EVENT REVIEW: Bal en Blanc at Palais des Congrès de Montréal (Montreal Convention Center) April 20 & 21 by Jeet Ghoshal

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I have been yearning to go to Bal en Blanc ever since I heard about it two years ago. I would have sold my soul to go last year where I would have been spoiled by the likes of Armin van Buuren, New World Punx and Dubfire, to name a few. Finally, my time had come— 2014 was the year that I my friends and I would grace the dance floor and dance until our feet bled, which they did.

I arrived at Palais des Congrès promptly at 11 p.m. after being in an almost comatose state from poutine and smoked meat from La Banquis and Schwarz. As we eagerly hopped, skipped and jumped down the street, we saw a plethora of gorgeous people dressed all in white making their way towards the venue. Upon entering the Palais Des Congrès, we immediately noticed several large lines. We lined up at the one that was leading to security check. My only complaint about Bal en Blanc was at this point. Although there were several lines, there was no indication what each line was for. It was only until I got to the front of the line that I was told I would have to line up in a separate line because I had purchased my ticket from someone else. This was extremely frustrating, to say the least, as I had to wait another hour to get in. Meanwhile, my friends were blowing up my phone with text messages and phone calls asking how much longer I would be. This only served to increase my frustration and my anticipation. Then, finally, I was in!

I immediately headed to the techno stage where Nic Fanciulli  was already working people into a sweat. I stopped to take in the moment and the venue— Funktion 1, Funktion 1 everywhere. It seemed as though that was the only sound system Montreal knew. I wasn’t complaining though, as the bass lines at the techno stage were so well punctuated I felt like my heart was going to pop. There was quite a crowd, and they all looked marvelous grooving and bouncing in all white. Despite how many people attended the event, there was never a point in time throughout my night where I felt cramped. There was always room to dance and then some. A pleasant surprise when you juxtapose the Toronto scene against the Montreal scene.

Nic Fanciulli was playing against a backdrop of three LED screens, surrounded by a cornucopia of lasers and flashing lights. I know many people travelled from Armin Only: Intense the night before to Montreal, and although the visuals may not have been as breathtaking, I was shocked at the quality of the production. As the Palais Des Congrès is essentially a big open space, the lasers and flashing lights could be seen piercing the air along with the sound waves from every corner of the venue. Nic Fanciulli  interspersed the dark rhythmic beats with almost progressive house-like builds and vocals which the crowd responded well to. For each build, the crowd would break from their groove and throw their hands in the air as the flashing lights illuminated their faces and their outfits only to be thrown back into the darkness when Nic dropped the bass line once again.

I made an about face at 2 a.m. to go catch Andrew Rayel at the trance stage. When I arrived, Andrew already seemed like he was mid-set. The beams of lights, LED screens and yes, even more lasers bounced around the room as he danced, jumped and waved to his new-age electro-trance. I think the optical pleasures deserve a special mention because they were much better than I had expected or was used to. The collage of colours and lights swung around the rooms, almost violently in trying to keep up with the rampaging beats laid down by each DJ.


Confetti dropped from the heavens as Rayel dropped Violetta by Orjan Nilsen, a track I love and dance hard to no matter where I hear it. Then, he slowed it down with Jar of Hearts by Dash Berlin as the crowd hung onto every note and crescendo, swaying to the melodic tunes with their eyes closed, and surely, their hearts open. Despite how electrifying Andrew was, something was pulling my heart strings back to the techno room for a double dip of Nic. I caught the last half hour of Nic Fanciulli’s set before Mr. “Oh Yes, Oh yes, oh Yes!” took to the decks.


The crowd had swelled to almost double its size for Carl Cox. Although I was only there for an hour, the lasers bounced with the beats and with the crowd as Carl Cox laid down one of the best sets I had heard from him—it was absolutely fantastic! I knew as soon as the set times were announced that I would forever want more. There was so much overlap between legends. I had to climb out of the deep, dark hole I had been grooving in to go see the electrifying and unbelievable duo of Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten.


As I made my way back to the trance stage, I could hear Andrew Rayel closing with Till the Sky Falls Down by Dash Berlin. It was time, for the warriors to come to pla-ay!! Little did I know, I was in for 3 of the most tiring hours of my life. In the back I could hear people already talking about Markus Schulz’s marathon after party at Stereo the following afternoon. The energy was kicked into high gear, right from the get-go as the New World Punx opened with Pump Up The Noise by Marc Smith (Jacob van Hage Remix). The energy and excitement was tangible. You could feel it coursing through your veins, and lungs, shaking your bones and forcing you to move your feet.

Although it is my job to put this event into words, I’m having a very hard time illustrating exactly how powerful New World Punx’s set was.  The best advice I can give at this point, is that if you ever have a chance to see them, go, don’t think about, don’t contemplate what dinners, appointments or assignments you’d have to reschedule or postpone, just shut up and let them take your money.

Before I knew it, Betsie Larkin had taken to the stage. The music had taken a definitely turn to the emotional and soothing side of trance as sung, brilliantly, I might add, Made of Love and Not Coming Down. I’m always amazed at the talent that trance vocalists possess. In an age of lip-syncing, auto-tuning and voice overs, I have never once seen a trance vocalist be nothing but spectacular when the mic is in their hand. The vocals were clear and pronounced enough to be heard over the music in the background, the white lights illuminated Ms. Larkin in her insatiable white dress, the hands were up, the heads were tilted back— it was glorious.

“Alright, enough with the emotional stuff”, the Punx said, as they got right back into the swing of things with Nothing Without Fortuna and Digital Madness. More confetti flew down from the ceiling. Then, it was time to be reconstructed. As a taste of what was to come later on in the afternoon, Markus Schulz took off his Unicorn Slayer crown and transformed into the White Rabbit as he told the crowd it was time to venture down the rabbit hole. What followed was a back and forth between the white rabbit and Ferry Corsten—dark and dirty, juxtaposed with super high energy electro-influenced trance. I was in awe. The New World Punx were everything I could have hoped for, and so much more. As I’m re-watching videos I took on my cell phone and writing this review, I know, unequivocally, that set will be forever etched into my brain. It was now 7 a.m. and most people were on their way to work as I was on my way to Deep Dish.

At this point, I was sweating, hungry, there wasn’t an ounce of H2O left in my body, my feet were surely broken and bleeding, my legs were numb as if I had just done leg day for a week straight, but, “Screw it!” I told myself. “You have more dancing to do!” As I dragged my carcass back to the house stage I could hear the unmistakable stylings of Sharam and Dubfire. The rattle and reverb could be heard from meters away. As I inched closer and closer, my jaw dropped lower and lower until I started to scrape the confetti on the floor into my mouth, like a whale feasting on krill. Describing the genre alone takes a lot of effort. It was a melding of progressive house builds and synths, with the rhythmic pounding and deep bass lines of techno. As good as New World Punx were, in my opinion, Deep Dish were just as good, if not better. The way they played with your ears, tickling them with playful synths that reminded me of sprinkles on a donut; altering the bassline by a quarter note and letting you come to the realization of the change moments later, the slow slithering build ups that eventually led to the cataclysmic release of bass—it was art. I could have listened to Deep Dish for thirteen hours alone. I was hypnotized, mesmerized, and astonished by their skill and the ease with which they controlled every single minute detail of the room. Unfortunately, an hour and a half passed by as if it were thirty seconds, and I had to head back to the trance room for the Lord of pure trance, Solarstone .


He opened with The Exorcist Theme (Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield), which he quickly transformed into an uplifting trance anthem as he faded out the melody and replaced it with something more accustomed to his character as a DJ and producer. The lasers and bright lights pierced your retinas ensuring you paid attention and kept your feet moving through the home stretch. I mission-ed back and forth between Deep Dish and Solarstone, both were too good to miss. It was quite fitting as I myself characterize myself as a juxtaposition of uplifting trance that courses through my veins and the darkness that I have grown to fiend and love. The crowd was growing sparse as those with less stamina, or more of a life than I, dispersed leaving plenty of room on the dance floor to do whatever pleased you.


I found it very interesting when Deep Dish played a darker rendition of Nadia Ali’s Rapture. Hearing vocals at around 9 a.m. reminded me that I wasn’t a drone or a zombie, but still possessed some human qualities. Back to Solarstone in time for Please, Solarcoaster and his closing track, Beautiful Things by Andain. I could tell Solarstone loved every second of his own set as he sung along with each vocal track, encouraging the crowd to follow suit. It took exactly 2 ½ minutes past 10 a.m. for Beautiful Things to play out (I timed it). And that was it. The most incredible event I have had the pleasure of attending was over just as quickly as it began. To say I can’t wait until next year is an understatement. Bal en Blanc, along with the rest of the Montreal rave scene, is something that everyone who has any interest in dance culture should indulge in.


LINKS:

Hardwell
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Deep Dish
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Nervo
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Dannic
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Dyro
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Paris and Simo
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Carl Cox
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Nicole Moudaber
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Resident Advisor

Nic Fanicilli
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New World Punx
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Adina Butar
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Betsie Larkin
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Andrew Rayel
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Omina
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Guiseppe Ottaviani
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Solarstone
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Carnage
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Bal en Blanc

Palais des Congrès de Montréal

Jeet Ghoshal EDM TOR

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About Author

Adele Desloges

Adele is the owner of Tranceported. She also heads up the social media as well as the photo and video teams, and was a promoter of events across the Toronto area for years. She has been a fan of Trance music since the mid-90s and has been shooting Trance events since 2011..

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