When the Labour of Love line-up was revealed at INK Entertainment’s Veld Music Festival earlier this summer, I was, at the time, indifferent. I had already seen more than half of the artists booked to play and with many of them having come through Toronto recently, I didn’t think I could justify forking up the $75-120 ticket price. Especially having been spoiled with some amazing outdoor festivals and boat cruises this summer, the thought of returning to Toronto’s version of Bowser’s castle of electronic music, The Guvernment, just didn’t have the same appeal.
With only two weeks to go until the show, trance mini-festival Gatecrasher (which had also been scheduled for the same weekend) announced that the event would be postponed due to unforeseen circumstances (now moved to November 2012). Grieving and vulnerable, it didn’t take much peer pressure for me to give in and snatch up a wristband for #LoL2012. After all, it was the last long weekend of the summer and for many (including myself) it’s ‘Go Big or Go Home’.
When I arrived around 11:45PM, there was already a fairly large line heading into the Kool Haus. The doors to The Guvernment were not open yet, which seemed a little odd to me seeing as 11PM-12AM is usually peak arrival time. The front of the venue was surprisingly quiet save for the faint rumble of the bass coming from the speakers in the Redbull Tent. I was expecting acrobatic performances and other “welcome” festivities similar to 2011’s Labour of Love and although there was some sort of suspended-ring contraption set up, I didn’t see anything special going on at that time. Fortunately, the line was moving pretty quickly and within 20 minutes, I was inside the Kool Haus where Jaytech was already spinning to an energetic crowd. Neon tanks, furry boots, bedazzled costumes, and custom EDM-inspired tees filled the room along with smiles, hugs, and high fives. Out on the patio, groups of enthusiastic party-goers were talking excitedly about the acts they were most looking forward to and the LoL girls were kept busy as people posed in front of a backdrop for pictures.
By the time I entered the Main Room around 12:30AM, it was already packed and on its way to hitting sauna-like temperatures and humidity. Every speaker stack had people dancing and clapping on top of them and it didn’t seem like I’d be able to make my way to my favourite front-left speaker very easily. I headed up to the second floor area instead (second favourite spot) and found myself a comfortable spot along the railing with a great view of the crowd below.
LoL would be my first time seeing the Italian Congorock and boy, he did not disappoint. He played a high-energy set from start to finish with everything from techy jungle beats to progressive house to trance. But no matter what, every song he played featured heavy drops that made the crowd go absolutely insane, whether part of the original song or borrowed from another. Highlights from his set included Tiesto’s Fuckin’ Yeah!, a remix of Nero’s Crush On You, and a great transition from his own track Ivory into Sandro Silva & Quintino’s Epic. I was also surprised when he mixed in trance duo W&W’s Trigger, which seemed to be a favourite amongst fans and the other LoL DJs that weekend. Congorock absolutely smashed it and I urge anyone who hasn’t yet seen him to do so next time he’s in Toronto. By 1:45AM, my phone had been buzzing non-stop with messages from my friends in the Kool Haus; unable to take their fingers off of CAPS LOCK, they were all beckoning me to catch some of Paul Van Dyk’s set.
When I finally managed to return to the Main Room just after 2:30AM, Laidback Luke was already on the decks and the crowd was exactly as I left them – kicking, screaming, and drenched in sweat. This would also be my first time seeing the Dutch superstar live and though I am not a huge fan of his productions, I had only heard good things about his skills as a live performer. As I returned to my perch on the second floor balcony, I was welcomed by the powerful piano of Luke’s remix of MSTRKRFT’s track with John Legend, Heartbreaker. When the drop came, the crowd was hit with one of The Guvernment’s signature whiteouts, inciting a large roar from the crowd as they embraced the cold air with eyes closed and hands in the air. Like Congorock, Laidback Luke threw down a set with a wide variety of music, skillfully mixed in orders and pairings that I never would have expected. He had full control of the crowd and incited two amazing sing-alongs to Afrojack’s commercial hit, Don’t Stop Me Now, and his remix of Wynter Gordon’s, Dirty Talk. In the middle of his set, Luke threw down a chain of Tristan Garner and Gregori Klosman’s Fuckin’ Down, Deniz Koyu’s Bong, Alesso and Sebastian Ingrosso’s Calling, and Calvin Harris’ Awooga. Shortly thereafter, the music faded out and the vocals from Knife Party’s Until They Kick Us Out came over the speakers. You could hear the hiss from the CO2 speakers as the fog slowly crept over the crowd. The vocal loop continued for about 20 seconds, building up gradually until seemingly out of nowhere, the drop from Swedish House Mafia’s vs. Knife Party’s Antidote came blasting through the speakers in sync with a full whiteout.
After Laidback Luke wrapped up, the Main Room suddenly went dark. Hardwell chants started from all over the room and when I squinted towards the back entrance to main room, I could see that the crowd had swelled to a point reminiscent of the one at Labour of Love for Avicii last year. The lights started flashing red to a drum beat that was then joined by orchestra-like strings that soon began playing the easily recognizable melody of Spaceman. It was an intro that I can only describe as “epic” and if you missed it, I managed to catch a video of it here. After the first drop, the young Dutchmen transitioned into a Spaceman vs. Somebody That I Used to Know mash-up which the crowd happily sang along to. Personally, I thought that the Gotye vocal was a bit of a buzzkill as it has been overused and overplayed in all genres of music since hitting radio waves this summer. He followed up with his Heard You Were Walking in Paris mash-up mixed with Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction. Hardwell played many of his own bootlegs, which are known to feature house, electro, and even hip-hop. Many people actually expressed disappointment in how much hip-hop Hardwell mixed into his set but from crowd reactions at the time, it seemed that the majority of people in the main were enjoying it. What irked people the most though was when Hardwell played a song by Drake as his encore. It was definitely kind of random considering the setting he was playing in but I’m sure he was just having a little fun and showing some love to a Toronto artist.
By the time I decided it was time to call it a day, my back was aching, my feet were sore, and my ears were ringing so loud that I thought other people would be able to hear it too. Congorock, Laidback Luke, and Hardwell threw down three hard and heavy sets and I wondered whether they had left people with enough energy to make it through Day 2. Although I still feel that the ticket price was a little high for an indoor event, especially when compared to Veld Music Festival, it was a great way to end the summer and was another successful party by Charles Khabouth and company.
For a review of Day 1 in the Kool Haus by Leanne Feeney, click here.
Sarah Chiu – EDM TOR