On November 16th, 2019, Anjunabeats legend Oliver Smith made his London, Ontario debut at the newly-renovated Rum Runners inside the London Music Hall alongside London-trance pioneer Aaron Winter and Toronto’s own A.D. the Kid. I hadn’t been to London in many years and somehow it felt as though nothing and everything had changed. After living there for a few years back in the mid-2000s I never had much desire to go back, but the allure of a trance party never fails to get me out of my comfort zone. So, fresh from a Friday night party at Rebel, I hopped on the GO back to Guelph just in time to catch my train to London. I was exhausted and a complete mess, but it was absolutely worth it and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
As I walked up the stairs to Rum Runners, I could hear the smooth progressive vibes of A.D. the Kid’s opening tracks over the sound system. Along with the recent renovations, a brand new crisp and clear sound system was installed. I was one of the first to arrive and I got a chance to scope out the venue. It truly is an incredible space. The exposed brick and open ceiling lent to a cool underground warehouse vibe while the freshly-installed dance floor and the soft glow of the overhead lighting brought a feeling of warmth and comfort. The bar (and its incredible staff) were tucked away at the back of the venue which left the remainder of the spacious club open for much-needed dancing space. A.D. the Kid was dropping some incredible tracks. I’ve seen him open for a number of different artists in Toronto but never in this bpm range. His mastery of progressive and flawless mixing truly speaks to his versatility as a DJ. He played through tracks such as BLR’s Meduse, Forerunners & Mir Omar’s Time Interrupted, and James Holden ft. Julie Thompson – Nothing. The dance floor was warm and inviting. Those progressive beats demanded movement and my dancing shoes happily obliged.
As the club started to fill up I was happy to see so many familiar faces. People traveled from far and wide converging on London for this night… and I don’t just mean that people drove down from Toronto. I saw people from all over Ontario as well as New York and even as far as Mexico. This was a big night for London! It’s not every day a smaller city gets blessed with Anjuna royalty. As I scanned the crowd, I noticed something unusual for an Anjuna event; everyone was wearing Aaron Winter t-shirts. It was so amazing to see such strong support for a hometown DJ, but really it was no surprise. Aaron has been working hard to perfect his craft and to bring trance to the people of London. I’ve heard a number of his sets on SoundCloud and have been told by many about the magnetizing effects of his live sets and the air of pure joy he radiates from behind the deck.
Aaron picked up right where A.D. left off, deep in the realm of progressive house. He opened his set with Pryda’s Armed to a sea of cheers and smiling faces. The lighting rig at Rum Runners washed the dance floor in a sea of colours but it wasn’t the spotlights that lit up their faces. The crowd was absolutely radiating pure joy, love and comradely and it was an incredibly beautiful thing to be a part of. With each track, it felt like the energy level was picking up even though I know the bpm stayed within the same range. Aaron truly has a gift for choosing tracks that elicit both an emotional and physical response. You could feel the electricity in the air as he dropped Yotto’s remix of BBE’s Seven Days and One Week. It was around this point in the night I had some non-trance friends join the party and I was super eager to share my world with them. We made our way deep into the heart of masses just in time for a track my friends knew and loved, Kavinsky’s Night Call, brought into the world of trance by way of Estiva. I could not think of a better possible way to draw them in. He followed this up with the Maceo Plex update to a track I personally love, Der Dritte Raum’s Hale Bopp. I can never resist a track that makes me feel like I was dropped right in the center of a 70’s sci-fi film.
By this time of the night, the crowd was thick. The front few rows of the venue were a sea of Aaron Winter t-shirts, but there were also a lot of newcomers making their way up to join in the fray. It wasn’t long before my friends got to truly experience the effects of trance as I drop to my knees and passionately scream-sang Armin Van Buuren’s Shivers at them. I’m sorry Susana, I did not do your track justice. Positive energy was flowing from behind the decks and being met by hundreds of grateful ravers, completely immersed in the vibes being put out into the universe. The crowd was loving every moment of it! I could hear them chanting “Aaron! Aaron!” but it was nearly time for the main event. He closed out his set with Estiva’s remix of Cosmic Gate and Super8 & Tab’s Noom. It was an exceptionally curated and skillfully mixed set; a perfect precursor to the master that was about to take the stage.
Oliver Smith was welcomed with a roar of Anjuna love! Warmed up and ready for bliss, the crowd showed their gratitude with their energy on the dance floor. Oliver opened his set with a track by fellow labelmate Spencer Brown with Raito, Star Allies, to welcome us to his universe. It wasn’t long before he dove into some of his vocal tracks that had everyone singing along with spirited enthusiasm. His track Over You sent the dance floor into a frenzy. There was a flood of coloured lights bathing the crowd and I noticed their new laser display is sweeping across the room. For such a small club they are truly at the top of their laser game with beams of heavenly rainbows washing over the sea of sweaty bodies.
I recognized the opening notes to Oliver Smith’s Atacama and let the invigorating melody overtake my body. The whole crowd was bouncing as everyone danced like no one is watching. He followed this up with a freshly-released collaboration from Ilan Bluestone & Maor Levi featuring Gid Sedgwick, a track I first heard at ABGT 350 entitled Can You. He followed this up with a track I was certainly no stranger to this weekend, Eric Prydz’ remix of Camelphat & Cristoph’s Breathe (see my review of Aly & Fila and Markus Schulz at Rebel if you’re wondering what I’m on about). I personally love this track and I was not the only one. Immediately after he settled back into the Anjuna groove with tracks by Gabriel & Dresden, Maor Levi, and the title track off Andrew Bayer’s new EP, “Parallels”. I know I’m supposed to be talking about Oliver here, but if you haven’t listened to that EP yet, do it immediately because it is incredible! I have been listening to it daily since its release. Parallels is one of those epic songs that I get completely lost in, and suddenly I noticed my hands in the air, raised in exaltation. But this moment is brief as the beat kicked back in and I am dancing hard once more. It wasn’t long before my hands find the lasers above once more. This time I’m joined by a crew of Above & Beyond fans uplifting rhythmically to the beat of Anjunafamily. I know that I’m exactly where I belong.
The voice of Natalie Holmes sang out over the sound system as Oliver droped his track Zero. It is beautiful. My singing is not, but I can’t help myself. Vocal tracks have a profound effect on me. It’s like the trance completely takes over my body, inside and out. I can feel the rhythm in my heart, the energy in my body, the melody consuming my mind, and the lyrics swimming through the air in my lungs. Soon after, another vocal track inspired a crowd-wide singalong. I can’t resist Above & Beyond’s There’s Only You no matter how hard I try. He followed this up with a few tracks of his own, including his dreamy undulating melodic summertime release Curiosity. I managed to find my way to a large group of my friends tucked away in a secret corner with a wide-open area of dancing space just in time for Above & Beyond’s Fly By Candlelight. As the track faded out to silence. the crowd cheered loud. Was this it? We weren’t ready for this to be over. After a brief moment of suspense, I heard the opening notes of Oliver’s track Lovingly. The whole crowd was clapping and singing along. Everyone is jumping and dancing as the chorus broke, making full use of every inch of that dance floor.
In a flash, it was all over. We said our good-byes and headed out into the cold night air. I’m not used to parties being over shortly after last call, but after the previous night at Rebel my body welcomed the break. Although the night was short-lived, it was absolutely packed with blissful trance goodness from start to finish. I wasn’t sure how my return to London was going to go, but I had an amazing time and I would go back again in a heartbeat. Rum Runners is a great venue with excellent staff, and they brought together an incredible lineup. Thanks so much to Aaron Winter for the invitation! You really have something special and wonderful going on down in London, and you can be certain that next time you throw a trance party I’ll be the first in line.
Spencer Brown & Raito – Star Allies
Oliver Smith – Over You
Maor Levi – Deception
Oliver Smith – Anticipation
Oliver Smith – Atacama
ilan Bluestone & Maor Levi ft. Gid Sedgwick – Can You
Camelphat & Cristoph feat. Jem Cooke – Breathe (Eric Prydz Remix)
Gabriel & Dresden – You (Myon & Elevven Remix)
Oliver Smith – Pressure
Maor Levi – Take Your Love
My Friend & Lauren L’aimant & Oliver Smith – January Embers (Oliver Smith Remix)
Andrew Bayer – Parallels
Cosmic Gate & Forêt – Need To Feel Loved
Above & Beyond – Anjunafamily
Oliver Smith ft. Natalie Holmes – Zero
DT8 Project & Myon – Carry On (Return to 95 Mix)
Above & Beyond ft. Zoe Johnston – There’s Only You (Above & Beyond Club Mix)
Oliver Smith – Curiosity
Oliver Smith – Inside
Above & Beyond feat. Marty Longstaff – Fly By Candlelight (Above & Beyond Club Mix)
Oliver Smith – Lovingly
Pryda – Armed
Enrico Sangiuliano – Moon Rocks
Age Of Love – The Age Of Love (Solomun Renaissance Remix)
Olive & Joshwa – You’re Not Alone (Club Mix)
Pryda – Stay With Me
Orkidea – One Man’s Dream
BBE – Seven Days And One Week (Yotto Extended Mix)
Freefall ft. Jan Johnston – Skydive (Paul Thomas & Bluum pres. BPT Extended Remix)
Boss Axis & Hello Machines – Amber
Paul Keely – A Sort of Homecoming (Michael Cassette Remix)
Kavinsky – Night Call (Estiva Bootleg)
Der Dritte Raum – Hale Bopp (Maceo Plex Edit)
New Order – True Faith (Orkidea Pure Progressive Mix)
PROFF & EKSF – For The Night (Extended Mix)
Armin Van Buuren ft. Susana – Shivers (Alpha 9 Extended Remix)
Henry Dark – Sunflower (Extended Mix)
Chicane ft. Moya Brennan – Saltwater (Kryder Remix)
Cosmic Gate & Super8 & Tab – Noom (Estiva Extended Remix)
A.D. the Kid
Hot Since ‘82 – Vapours
Kamilo Sanclemente & Dabeat – Your Smile Is Priceless
Alberth – Crystallized
Oscillation – Toomy Disco
James Holden ft. Julie Thompson – Nothing (Cream & Fog Remix)
Township Rebellion – Ramses
Max Freegrant & Miss Monique – Stranger Things
BLR – Meduse
Gardenstate – Charon
Forerunners & Mir Omar – Time Interrupted
Cristoph & Quivver – In Name Only (Moonwalk Remix)
Tali Muss & Esphyr – Between The Lines (Stan Kolev Remix)
Kristian Nairn – Evolve
A.D. The Kid
Anna Middleton – EDM TOR