Every year for the Easter long weekend, Montreal welcomes five nights of celebration for Bal en Blanc (translated to White Party Week). For months, excitement and anticipation had been building for the ultimate peak of the celebration – a massive fifteen hour music event that turned out to be undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life.
Our night began when we arrived at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal at 11:00pm where we had no idea what to expect, but were happy to be inside the massive building out of the rain and cold weather. When we walked up to where the lines were formed, we realized it was a good idea to have gotten there as early as we did. Thanks to the amazing staff and people at Playground Productions who put together this huge White Party event, we were fortunate enough to have VIP admission and were able to get through the line much quicker. Although we went through the VIP entrance, many of the people with General Admission tickets that we spoke to inside commented that they were inside within 30 minutes; always a great start to the night when you don’t have to wait hours in line. After heading through quite a few security checkpoints it was made very clear to us that the organizers of this night were also very serious about making sure that everyone was safe inside.
After about twenty minutes we were finally at the entrance ready to start an epic night. As we pushed the heavy black velvet curtains aside to enter the venue and step into what instantly seemed like a completely different world, you could feel it in the air. The bass was making every hair on your body stand on end, packs of beautiful people dressed head to toe in white everywhere you turned, flashing lights; it was the pure definition of over-stimulation for a music lover. When we walked further in, on the left hand side was the Main Room with a round stage set up right in the middle with Sultan & Ned Shepard just beginning their set. We were fairly early and the crowd wasn’t too large yet but you could see everyone gathering all around the main stage so there was literally no bad view for anyone who wanted to rage to the sounds in that room all night. Not to take anything away from the Main Room line-up but our destination was the Trance room for the entire marathon event. A lot of the hype that was generated was surrounding the Trance line-up for this year’s event; a line-up that was said to be the best one yet for Bal en Blanc. As we moved our way over to the Trance Room there was a buffer zone in the middle that had everything you could possibly need for a marathon rave. There were souvenir stands selling anything you could think of: Sweatbands, Sunglasses, T-Shirts, Bal en Blanc Souvenirs, and many other items. It was also a surprise to see that there were massage tables and chairs right smack in between the two rooms, with tons of workers on hand ready to give massages to anyone who wanted one. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but thinking back now (and realizing how much my body hurt), it would have been an awesome idea to get a massage during a marathon event such as this one.
Moving further to the right it hit me that we had reached our destination for the night. My first impression of the Trance Room was “Wow”. It appeared to be so much larger than the Main Room, although we’re pretty sure this was just an optical illusion due to the fact that the Main Room stage was right smack in the middle of the dance floor. Based on what I heard from people who attended previous years, Playground had actually put a lot more time, effort, and dollars into the décor. Behind the DJ booth were massive floor-to-ceiling, and almost wall-to-wall projection screens powered by some amazing visuals courtesy of Montreal’s very own Moment Factory. Combined with several rectangular LED panels hanging from the ceiling, lasers, smoke, and even a few pyrotechnics, the Trance Room really kicked ambiance up a notch to match its equally awesome DJ line-up. With only a half hour left in their set, we walked into local DJ’s Project Offset absolutely ripping it up and creating unmistakeable vibes that set a solid tone for the rest of the night. You can listen to their set here:
At the stroke of midnight Cosmic Gate began their two hour set opening with Mat Zo & Porter Robinson’s track Easy. Playing a very uplifting and energizing set, the German duo delivered a lot of classic tracks that they are known and loved for. We heard tracks like Cosmic Gate’s Over the Rainbow, I Don’t Deserve You by Paul Van Dyk feat. Plumb, Orjan Nilsen’s newest banger No Saint Out Of Me”, and a really awesome track by Arnej and Cosmic Gate called Sometimes They Come Back For More. Australian Trance Vocalist Emma Hewitt performed live about a half hour into the set and I have to say, it wasn’t what I had expected. Maybe because I’m so used to hearing her voice through airwaves, hearing her sing live at the event was totally different – not at all in a bad way though. Quickly realizing that it obviously would not sound the same as it does mastered, I decided to focus on the live set. Everyone was in love with Emma’s beautiful voice singing tracks like Be Your Sound by none other than Cosmic Gate. The last 45 minutes of their set was packed with some really heavy hitting tracks and some of their greatest hits including Exploration of Space and Fire Wire. By this point, the Trance Room became increasingly busier by the minute in anticipation of Armin Van Buuren’s set at 2:00am. By 1:45am, the dance floor was so packed and the temperature was reaching dangerous levels of sweatiness. People did not seem to mind though; everyone was all smiles – laughing and dancing the night away.
Two o’clock in the morning arrived very quickly and it was finally time for Armin Van Buuren to take over the decks. Every year Armin has made his presence widely known during this event in Montreal, and this year was no exception. He showed us exactly why he is the reigning number one DJ in the world with a three hour set that I can only describe as complete perfection. He opened with Omnia’s The Light”and by that point, had the room almost entirely filled to the brim with space becoming very limited to move around as freely as we could before. Thirty minutes into his set Armin played Rio Roots (Armin van Buuren Samba Mashup) by Glender vs Klauss Goulart & Max van Voors, a track with a really fun bongo beat that had Armin doing a little samba behind the decks. His set was jam packed with some killer mashups including The Sound Of Rewind (Myon & Shane 54 Mashup) by Armin van Buuren vs Emma Hewitt, Brute vs. Concrete Angel (Armin van Buuren Mashup) by Armin van Buuren & Ferry Corsten vs. Gareth Emery, Airport Shivers (Armin van Buuren Mashup) by Photographer vs. Armin van Buuren feat. Susana (my personal favourite), and Not Giving Up On 3rd Earth (Armin van Buuren Mashup) by Solar Stone & Scott Bond & Heatbeat vs. Armin van Buuren. This instantly became one of the best sets I have ever heard Armin play and we especially enjoyed the last hour of his set, which was a lot darker and harder than the typical melodic, vocal, and commercial trance that he has been currently playing in his A State Of Trance 600 Expedition Tour. Anyone who isn’t ‘Afraid of 138’ was in definite Trance Heaven after that portion of his set. Case and point, near the end, Armin dropped Stresstest (Armin van Buuren Mashup) by John O’Callaghan vs. Commander Tom, a track that pays ode to the days of acid trance and was hands down the climax of the night as confetti shot out over the crowd making everyone go absolutely wild.
Leaving no time for recovery, Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten began their three hour set at 5:00am introducing their new name New World Punx – and they did not disappoint! Opening with Loops & Tings, they set the tone right away. Together, the New World Punx is all about high energy tracks and big room sounds; a perfect fit with Bal en Blanc. They were hands down one of the best sets of the night. Memorable tracks from their set included: Romper by Markus Schulz & Ferry Corsten pres. New World Punx, Binary Finary – 1998 (Markus Schulz & Ferry Corsten pres. New World Punx Bootleg Mix), Black Light by Ferry Corsten, Finish Line by Markus Schulz & Elevation, Apache by Fisherman & Hawkins, and Mammoth Forever (New World Punx Mashup) by Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike & Moguai vs. Ferry Corsten & Aruna. It was amazing to see these two producers unite, and put together such a unique set mixing the best of both of their worlds. Everyone was thoroughly impressed with the way Markus and Ferry played, and it made us really excited for the possibility of more New World Punx appearances in the future.
>By the time W&W came on in the final hours of Bal en Blanc at 8:00am, we started to notice that the crowd that was once 15,000 noticeably started to dwindle. Opening with their newest banger Lift Off, the Dutch duo prepared us for a set that I knew from experience would not be very Trance-like and more electro house sounding instead. We heard a lot of their famous remixes of various tracks including: Waiting by Dash Berlin & Emma Hewitt, Clarity by Zedd & Foxes, and Armin Van Buuren’s newest track This Is What It Feels Like to showcase their unmatched skills for making these tracks almost their own in a special W&W kind of way. Not dropping the beats for a second, we heard the newest Armin Van Buuren and W&W collaboration “D#Fat” and a personal favourite “The Code” collaborated with Ummet Ozcan. As much as I enjoyed hearing them live, a few people complained that they shouldn’t have been in the Trance Room if they weren’t going to play only trance. By the end of their set it was obvious the hardcore partiers were the last ones standing, sticking around for Andrew Rayel to finish off this fifteen hour event.
Andrew Rayel was last but certainly not least coming on at 10:00am for the final two hours of Bal en Blanc. It was almost impossible by that point to have any energy left, but the presence that Rayel had on the stage kept the remainder of people dancing and loving his set. He opened up with one of his biggest tunes How Do I Know feat Jano, and continued to keep us on our feet with many other massive hits of his own including: Where Do We Begin, 550 Senta, his brand new epic track Zeus, and another track that helped put him on the Trance map Aeon of Revenge. He also dropped Apache by Fisherman & Hawkins which was played by a few of the other DJ’s earlier as well, but nonetheless sounded phenomenal live. Andrew Rayel was second best to Armin’s set in my opinion not only because I think he is extremely talented for his young age, but because his energy, enthusiasm, and overall presence on the decks made it impossible to not love him. I’m happy to have finally been able to hear him live, and cannot wait to hear him again one day soon.
The exhausted trance fans that made it until noon were left speechless and happier than words could describe. As for myself, Bal en Blanc is a place I could call a sanctuary; an unforgettable atmosphere where the music and the energy of 15,000 people fells nothing short of perfection. Every chord and every track completely consumed the mind and body. It is unexplainable – something that can only be felt and experienced firsthand to fully understand. All you can do is live for that moment. Ask anyone who attended that beautiful night and they will tell you that they are already counting the days until Bal En Blanc 20th Edition, myself and all of my friends included. A very special thank you to Playground Productions and all of the organizers that put together Bal en Blanc, for making this event one of the most memorable ones yet.