning to school sooner than I expected.
Doors opened at 6PM with openers that included Keep De Pace, T&E, Kurtbradd, Giddy, and Matteo DiMarr. When I arrived at the venue around 8:30PM, there were people everywhere. Traffic on York Street was building up as kids were just blindly running across the street and the overflow of people from the sidewalk pushed cars into a single lane. The crowd was exactly what you would expect of thousands of rowdy University students: guys in ‘bro’ tanks, girls in booty shorts, neon crop tops and hairbands, and all a little (or a lot) drunk.
Actually getting in to the venue was a bit of a nightmare. The VIP check-in tent was only staffed by one person who was constantly bombarded by at least five different people just shouting out their names to have it crossed off the list. One group of about 15 guys butt the entire line and continuously repeated that their “boy” had put them on the list to get an upgrade. The staff member was noticeably flustered and politely asked that people form an orderly line as she could only process one person at a time. This group of bros, however, seemed to think that knowing a promoter gave them priority over everyone else and continued shoving tickets in her face until she finally gave in.
By the time I entered the line around 9:20PM, people were growing impatient and seemed to be finding their own ways to cut to the front or squeeze in at the sides. Hoards of people shoved themselves into the line, hopped over fences, and encouraged each other to push their way to the front. When it got too cramped in the middle, people started to push the partitions outwards so that the line could widen up a bit. Nobody did anything to prevent this from happening and due to the lack of attention from event staff, people started squeezing themselves through a gap behind a lone security guard who couldn’t really do anything as he had to hold the line from his own position. The security and ticket checkpoints were also slack as I saw several people walk through without being stopped or checked. Once inside though, it was smooth sailing.
Just before 10PM, Calvin Harris appeared and the crowd welcomed him with a loud roar. The first half hour of his set was very similar, if not identical, to his EDC Las Vegas set, including great mash-ups of his vocals from Ready for the Weekend with newer EDM bangers. His EDC LV set was cut short due to heavy winds so I felt like I was getting a second chance at hearing the full set he would have played otherwise. He opened with a mash-up of I’m Not Alone and Hardwell’s Spaceman followed by Michael Woods’ No Access into his own, You Used to Hold Me. He also played his recent Top 40 smashes, We Found Love, Let’s Go, and Feel So Close, and the crowd instantly became a choir as he turned down the music several times to let us sing. Sing-a-longs are always a highlight at shows for me as there is no better demonstration of how the music brings people together. I was also pleasantly surprised when he dropped Marcel Woods & W&W’s new banger, Trigger, which DJs across all genres have been wrecking crowds with since its release. Mr. Harris also has a thing for girls on shoulders apparently, as he repeatedly asked to see this throughout his set. See below for a partial tracklist and some accompanying videos.
After an hour and a half of pure fun, Calvin finally thanked the London crowd and closed with his new Nicky Romero collaboration, Iron. It was only 11:30PM at that point and the crowd hung around for a few minutes hoping that he would return for an encore (he didn’t). York Street was an absolute zoo afterwards as thousands of kids poured into the streets, waiting for friends and looking for ways to get home. There were 3 afterparties that night featuring Adventure Club, Manufactured Superstars, and Toronto’s Dzeko & Torres, and most people opted just to walk to the venues, all of which were relatively close by.
Despite all the issues I encountered at the beginning of the show, the actual party made up for it and Calvin Harris was a great event for London, Ontario. The organizers did a great job producing the event complete with large LED screens, great lighting, CO2 cannons, and confetti. Though his set was largely repetitive of his other festival sets circulating on the internet, it was perfect for the crowd he was playing to and was able to draw out an incredible energy that any DJ would dream of. I will admit that on a regular night, thousands of sweaty bros obnoxiously pushing me around and jumping into me is not my ideal crowd; but if you can appreciate it for what it is and within the context of a small student town embracing EDM, then it can actually be a lot of fun, which is exactly what it was for me. I wasn’t the only one either with @CalvinHarris tweeting “Wowww had a great time at Block Party in London hope its not too long before I’m back here you definitely know how to rave!”
Sarah Chiu – EDM TOR
To stay up to date on what’s going on in London, ON, check out:
1. Calvin Harris vs. Hardwell – I’m Not Alone vs. Spaceman VIDEO
2. Michael Woods – No Access
3. Calvin Harris – You Used to Hold Me
4. Hard Rock Sofa – Quasar
5. Calvin Harris w/ Justice vs. Simian – Awooga w/ We Are Your Friends acapella
6. Tommy Trash & Sebastian Ingrosso w/ Calvin Harris – Reload w/ Flashback
7. Calvin Harris w/ Basement Jaxx – Flashback (David Guetta Remix) w/ Where’s Your Head At
8. Deniz Koyu vs. Swedish House Mafia & Knife Party – Tung vs. Antidote
9. Hard Rock Sofa & Swanky Tunes – Here We Go
10. Calvin Harris ft. Kelis – Bounce
11. Swedish House Mafia – Save the World (Style of Eye & Carli Remix) VIDEO
12. Chemical Brothers w/ Florence and the Machine – Block Rockin Beats w/ You Got the Love acapella
13. Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris – We Found Love
14. Nicky Romero w/ Daft Punk – Toulouse w/ Around the World acapella
15. Calvin Harris ft. Ne-Yo – Let’s Go
16. Marcel Woods & W&W w/ The Beastie Boys – Trigger w/ Intergalactic
17. Tiesto & Wolfgang Gartner – We Own The Night
18. Calvin Harris – Feel So Close VIDEO
19. David Guetta & Nicky Romero – Metropolis
20. Nero – Promises (Calvin Harris remix)
21. Thomas Gold – Marsch Marsch (Thomas Gold 2011 Rework)
22. Calvin Harris & Nicky Romero – Iron VIDEO