Last Saturday, for the first time ever, I found myself at The Guvernment at 11pm. With trance god Armin Van Buuren starting a five-hour set at midnight, I wasn’t going to risk getting there any later.
With the release of his newest documentary “A Year With Armin Van Buuren” by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines earlier that day, Armin’s visit to Toronto couldn’t have been planned at a better time. Twitter streams and Facebook forums were buzzing with excitement from fans that were watching the video and counting down the hours until it was time for them to experience Armin in person here in Toronto.
Upon arriving at The Guvernment, I wasn’t surprised to see a packed house by 11:30pm – even the folks at Ink Events tweeted pictures warning patrons to arrive early for this one – it was a sold out night. As resident DJ Mark Oliver warmed up the crowd fans claimed their space on the dance floor. You can tell when a DJ reads his audience correctly – the crowd was excited, ready to dance and full of energy as they responded to Oliver’s musical calling. There was a slight panic by those right upfront as the DJ booth seemed to be elevated by 2 feet – no one within 10 feet of the booth could actually see the DJ. Most people figured the booth would be lowered for Armin, and they were hoping they’d be right.
By 11:50pm, the venue was packed. Those of us in “the pit” were standing shoulder-to-shoulder without an inch to move. As we got closer to Armin’s arrival, the crowd got more intense with eager fans trying to squish there way to the front, except there was nowhere for them to go. The chanting of “ARMIN, ARMIN, ARMIN…” quickly began and at 12:00 on the dot, the DJ booth was lowered and Armin appeared with hands in the air, clapping to the beat of the chant.
Opening with Deadmau5’s Get In The Cart, Pig, Armin took a few minutes to greet his fans with a nice long “Jesus pose” – you know, that pose with both arms stretched to the side and head tilted backward. With confetti dropping, the mood was being set for a perfect transition into Andrew Rayel’s How Do I Know featuring Jano – which also happens to be the first track on Armin’s latest album, Universal Religion 6. Right away the crowd got into it, singing and dancing along to the music. After squeezing my way out of the centre of the dance floor, I took stand by a bar on the side, only to find it just as packed with people eager to get their eyes (and cameras) on Armin.
With a little more space here, it was easier to dance and appreciate the genius behind the music. Armin played hits like Axwell’s remix of In My Mind, along with Omni & Ira’s The Fusion and Armin’s own We Are Here To Make Some Noise, but it was as he was playing Zedd’s Spectrum when it got a little crazy. Armin grabbed the Co2 gun and blasted the audience with a refreshing mist that made them scream. Rumour has it he even blasted The Guvernment’s owner Charles Khabouth – now that would have been a sight to see.
It was around that time that I noticed the doors to Chroma (a room within The Guvernment complex just off of the main room) were opened. Inside were two large screens showing Armin spinning in the main room. This room was much cooler and gave us a place to exhale without missing out on the set. Kudos to Armin for allowing his set to be filmed and THANK YOU to The Guvernment for making that option available. Chroma wasn’t packed, but provided an escape from the chaos that was happening in the other room.
As the night progressed, so did the trance – we moved into Ferry Corsten’s Not Coming Down and Armin’s new track with Ana Criado I’ll Listen. The emotional rollercoaster continued with Alex M.O.R.P.H’s For the Love of An Angel, which always gives goosebumps even in the sweatiest of environments – there’s something about Sylvia Tosun’s voice that just sends chills up and down your spine every single time. Pair that with Armin’s Tuvan (under the Gaia collaboration) and you’re headed into an emotionally uplifting and soothing experience.
Given the work Armin was putting into this set, I was disappointed to hear a glow bracelet was thrown and nearly hit him in the face – similar to when he was in Kool Haus a year ago and actually got hit with glow stick. I love the enthusiasm that comes from an eager crowd, but let’s use our common sense people! Luckily Armin was not injured. Hopefully we don’t see behaviour like that at The Guvernment again, it might be fun in the moment but is dangerous and can really prevent an artist from returning. Let’s not throw things, k?
Now, it wouldn’t be an Armin set without him playing Burned With Desire. At this point the DJ booth started to lower and Armin was at eye level with the crowd. Though security had spent the night fighting off fans who were anxious for a high-five, some managed to get t-shirts and tank tops over to Armin and signed – that was definitely a moment of the night. Finishing off with In And Out of Love the fans were singing and Armin was Jesus-posing right until the very end (I believe Dan Levy counted over 70 awesome Jesus-poses in all – we just can’t get enough!).
Five hours had passed and while we were all left wanting more, we knew it was time for Armin’s set to come to an end. With that, he took the mic and in front of a screaming crowd boasted “This is why I f**king DJ!!!” He took a moment to thank the lighting and sound technicians and then thanked the crowd. With their permission to play one more song, he closed it off and set the stage for next in line, Jochen Miller.
I wasn’t sure how the sounds of Armin and Jochen would mix, but it turns out they are an excellent pairing. I was happy to see a large crowd stick around for the up and coming Jochen Miller. He played one of my favourite tracks, Wild and Perfect Day with some hard hitting trance beats that had the audience moving and shaking past 6am.
A big thank you goes to Ink Events and The Guvernment for bringing Armin back to Toronto. Perhaps the ASOT600 campaigning will have paid off and we’ll see him again soon!
Keep an eye on all things Armin by following his twitter account: @arminvanbuuren and tuning into A State of Trance radio show HERE every Thursday 2-4pm EST.
Until next time…
Anjali Handa – EDM TOR