Oh the bizarre, weird world of DJ sets.
Foundry kicked off their 2014 programming on Friday night surprisingly smoothly, given the circumstances. A last-minute decision by Toronto authorities meant a quick change in venue: the series moving from its planned space at the Tower Automotive Building to the more familiar 99 Sudbury locale.
It was a bit of a letdown for anyone looking forward to the unique venue, but Foundry organizers and staff have to be commended for their ability to change everything over so quickly, making it seem like 99 Sudbury had been the intended location all along.
Foundry issued a statement with the announcement of the venue change, telling its sold out audience: “We hope that one day in the near future, we will be allowed to take greater creative risks in a city that we love so much. For now, we hope that everyone will still support our cause by making this year’s Foundry one of the best dance series yet, and in the meantime move the city one step forward in the right direction for music lovers.”
Venue aside, I guess I should preface my review by explaining that I’m not much for DJ culture. That said, I’ve heard fantastic things about Foundry and with Four Tet on the bill it was enough to prompt me to finally check it out.
Arriving at 10:45 to barely a line and a myriad of friendly staff, I entered the venue without many expectations. What greeted me was a fairly empty room, some interesting light fixtures, a DJ standing behind a desk, and some bored people sitting on some couches with their phones pressed to their faces. Right. I wasn’t expecting much, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so dead.
Chalking it up to my relatively early arrival, I sat on one of the aforementioned couches and people-watched for a while. The venue was slowly getting busier, but by midnight there still wasn’t much going on. My friend compared the setting to a high school dance, which was warranted. Did the fact that Foundry tweeted that there’d be a crackdown on security by city officials scare people away? Had Foundry-goers mistakenly ventured to the Tower Automotive Building, missing the announcement completely? Pressing questions.
But even with the small crowd, you meet the most interesting people at DJ nights. There was a guy wearing sunglasses, there was a girl very into her arm movements and pointing, and then there was one woman who spotted me and decided to tell me her life story.
“Do you know how hard it is to spend $400 on boots when you have three kids?” she asked. Truthfully, I don’t. I mean I know how hard it is to spend $400 on boots without kids, so I can imagine it isn’t easy… As she blew strawberry smoke from her electronic cigarette into my face, recounted how she had lost $70 that night, and offered to sell me something I had no interest in buying, I looked to the sky and wondered if this would be my Foundry experience.
She tottered off to bother other people, leaving her husband sitting on the couch next to me. A few minutes later, he asked if I had been to the other room yet.
Other room? Whoops.
Pushing past a gaggle of short-skirted girls standing outside the washroom, I made my way into a much larger and busier room. This was where the actual Foundry headliners could be found – Toronto DJ Gingy on deck as lights flashed over the mid-to-late twenties crowd in front of him. Again, I say: whoops.
He was followed by Detroit’s Anthony ‘Shake’ Shakir, who seemed more hit-and-miss in his ability to get the crowd dancing. As someone who was very much standing on the periphery of a throbbing crowd though, maybe it was a different experience when you were jammed into the middle of it. Or maybe not. Regardless, the room was busy, people were dancing, and there was general excitement for Four Tet’s 1:45 am arrival.
Just over three hours into my Foundry experience, Four Tet took to the stage as a Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” remix played out over the speakers. When London’s Kieran Hebden eventually took control from Anthony Shakir, it was interesting to watch the front row of the audience not so much dance as stare up at him with great intent. Understandable given he was the main attraction of the night, but still weird behaviour to witness as a sober person at a DJ set.
Hebden’s first choice of some East Asian music was quirky and a bit lost on the crowd, but he soon enough ventured into a more traditional, electronic (though still eclectic) approach that kept people content and had girls near the front getting up on the shoulders of their boyfriends/soul mates/companions in what were surely non-chemically enhanced states of euphoria. Or something.
I left at 2:15 am to a still packed party, the night’s events expected to last until four in the morning. In all, I was very much impressed by Foundry’s ability to pull it all together on seemingly a minute’s notice. I was also keenly aware of my lack of emersion in dance culture. Foundry’s a good way to get introduced to it and they clearly know what they’re doing, so we can only hope the city of Toronto figures out a way to support and embrace their initiative.