REVIEW: Max Graham @ Toika Lounge 07-06-13 by Monika Sobota


On Friday, June 7th, 2013, Ozmosis Productions and Toika Lounge hosted an event for one of biggest names in Trance and Progressive – Max Graham. Back in town for an extended four hour set, Max Graham is no stranger to the dance music scene and has been producing and DJing since the 1980s. Being a past resident of Toronto, he’s played in our city countless times, and I was beyond excited to see him live for the first time.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, Max Graham is widely known for his Trance and Progressive productions, has a weekly radio show called Cycles Radio and owns the label Re*Brand Records. Just recently, he played a massive back to back set with Protoculture for Armin Van Buuren’s ASOT600 Expedition Tour in Mexico, and, if you listened to this set at all, you understand how talented this man truly is.

After a very long week, I was eager to get the weekend started and arrived at Toika at 11:00pm. I was surprised to find the lounge was still pretty much empty. This was a change of pace compared to the past few events that I attended there which filled up very quickly early on.

Getting the show underway was a new resident DJ, DJ Shelley, with some really funky Tech House and Progressive: a perfect choice of beats to start off the night. I had the pleasure of speaking with her at the beginning of the night, and she mentioned how much she loves warming up the crowd and getting them moving. It’s refreshing to see a female DJ in the industry, let alone one who does a great job hyping up the crowd, so a big kudos to Shelley for doing an amazing job with her new residency.

By 11:30pm, there was a steady flow of people coming in. Bringing in amazing vibes and a very diverse crowd of both young and old, the partygoers were excited to hear what Max Graham had in store. Midnight quickly approached, and the sounds began to change as DJ Shelley started to dig into some incredible Trance tunes which changed the tone and better suited Graham’s style.

I let myself dance away and get lost in the music, so a short time to elapse before I surveyed my surroundings. When I did, I noticed that Max Graham was walking around chatting up a bunch of people on the dance floor. Too chicken to go and introduce myself, I decided to stay back and observe the interaction with him and his fans and friends, and it was a humbling moment to witness, especially since it’s not very often we get to interact with artists before or after their sets.

At half past midnight, Graham began his extended set and opened with Battle Scars by Daniel Portman, and here began my musical journey into the night with this Trance legend. I say musical journey because I didn’t just hear Trance, I heard a variety of genres that took me through so many different emotional sensations. Graham started off his set playing a lot of Tech Trance and beautifully transitioned between Techno, Progressive House and Trance, shaping his set into one of the best I have ever heard. Playing some of the tracks he is most famous for, I caught Sun in the Winter and Nothing Else Matters, both produced by Max Graham. Playing a good mix of old and the new hits, we also heard tracks like: Talk to Me by Super8 & Tab, When You Loved Me by Boom Jinx, Maor Levi & Ashley Tomberlin, and Power Drive by Eric Prydz. Roughly half way through his set, I heard the familiar sounds of a track that has blown up recently over how awesome it is, and that track is Max Graham’s newest release, The Evil ID. Needless to say, every Max Graham follower went crazy when this track came on. Also, paying tribute to a fellow Trance star that just recently announced his retirement from DJing and producing, Max played Jon O’Bir’s Found A Way (Joint Operation Centre Remix). Finishing the set off with a few melodic Trance tunes, I heard a new release from Armin Van Buuren’s latest album Last Stop Before Heaven, a classic Above & Beyond tune featuring Zoe Johnston Love is not Enough (Above & Beyond Club Mix), and one of Lange’s newer releases Our Brief Time in the Sun. As my musical journey was coming to a close, Graham played his beautiful production called I Know You’re Gone. After composing myself and realizing he was playing the last track of the night, I joined my fellow EDM-family in begging for an encore, and we received a remix of U2’s With or Without You!

Looking back on the night, I have to say it’s not often that I get to witness an artist take me on such an awesome musical journey, live, with more than one genre of music, but Max Graham pulled it off perfectly, proving why, after all these years, he is still one of the best Producer/DJ’s in the Electronic Dance Music industry. This was the best crowd, atmosphere and good vibes I have experienced inside Toika in a while. Everything about this event came together perfectly, from start to finish. A big thank you, as always, to Ozmosis Productions and Toika Lounge for putting together yet another successful event. I hope Max Graham will be back very soon with another unforgettable show.

Monika Sobota  EDM TOR


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