This article was written for a Toronto-based pop culture website, Boom Boom POP! It was published online on August 9, even though the web address indicates August 4. Boom Boom POP! also published about 75 of my photos – I’ve included a sample of four.
On August 4th and 5th, thousands of die-hard Electronic Dance Music fans swarmed Toronto’s Downsview Park for the chance to see their favourite artists drop big tunes on even bigger sound systems. Two hot, sweaty days produced over 22 hours of ground-shaking EDM; the crowd endured sunburns and phenomenal downpours of rain – but most importantly, we experienced some of the most exhilarating electronic music performances of the year. And it all happened at VELD Music Festival.
Arriving at VELD on Day One was, I think, pretty much the same for everyone. Stepping off the bus and into the scorching summer sun was a shock, but squints quickly turned into grins as each busload saw what awaited them. Two monstrous main stages and a sheltered secondary stage provided sound and lights; a seemingly endless stretch of land ensured there was always room to dance; food and drink vendors lay in wait for the thousands of thirsty, hungry concertgoers who’d soon be in need of refuelling. Up-and-coming artists like Deniz Koyu, Michael Woods, and Chris Lake shared the main stage with EDM heavyweights Steve Aoki, Knife Party, and Steve Angello. In the Bacardi tent, fans of artists like DVBBS, Krewella, Kill The Noise, and Tommy Trash could get down and dirty in the mud as the tent literally shook with an almost overwhelming amount of bass.
After a full day of sun, a little rain, and nothing but good times, the crowd pressed up against the second main stage, where Deadmau5 took over at 9:15 and braved the weather for two full hours. Bouncing rhythms, trademark tracks, and an exquisite light show wiped away any acknowledgement of the rain as 20,000 people took in the Toronto-based producer’s performance. Whether they were sitting, completely enraptured by the spectacle, or dancing wildly, glow-sticks in hand, to the pounding beats pulsing through the earth, one thing was absolutely clear: every single person had come for the music, and they were all experiencing something beyond their expectations.
The first half of Day Two was wet. But the intermittent rain throughout the night and early afternoon yielded a much more comfortable temperature as the sun finally broke through the clouds again at 3:00. Both regular stages ran smoothly, featuring names like Mord Fustang, Nicky Romero, and Bassnectar on Deadmau5’s stage and Ben Gold, Cosmic Gate, and Gareth Emery in Bacardi’s extra-muddy tent. Day Two also saw numerous improvements in terms of managing the crowd, including a redesigned water station system that ensured no one would dehydrate before arriving at the front of the line.
As soon as Bassnectar and Gareth Emery finished their sets, the crowd convened at the original main stage to get ready for the night’s final performance. As the volume of the crowd reached a peak, stadium lights came on to illuminate the stage and the entire crowd. From the very first notes of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” to the closing chords in the multi-track encore, Avicii kept the crowd at the highest of energy levels. Every single hand in the crowd was raised high in the air as people belted out words and melodies. The light show was nearly blinding, but it kept the masses entranced as Avicii worked the decks on his podium.
There were about eight or nine buses already stationed outside the park gates as we left VELD on the second night. And even though, for most, the night was over, that special concert-bond had just begun to form. Strangers became friends as they talked about their favourite moments of the festival; those who were friends already either discussed the same things or took a much-needed nap. And that’s the real magic of concerts, I think. The music makes you feel something, but looking around and finding others who feel the same way – there’s no other experience like it. VELD Music Festival gave over 20,000 people that feeling. And I’m one of the 20,000 who can’t wait to do it all again next year.