It’s been countless hours since the last beat dropped and the buzz of the speakers reduced to a dull murmur. I still can’t wipe the smile off my face. I’ve seen Ilan Bluestone live a number of times over the years but it has always been in a festival setting. When I saw that he would be playing a club show at the legendary Palace Theatre in my home city I was beyond thrilled. As my luck would have it, setting the stage for the night was Toronto’s extremely talented and all-around lovely human, Vortac. When I originally wrote the preview for the event, the local opening acts had not been announced but had I known Travis Lydian and Andy Villa would be treating us to two hours of skillful interplay b2b I would have cut out of work early to catch every moment.
While I always try to show up as early as I can to get a proper warm-up and check out the local talent (which has been blowing my mind thus far in Calgary) my work schedule had other plans for me. By the time I rolled into The Palace Theatre, Andy Villa and Travis Lydian were nearing the end of their 2-hour b2b. Even in that short time span, I could tell that these two were perfectly in sync. This was not their first rodeo (Yes that is a Calgary Stampede joke. I’m sorry). Silky deep house melodies and pulsing rhythms of tracks like AFFKT – 1014 evolved and grew as heat built in the room. To challenge themselves, Andy and Travis played 3v3, but their seamless transitions and gradual builds made it feel like their set was the product of one single talent. The two were perfectly synchronised. Energetic dance-inducing house tracks such as Low Steppa’s So Real and Ali Wilson & Matt Smallwood’s Canadian Geese coerced more of the crowd from the surrounding bar areas to join me on the dance floor.
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Vortac hit the stage like a tidal wave. His enthusiastic stage presence spread like wildfire throughout the crowd. From the very first beat, he brought the feels. His opening IDs flowed effortlessly and his track Moment Of Clarity left me in a dreamy haze. By the time he hit us with his remix of Rufus du Sol’s New Sky I was floating across the dance floor. Tyrone Lyndqvist’s otherworldly vocal style paired with ethereal melodic passages were bound to the earth by Vortac’s accentuation of the rhythmic elements. Arpeggiated synth facilitated a trance build-up to the proper anjuna-style drop that I had no idea this track needed (and this is why I’m the writer, not the artist). The dance floor was living for it. One thing I really appreciate about Vortac’s DJing style is that he gives the tracks room to breathe. Instead of diving in headfirst – bombarding and overwhelming the senses, the set had an ebb and flow. It was engaging and emotional, and when he hit us with a banger it hit HARD. When he dropped Madonna’s Hung Up halfway through his set I completely lost it. You might think that seems out of place, but believe me, it was not. It was perfection. This was a turning point in the set, picking up steam as we rolled on through the night. Destination: Tronce. We weren’t done with the surprises yet though. As the set climaxed we were treated to a track from one of our own – Martnello, with his recent FSOE Parallels release – Take Me Now. Vortac closed his set with his 2020 single Deadka85; a masterful progressive track with a driving and dance-inducing rhythm that set the stage perfectly for our headliner.
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Do you believe in magic? Because I experienced it first-hand. When Ilan Bluestone appeared behind the decks at The Palace I felt as though I had been sawed in half and put back together again. Straight from the start, he hit us with a barrage of vocal royalty. His remix of Duran Duran’s Save A Prayer was almost completely unrecognizable – metamorphosed from its new wave origins into a proper Bluestone-style tronce masterpiece. My vocal chords were not ready. Will We Remain? is one of my top vocal belters and he dropped it so early in his set that there was no hope for me. Each track hit hard. While I had some expectations for the set, I had completely forgotten about the incredible energy Ilan brings to the stage every single time. One of the most iconic moments of the night was when he dropped his remix of Above & Beyond‘s Sun & Moon. Of course the crowd went wild for it! I took out my phone to record a video and my friend immediately scolded me. Not now. Not during this track. We sang, we danced, and when it came time for the drop, Ilan mimed the quintessential Above & Beyond “push the button” moment causing a momentous uproar throughout the crowd. At shows like this I always want to capture time and share the experience with friends who couldn’t be present, but no video can capture the feeling of being truly immersed in the music with a group of people who are all riding on the same wavelength – an important reminder to be present and live and feel in the moment.
Over the course of the night, Ilan played through many of his most iconic tracks, mainly focusing on his 2021 artist album “Impulse”. We got a taste of his side project, Elysian, in collaboration with his dear friend and labelmate Maor Levi and the ethereal vocal trance goddess, Emma Hewitt – a stark contrast to the vocal stylings of Giuseppe de Luca that we saw mid-way through the set. The addition of Tom Fall’s Guiding Light brought a welcome respite for my vocal cords. One of the most beautiful things about trance music is how a simple melodic passage can be so expressive, often conveying so much more emotion than words. Another highlight of the set came with Bluestone’s mashup of his 2014 track Big Ben with Above & Beyond’s Black Room Boy. If you fill a room with Anjuna fans and drop some classic A&B in the middle of a high-energy set, it is guaranteed to elicit an intense emotional response. That’s a scientific fact. The last half of his set heavily featured tracks from “Impulse”, but he still threw us a few curveballs. I was thrilled to hear his 2013 release, Spheres, as well as his collaboration with the boundless talent of Andrew Bayer, Black & Blue. He closed the night with a couple of tracks featuring the immediately recognizable vocal stylings of frequent Gabriel & Dresden collaborator Jan Burton. Ilan Bluestone & Maor Levi’s remix of G&D’s Keep On Holding hit deep in the feels, transitioning directly into Rule The World – another Jan Burton vocal track, but from Ilan’s “Impulse” album.
As the music faded and the lights went up, I had a hard time coming to terms with the fact it was over… Two hours flew by in a flash. Ilan went on the mic to thank everyone for showing up. He stuck around to chat and take photos which was truly such a treat; it’s something that I really appreciate about local club shows and trance artists in general. Fans come together as a community to share their love and enthusiasm with one another, and with the artist behind the decks, and it is clear that they are truly appreciative of this incredible connection and energy exchange. I love to dance and the music itself speaks to me on so many levels, but it’s nights like this that keep me coming back. If you are reading this, it is your sign to get out on the dance floor. Support your local DJs and promoters. Keep the scene alive and thriving in whatever city you live in. When the opportunity presents itself, take it – and I’ll see you on the trancefloor.
PS. Check out Martnello‘s single Take Me Now on Spotify
Andy Villa b2b Travis Lydian
AFFKT – 1014
Camelphat & Alan Fitzpatrick – Kona
Raffa FL ft. Mr V – How We Do (Raffa FL re edit)
Low Steppa – So Real
Ali Wilson & Matt Smallwood – Canadian Geese
Vortac – ID
Vortac – ID
Vortac – Moments of Reflection
Rufus du Sol – New Sky (Vortac Remix)
Rufus Du Sol – Treat You Better (Cassian Remix)
BetweenUs – Lost Island
Joy Kitikonti & Luca Pechino – Musica
Madonna – Hung Up (Kungs Edit)
La Roux – For The Kill (Tinlicker Edit)
Reflekt & Cristoph ft Delline Bass – Need To Feel Loved (Cristoph Remix)
Martnello – Take Me Now
Vortac – ID
Vortac – Deadka85
Duran Duran – Save A Prayer (Ilan Bluestone Remix)
Ilan Bluestone & Maor Levi ft. EL Waves – Will We Remain?
Ilan Bluestone & Maor Levi ft. Alex Clare – Hold On
Elysian – Little Star (Maor Levi Remix)
Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard – Now We Are Free (Elysian Remix)
Above & Beyond – Sun & Moon (Ilan Bluestone Remix)
Ilan Bluestone ft. Giuseppe DeLuca – Stardust & Madness
Ilan Bluestone ft. Giuseppe DeLuca – What Do You Want From Me?
Tom Fall – Guiding Light
Elysian – Moonchild
Ilan Bluestone ft. Gid Sedgwick – Paid For Love
Above & Beyond vs. Ilan Bluestone – Big Ben Black Room Boy (Ilan Bluestone Mash Up)
Ilan Bluestone – Spheres
Ilan Bluestone & Andrew Bayer – Black & Blue
Ilan Bluestone ft. EL Waves – Tonight
Ilan Bluestone – Let You Go
Ilan Bluestone & Maor Levi ft. Gid Sedgwick – Can You?
Gabriel & Dresden ft. Jan Burton – Keep On Holding (Ilan Bluestone & Maor Levi Remix)
Ilan Bluestone ft. Jan Burton – Rule The World
Anna Middleton – TRANCEPORTED