No amount of snow, ice, and windchill can keep the Trance Family from missing one of the last incredible Toronto area trance shows of 2016. After the success of Electric Escape‘s debut Toronto show in August, Escape 138, there was a lot of excited chatter when a sequel was announced. Escape Together: A Journey Into Trance brought another massive lineup to our city and gave us an additional reason to be merry this holiday season.
This was my first time being inside Rebel – the completely renovated music hall complex located at The Docks, previously known as Sound Academy. The main stage is situated in the same spot as it was before with massive screens and lights surrounding the DJ booth and lining the balcony. There are several rings of light that move up and down and twist left and right over the crowd in the middle of the dance floor. Bottle service tables line the walls of the space with a few tables located right on the dance floor, marked by their birdcage-like decor, and two long bars stretch on opposite wings of the room towards the back. I found security to be extra tight, possibly due to an unfortunate death at the venue a week earlier, but the coat check, washroom, and bar lines moved fairly quickly.
The first headliner of the night, Bjorn Akesson, was in the middle of his set by the time my friends and I were all settled in and found a spacious spot to dance off to the left of the stage. There were two huge differences I noticed right away; there was so much light in the venue that you could always clearly see the faces surrounding you, and the music wasn’t so loud that you could have a conversation without screaming your lungs out at one another. Akesson played a good hour-long set for those who arrived early enough to see him (the room was approximately a third full upon my arrival but was over half by the time he finished), ending his set around 11:30PM with a remix of A Sky Full Of Stars followed by a rework of the classic fan favourite Thing Called Love. For those who didn’t arrive early enough to catch Akesson, a recording of his show is now available on Soundcloud:
“Thank you for such an amazing party last weekend! Hope you all had a good time! I just uploaded my set from the night that I recorded. Grab it here :)” – Bjorn Akesson, sharing Live @ Escape Together Toronto inside the Toronto Trance Family Facebook group, 29-12-16
RAM was the next artist to play. No one in my friend’s group had seen him live before but were very excited – and I can see why! RAM blew us all away. He caught our attention early in his set with his remix of Silence, which avalanched into one great song after another. The highlight for most was when Susana joined him on stage for a live performance of RAMelia, a song written and dedicated to the sudden passing of his wife Amelia in 2013. The room swayed and sang in unison to the lovely sorrowful lyrics. From there, RAM guided us back to the party by playing three massive trance hits back-to-back-to-back: Anahera, Satellite, and Concrete Angel. It was well after midnight when my friends and I relocated to a more central spot on the dance floor. The crowd had thickened, but there was still a fair amount of personal space even in the heart of the room. Nearing the end of his time slot (around 12:30AM), RAM threw on Great Spirit and crowd-surfed around as part of his finale.
It was a very smooth transition between the end of RAM’s set and the beginning of Susana. I had never seen a live EDM vocalist performance before that wasn’t longer than just a song or two, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was just Susana on stage, singing over the predetermined mix playing (I assume RAM set that up for her). Her voice is very strong and carried well, for a live performer, as she danced and swayed along to the music.
Between sets at around 1AM, Electric Escape’s head honcho Stanley Ho came on stage to thank us all for the love and support the Toronto Trance community has given them, and to wish everyone in the room a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Tonight’s resident DJ and local artist Deecee appeared back on stage along with a dance crew, VYBE, for a choreographed dance performance. Although I appreciate the effort of organizing this dance performance as a token of their gratitude, I was already very eager for the next DJ of the night and I would’ve personally preferred if they gave the extra time to the artists instead.
Ben Nicky! The one I’d been looking forward the most since I saw his name listed on the flyer finally took the stage. He throughly headf**ked every raver in attendance. I was hooked in the second that Ben began his hour-and-a-half long set with Counting Down The Days. From there, he mixed uplifting and vocal trance with his hard hitting psy style. He kept playing one amazing track after another; there was no way I was gonna move from my front and centre view. Not long into Nicky’s set, the circular rings of light began to move for the first time that night. It was pretty neat standing right underneath them while they flashed and rotated and the big HEADF**K logo flashing on the screens above the man of the hour. It’s no secret that I adore Gareth Emery, so I was thrilled when Ben played Reckless followed by his remix of Until We Meet Again about forty minutes in. His Lethal Rollercoaster mashup, Find Yourself, and Free Tibet (a 2016 massive hit) were big crowd favourites, but another huge highlight for me was when Nicky played his 140BPM Headf**k remix of Language. I’m surprised he didn’t play his smash hit remix of Restless Hearts, but regardless, Ben Nicky delivered the amazing performance I knew and expected from him.
At around 2:45AM, Indecent Noise replaced Nicky on decks but kept the harder vibe and energy going, starting things off with his remix of Fire Wire. I was tired after dancing my butt off to Nicky’s set, so I spent some time exploring the rest of the new Rebel complex. I found the entrance to the Purple Room at the back near the coat check. Dare To Escape, hosted inside the Purple Room, was an added feature to Escape Together for all the harder bassheads with support from Hardstyle Toronto. Dare To Escape featured DJs Ryan Gentry, Vee from Les Reines, Damo, and Sylence. There was only a handful or two of people inside when I wandered into the space around three o’clock. Most, including myself, found standing room along the bar or seats along the glass wall that faced downtown Toronto. The rest danced it out until the room closed around 3:30AM and everyone was asked to evacuate. I wondered what it would’ve been like if I popped in a bit earlier, but my heart lies in trance and there wasn’t much that could’ve led me away from the main room any earlier that night. The party had thinned but was still adrenalized as I watched the rest of Indecent Noise’s set from the back. The lights and laser show was still impressive from a “big picture” perspective versus being right in the middle of it all. Exploration Of Space rang through the speakers as Indecent Noise finished off his set.
Our final artist of the night, Chris Schweizer, started his set at 3:45AM with a mashup of his track Scorpion. I returned to the middle of the dance floor that had a lot more space to move than it did earlier. Schweizer was playing a good set, but I couldn’t get into it as much as I wanted to because the exhaustion was starting to take a toll on me. It was nearly 4:30AM by the time my feet gave out and I left after Schweizer played Million Voices. Those who remained didn’t seem to be stopping any time soon; I noticed that the remaining ravers were still going hard on the dance floor.
I have a few minor criticisms about the night that could easily be fixed for future shows. The first is related to the venue. It was oddly cold the entire night, a new sensation I’ve never experienced in a club. Even with all of the bodies dancing, I had to borrow a friend’s sweater for a good portion of the night. Secondly, the artists seemed to repeat a lot of songs throughout the night and this happened much more often than it should have. There must be a way to keep track of what songs have been played at large scale events like these, so that the DJs arriving later don’t end up playing repeats. Lastly, as I mentioned earlier in the review, I’m not sure how I felt about the use of a choreographed dance number that wasn’t incorporated into an existing set.
That being said, I had an absolutely fantastic night as did everyone in attendance! The artists, crowd, and venue were great, plus the diverse lineup brought out old and new friends that added to my experience. Electric Escape now has two successful major events under their belt and I can’t wait to see who they bring to our city in 2017.
Coldplay & Paul Webster vs. Zac Waters – A Sky Full Of Stars vs. Silent Cartographer (ID Mashup)
Above & Beyond ft. Richard Bedford – Thing Called Love (Estigma Rework)
Delerium ft. Sarah McLachlan – Silence (RAM Remix)
RAM ft. Susana – RAMelia (Tribute To Amelia)
Ferry Corsten pres. Gouryella – Anahera (Darren Porter Remix)
Above & Beyond pres. OceanLab – Satellite
Gareth Emery ft. Christina Novelli – Concrete Angel (RAM Rework)
Simon Patterson vs. PPK – Taxi Resurrection (Ben Nicky Mashup)
RAM ft. Susana – Someone Like You (RAM & Standerwick Remix)
Armin van Buuren vs. Vini Vici ft. Hilight Tribe – Great Spirit
Photographer ft. Susana – Find A Way
Aly & Fila meets Roger Shah & Susana – Unbreakable
Above & Beyond ft. Gemma Hayes – Counting Down The Days
Armin van Buuren vs. Vini Vici ft. Hilight Tribe – Great Spirit
Pop Art – Disco Madness
Dash Berlin ft. Roxanne Emery – Shelter (Photographer Remix)
Coldplay – A Sky Full Of Stars (Paul Webster Remix)
Tritonal ft. Steph Jones – Balckout (ReOrder Remix)
Ace Ventura & Vini Vici – The Calling
Tiesto vs. Eddie Bitar – Lethal Rollercoaster (Ben Nicky 140bpm Headf**k)
Gareth Emery ft. Wayward Daughter – Reckless (Standerwick Remix)
Gareth Emery ft. Ben Gold – Until We Meet Again (Ben Nicky Remix)
John O’Callaghan ft. Sarah Howells – Find Yourself (Standerwick Remix)
Hilight Tribe – Free Tibet (Vini Vici Remix)
Simon Patterson – Smack (WAIO Remix)
Ranji vs. Above & Beyond vs. The Prodigy & Blastoyz – Can’t Sleep With The Voodoo People (Sensualise Mashup / Ben Nicky Edit)
Above & Beyond pres. OceanLab vs. Sneijder – Jack The Satellite (Sensualise Mashup / Ben Nicky Edit)
ReOrder & Standerwick pres. Skypatrol – Shut Up!
Porter Robinson ft. Bright Lights – Language (Ben Nicky 140BPM Headf**k)
Vini Vici – The Tribe
Cosmic Gate – Fire Wire (Indecent Noise Remix)
The Prodigy – Voodoo People (John Askew Remix)
Cherrymoon Trax – The House Of House
Hypetraxx – The Darkside (ID Remix)
Cosmic Gate – Exploration Of Space
Chris Schweizer – Scorpion
Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus (Eric Prydz Remix / Sean Tyas 2016 Rework)
Above & Beyond pres. OceanLab – On A Good Day (ID Remix)
Aly & Fila vs. Luke Bond ft. Audrey Gallagher – Million Voices
Ashlyn Doughty – EDM TOR