Electronic dance music wasn’t born yesterday; with disco paving the way for the techno, house, and trance of the 80s warehouse and rave scene, it is a genre that has been stewing in the underbelly of popular music for decades now. But for one reason or another, it wasn’t until this past year that dance music really blew up in North America, with dozens of sold out mega-festivals, stadium tours, EDM/Top 40 crossovers, and mainstream radio play. And whether the sudden popularity of EDM is just a fad or here to stay, 2012 was a great year for dance music in the city of Toronto. Here’s a look at some of the year’s highlights:
EDM TOR is born
A big shout out goes to David Guzman, owner and founder of the EDM Around the Globe network, and Adele Desloges for getting together, assembling a team, and launching the wonderful site you are currently reading this on. The folks behind EDM TOR are an amazing, passionate bunch, and I’m glad that our city gained a nice and cozy home for all things dance music.
Summer Festival Binge
The summer before, I was sitting at home, watching EDC, Electric Zoo, and Tomorrowland after-movies, wishing with all my might that maybe one day, Toronto would have an outdoor festival to call its own. And then, as if my prayers had been answered, came the announcement of Digital Dreams Music Festival – the first multi-day EDM music festival to land in Toronto. The event entertained upwards of 25,000 people over Canada Weekend and boasted several stages with a lineup featuring Richie Hawtin, Mark Knight, Kaskade, Major Lazer, and Duck Sauce.
“The vision began in 2011; basically the core group of the Digital Dreams family have been a part of Toronto’s underground rave and electronic dance scene since the early 90’s. We felt Toronto was starving for a big electronic festival so as long as we put it all together we knew Toronto wouldn’t let us down. We were not about sticking names on a flyer and taking peoples money. We wanted and believed in a world-class festival and we know Toronto deserves nothing less.” – Dave Marchione, Co-founder of Balance Inc.
But it didn’t end there. Then there was IDentity Festival with Eric Prydz and Nero, and Veld Festival with Steve Angello, Gareth Emery, Avicii, and hometown hero, Deadmau5. If you drove a little further, there was also the World Electronic Music Festival (WEMF) or even Escapade Music Festival over in Ottawa. And as if that wasn’t already enough, there were also smaller mini-festivals such as the Full Flex Express Tour featuring Skrillex and Diplo held at Fort York. Finally wrapping up the summer season with the indoor 2-day Labour of Love party at The Guvernment complex that included a 2-8am set by unicorn slayer, Markus Schulz, it’s safe to say that Toronto got spoiled last summer. And with tickets for Digital Dreams 2013 already on-sale, this summer doesn’t look like it’ll be anything short of spectacular.
Trance lives at Toika
Despite the explosion of dance music in the North American club scene over the past year or so, trance music has not been as widely embraced by the masses as other genres like electro and progressive house. But that doesn’t mean that the trance community in Toronto isn’t thriving. Ozmosis Productions launched Foundation Fridays at the cozy and intimate, Toika Lounge, with an impressive line-up including trance heavyweights like tyDi, Alex M.O.R.P.H., Bryan Kearney, and Toronto-based producer, Arnej. Although small, the vibe and music at Toika Lounge is always on point and artists have a great time themselves playing extended sets and interacting with their fans. These parties have garnered such a strong rep for themselves that even several Toronto EDM artists such as Tania Zygar Matt Lange, and Shane Halcon (formerly of First State) will come hang out. It is definitely a bright spot for dance music in Toronto in 2012 and is a place that every trance fan, new or old, should experience.
Armin plays rare 5-hour set in Toronto
As soon as Armin Van Buuren so much as hinted at the idea of social media campaigning for ASOT600 events are the world, Toronto was on it like Honey Boo Boo on go-go juice. Although we got off to a bit of a peculiar start with the Toronto campaign based somewhere in the Middle East, Armin’s Toronto fan following quickly and easily demonstrated why our beloved city deserved a stop on the tour. In the weeks leading up to the big announcement, Armin was booked to play inside the Main Room at The Guvernment where he had apparently personally requested to play an extended 4-hour set. Many were hopeful that this would be the time to show Armin that we deserved an ASOT600 event while others speculated that this was his gift to us as a sort of consolation. In the end, we were left out of the ASOT600 tour, but after a rare extended set from the King himself, there was hardly anything to cry about.
In addition to all the festivals that graced Toronto soils in 2012, we were also lucky enough to have international party brand, Gatecrasher, throw a party in our city. Gatecrasher TO boasted a heavenly trance line-up with youngsters like Tomas Heredia and Chris Schweizer as well as seasoned vets like Daniel Kandi and Solarstone. The event took place at The Sound Academy and saw the venue stay open long after it’s usual 2am close as attendees raised their hands in the air in a state of trance-induced euphoria. For those who were unable to attend, the entire event was broadcast on AfterHours.FM, putting Toronto on the international #trancefamily map as listeners tuned in from around the world. Although this probably won’t be a recurring event like some of the other festivals we saw over the summer, it was another great demonstration of the growth and evolution of the dance music scene in Toronto.
Flyers, flyers, everywhere
It seemed as though everyone and their mothers was listening to EDM in 2012. Whether it was Bangarang in some TV commercial or Levels 24/7, dance music permeated every pore of the city. Clubs in the downtown core were all trying to get in on the action with venues, existing and newly opened, all looking to book top talent. There were even a series of summer boat parties with DJs such as Tritonal, EDX, and Heatbeat playing for fans as they danced on the lake, in the open air. Provoke booked several headliners such as Cedric Gervais, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, and Deniz Koyu at Maison, while Cobra held steady on their rep as a dance music staple with Sharam, Koen Groeneveld, and Mark Mendes to name a few. INK Entertainment had an impressive year as well with a slew of big-name festival headliners like Armin Van Buuren, Axwell, Hardwell, and Fedde Le Grand playing at This Is London, Cube, Uniun, and, of course, the legendary Guvernment Entertainment Complex. Embrace and Bassmentality fed the bassheads at Wrongbar and the techno loving Balance Inc. also found a new home at Moskito on College St., all offering impeccable alternatives to the more commercial vibe in the downtown core. Even without high-profile headliners, there were many smaller parties and self-titled “warehouse raves” featuring local talent and other subgenres such as drum & bass, psy trance, jungle, and dubstep. But any way you look at it, dance music really thrived in Toronto nightlife last year.
To do a complete review of electronic dance music through 2012 in Toronto would require a novella to even come close to covering everything; but even within these highlights alone, it is clear that we have much to celebrate as a city. Our promoters work tirelessly to bring us some of the best parties in the country and building off of last year’s successes, I’m sure we can only expect 2013 to be bigger and better.
To relive some of 2012’s biggest events in detail, head over to our Reviews section here.
Sarah Chiu – EDM TOR