VELD Festival isn’t normally my type of scene. I profess that I only had heard of Calvin Harris and Iggy Azalea on Sunday’s lineup. I spoke with my younger brother whose scene it is. Maybe I am too old for the EDM rave festivals, maybe I just don’t get it, I mean I like to dance but 12 hours of techno, house, trance, dubstep, trap and every other subgenre always seemed a bit overwhelming for me. I made it to Downsview Park in time to catch the end of Martin Garrix who only recently hit the scene with his smash single Animals. Afterwards everyone was giving rave reviews of his set, while being shocked to disbelief that Garrix is only 18 years old, the age of most of the concertgoers. He was one of them in their eyes; the only difference was he was on the main stage facing the tens of thousand party animals.
I made my way over to check out the Bacardi Stage, a small tent on the opposite side of the park where I was able to walk up to the front of the stage for The Sour DJ spinning an early set to the still arriving festival patrons. The weather for the day couldn’t decide if it was going to be fantastic or miserable. There were hours of overcast and near rain, followed by blazing heat with no clouds for relief. In the end since it didn’t rain on Day 2, it was a successful day. I’m sure the shirtless guys, and barely covered girls were happy that they didn’t have to deal with cold rain.
Michael Brun seemed to have the most fun with his set, truly feeding off of the crowd’s energy. I wish I was able to better articulate the different genres and styles being played, but truthfully it was hard for me to differentiate. All that mattered was the crowd dancing and then was I finding myself grooving along. While trying to take pictures in the photo pit I found myself having to take breaks to dance with the crowd. I wasn’t the only one; every time I lowered the camera from my face I would see plenty of other photographers loosing their minds and security guards jumped when the beat was dropped. Frankly, I had never seen security teams enjoy themselves so much. Normally they are stoic and emotionless, but all of them seem to genuinely love their jobs that day being right up front. That being said the second someone needed help security was on the situation right away.
There was plenty of Can-Con on the bill, I caught sets by up and coming Canadian party starters DVBBS and Adventure Club. DVBBS had Alex Andre doing a great hype man job for the duo with brother Chris mostly staying behind the control board. There was plenty of “I want to see your hands” and “Get ready to jump” coming from Alex. They took turns taking large swigs from a Grey Goose bottle they had with them. Adventure Club had a more traditional dubstep sound to them, a genre often not giving proper credit due to Skrillix and his poor imitators, but the Quebecor’s transcended the genre.
Zedd who I missed at Bonnaroo earlier this year played a thundering set. The 24-year-old Russian is on the brink of world domination. He seems to already be one of the most popular EDM superstars but is closing in on Swedish House Mafia, Tiesto, and Deadmau5 level fame.
There was a crazy moment when the photographers were heading back to the media area after Adventure Club when we almost got ran over by an errant golf cart containing DVBBS. They guys must have been in the crowd and were heading back stage. What proceeded was 20+ photographers getting an impromptu paparazzi session with the brothers while some fans tried to get close. I spoke with the up and coming local comedian Daniel Woodrow who told me he was helping them film something. I don’t know if their camera crew caught the moment but the Andre’s seemed to love the attention.
Heading over to the side stage to see an act of a different style, I made it just in time for Iggy Azalea’s set. Her DJ Whizz Kidd set her up by warming the crowd up. When Iggy finally hit the stage the absolutely packed tent area went nuts. Fans were climbing the tent structure and fences to get a better angle. She played mostly songs from her new album, like Work and Fuck Love. She wore a version of a flag girl’s outfit at a racetrack, with high waited pink skintight jeans, with an orange racing stripe emblazoned with her album title The New Classic on either leg. A short tight crop top that zipped up in the middle showed off her toned body, while her long blonde hair danced around with her. She was easily one of the most hyped performers on the bill, except she played for only thirty minutes, when her set was supposed to be an hour. To make matters worse she was the only artist who had a thirty-minute break before her set started, as all the other DJ’s started the minute the last act left the stage. Azalea finished her set with Fancy, the song everyone wanted to hear and walked off. The crowd was not pleased by her short set, especially since the next act wasn’t ready to go on yet.
Everyone flocked en masse away from the Bacardi Stage to catch the end of Knife Party. While taking a breather I ended up chatting with a security guard who told me he was yelled at by some people for Iggy leaving early (not that he had anything to do with it though), and how poorly it makes the festival look. This came on top of the fact that on day one, rapper Waka Flocka Flame didn’t even bother to show up for his set as he accidentally double booked himself at another club in the province, but blamed it on visa issues. VELD could possibly merge more hip-hop and EDM in the future, but their first forays into it lead many people with a sour taste in their mouths.
The night ended for me with a set by superstar hit maker Calvin Harris. He started his set with mostly Ibiza-like club bangers, nothing that I recognized. After I left the pit he started to play his more recognizable songs from his album 18 Months, starting with a very intense version of Need Your Love, a song that has Ellie Goulding on vocals. While the stage was huge, and the DJ’s played atop a giant LED screen, it took the sun being away for good to really appreciate the scale and intensity that was before us. The stage lit up like a giant spaceship, and with lights shooting out into the crowd I felt like I was in War of the Worlds, with people being sucked up in a world of dance. With fireballs shooting, smoke billowing, confetti floating and the bass bumping I was willing to be taken hostage to the music. Our new overlord Calvin Harris dropped the beat like it was a self-destruct button, each time getting a bigger reaction. When the opening notes for Feel So Close started up an audible and collective gasp was had before massive cheering. Harris asked the crowd to sing along if they knew the words. It was hard not to be a bit tired and exhausted after being in the sun all day and having non stop bass thumping next to my ear drums, but you couldn’t not move to such a feel good song like Feel So Close.
Harris represented the end of the second day of the third annual VELD festival and not only does it show no signs of slowing down, but it also looks like it will impossible to stop from getting even larger and crazier. VELD hopes to rival Ultra Music Festival in Miami, and they have the tools and name recognition to do so. It is certainly a good time to be a music fan living in Toronto these days.