REVIEW: Electric Island w/ Green Velvet, Hot Since 82, & Soul Clap 05-08-13

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Electric Island, Toronto’s premier outdoor party hosted by Footwork, Embrace and Platform Ent., provides worn and weary partiers a way to enjoy incredible music in a relaxed atmosphere. Hidden away from the bustle of the big city, some of the biggest names in electronic music descend upon a modest stage nestled between large trees on the Toronto Islands. This past civic holiday, Electric Island was comfortably packed with a mix of young festival goers and mature scene veterans, as Green Velvet, Hot Since 82, and Soul Clap took to the stage. I was fortunate enough to experience this event for the first time, and my definition of an outdoor party was subject to a drastic makeover.

I left home around 2:30 pm, expecting a comfortable drive in on this quiet long weekend Monday. However, much to my dismay, I soon found myself in quite a bit of gridlock, heading all the way to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. Parking spots were expensive and hard to come by, and everywhere I look I see groups of young adults in their summer-time best, headed to the Islands.

Getting ferry tickets for those who purchased tickets online was made extremely easy by Electric Island reps on site providing ferry stubs. I was grateful, as I was with a large group of people and the ticket lines were long and winding. The ferry ride over was beautiful, as clear skies and a light breeze lightened my spirits.

Though no representatives were at the docking site of the islands, it was not difficult to find the venue entrance: clear, pounding bass made for an easy trek over. I literally just “followed my ears”. Before entering the venue, my friends and I set up camp underneath a huge willow tree and enjoyed snacks and each others’ company while we passed the time until Soul Clap’s set. However, the locals Djs on deck were filling our ears with groovy, soulful music, and the urge to dance quickly overtook the urge to relax.

As we entered (security was very friendly, though I was saddened when I had to watch 3 refreshingly cold water bottles from my bag be thrown into the garbage), I was greeted by a sight I hadn’t quite experienced before: a large open space dotted by trees, small stalls offering alcohol, drinks, and various foodstuffs enticing a large number of an eclectic crowd of people. Many had blankets out and were just enjoying the experience of outdoor music. Poupon was on the decks, and the speakers were pumping out low, sexy basslines. I found it extremely difficult to ID many (if any tracks, which is rare), but I found this sonically pleasing and very different from the events I had grown accustomed to.

As time passed, the anticipation for Soul Clap had reached a high in my stomach. Though I was largely unfamiliar with the Boston duo’s music, I had done a bit of research was not at all surprised when they dropped their laid back style of R&B and Soul-styled House. What I found myself to appreciate the most was their use of analog/live samples as opposed to digital synths. The warmth of the saxophone, of various brass instruments, and jazzy vocals really said much about their style, and the crowd certainly appreciated what they heard.

As the day grew cooler, the crowd grew to capacity levels. There was no more time to sit and relax; Green Velvet had taken the decks. Eager revellers shuffled through the crowd, trying to find the perfect spot to enjoy what they were about to experience. I have been a huge fan of GV for many years now, and dumbfounded is the most accurate word in my vocabulary. The set was absolutely incredible, and the vibe in the crowd was something I’ve never experienced before: no pushing, no shoving, no impolite drunks elbowing their way through a crowd. It was a happy techno dance party. Green Velvet played through a wide variety of tracks, from the groovy sounds of Azari & III (with live vocals from their lead singer) to powerful, pounding techno like Gary Beck’s Video Siren. Of course, no Green Velvet show is complete without Percolator and his live rendition of Flash. Not many are aware, but when you plug headphones into a microphone jack, the coils act as a microphone. Velvet, taking full advantage of this, plugged himself in and his voice echoed across the venue, and the crowd exploded, chanting along “Cameras ready, prepare to Flash!”. The list of positive things I could say about his set is near endless. It was beautifully crafted and wonderfully executed.

As the high energy techno music of Green Velvet ended and the sun went down, the lights were turned up and the Leeds based House hero Hot Since 82 took to the stage. The vibe suddenly shifted, as the atmosphere went from frantic and energetic to deep, sensual and groovy. HS82 has been throwing out a slew of hits that have dominated the Beatport top 10 deep house, with tracks like Beg (Hot Since 82 Future Mix), Like You, Shadow ChildSo High (Hot Since 82 remix) and the ever popular Planes & Trains. My body relaxed, and all the soreness from dancing like a madman melted away: I was in a deep Trance. Bodies swayed in unison and though the temperature by the water was significantly colder than in Toronto, the heat of the moment had people sweating. I’ve never quite experienced anything like it, and it left me craving more and more.

As I walked away from a still-packed venue to the awaiting ferry, I could not help but smile to myself and hum along to the pounding basslines. It was my first experience on the Electric Island, but it certainly will not be my last.

Gary Sagoo  EDM TOR

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