Concert Reviews

Digital Dreams: Armin Van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Axwell & Ingrosso

Day 1: 

It seems as if all of Toronto was in celebration this Canada Day weekend with all of the events happening around the city, but for every electronic music fan, the 6th annual Digital Dreams festival at Ontario Place was the place to be. With three astonishing stages hosting electronic icons such as Destructo, Infected Mushroom, Pendulum, and Above & Beyond; buzzworthy acts like Tiga, Audien, Hermitude, and Griz; and local greats such as CID, Xiiam, Dabin, and Charlie Darker, it was delightfully overwhelming with how much music there was to take in over the course of the weekend. 

I kicked off day one with Ookay in the bass boomin’ Bacardi Tent. As one of the artists I had heard so much about with comparisons to Marshmello, Getter and Skrillex, I was intrigued of what I had in store. With the fusion of trap and dubstep, Ookay elevated both sounds into something that was unfathomably hard, bassy and full of energy with each drop hitting harder than the last and the crowd couldn’t get enough it! 

I took a break from the Bacardi Tent to catch Montreal native Tiga mid-set at Echo Beach. With the blend of Tiga’s thumping electro tunes, beautiful mid-day weather, and few beach balls bouncing around in the crowd, it truly felt like a beach party. There was enough space in the crowd for everyone to vibe out and move to the sounds that Tiga was laying down, and I don’t think I’ve seen so many grooving bodies when he dropped his infamous track Bugatti

I had returned to the Bacardi Tent to quickly see Datsik takeover the tent. The subwoofers must have been working overtime because you could literally feel the vibrations within the tent! The man was really laying down the heavy sounds, from dubstep to drum & bass as the pockets of headbangers, moshers and dancers moved among the sea of festival goers.

I had taken a break to check out everything else the festival had to offer and there was plenty to be done! Among the delicious food and appealing clothing vendors were plenty of activities to partake in, including hair braiding, kandi bracelet making, an inflatable bubble battle gauntlet, body painting and artist showcase. Many people were dressed for this raving occasion with some rather extravagant outfits. There were the colourful and textural outfits that are widely associated with the raving culture, the monochromatic and futuristic attire of the bass centric festival goers, costplay of famous characters and everything in between!

After some exploration, I found myself gravitating towards the soothing sounds that were coming from the Bacardi Tent. Known for keeping the good times going, Griz was providing those soothing and funky sounds that moved the crowd flowingly. With the inclusion of a sultry sax and a grooving guitar, the jazz influenced instrumentals were a fresh break from the hard hitting bass that was infamous in the Bacardi Tent over the course of the weekend. Griz kept if funky with original tracks such as The Anthem and Let the Good Times Roll and had sprinkled some all time favourites like the Fresh Prince theme and Hakuna Matata into their set with an added Griz flair. 

With a schedule conflict of two major artists, I caught Bassnectar’s mind blowing drum & bass set in between the dubstep sounds of Knife party at opposite ends of the festival grounds. It was unreal to see the Bacardi Tent practically overflowing with people ready to see Bassnectar. The sea of people flowed like a stormy sea moved by the subwoofer sea. Setting towards the main stage known as the Dream Stage for the first time all evening, Knife Party was one act I was sure not to miss. The catchphrase heavy dubstep DJ’s uncanny tunes practically rang out through all of Ontario Place and possibly the downtown lakeshore area. Iconic tunes like Internet Friends, PLUR police, and Destroy Them with Lasers had everyone, in front of the stage or around on the grounds practically lose their minds as the iconic Knife Party logo flashed on the large screens onstage. 

The final act for the evening was an emotionally charged set by London trio, Above and Beyond. The set was full of therapeutic trance that put everyone in a positive headspace that can be unmatched by anyone else. Above and Beyond used the gift of music to preach love, self-respect and kindness through their music and visuals. With songs like, We’re All We Need, Counting Down the Days, and Sun & Moon, the beautifully melodic chords, soothing vocals and hypnotising beat personally put me at ease and welcomed the messages and positively intense emotions that Above and Beyond would project from the sights and sounds of their set. By the end of the set, not only did I enjoy everything that Above and Beyond had to offer I had felt enlightened on a spiritual level, an experience that I had never felt from any musical act.

With day one coming to a close, I was overcome with excitement for what day two would have in store.

Day 2: 

With an impressive day one, I was overjoyed with anticipation for what the second day of Digital Dreams would bring. 

I had started off my Digital Dreamin’ Sunday on Echo Beach to check out buzzworthy DJ, Hannah Wants. Making my way through the crowd of shufflers, two steppers, and other rhythmic movers, the beach party stage was alive and well with Hannah Wants curating some deep house beats. I myself had kicked up some sand as I shuffled along with her groovy tunes but didn’t stay long so I could check out what was to come from Dirtyphonics at the Bacardi Tent.

The flashy to the point of near glitch visuals within the Bacardi Tent was fitting for Dirtyphonics’ abundance of bass. The Dim Mak label mates played any and all kinds of bass dominant sounds. From dubstep to drum & bass, metal to trap, they played it all. Their sounds were so heavy that mosh pits started forming. Ones of these mosh pits was the reason that I ended up walking around with one broken glasses lens for the rest of the day! The front barrier was lined with headbangers and along with the occasional mosh pit became a staple of the Bacardi Tent. 

With the theme of combining electronic and rock music together, it was fitting that the proceeding act was none other than the legendary Infect Mushroom. The group would play a live set to an already amped up crowd. Keeping the energy alive, played infamous tracks such as Heavyweight, Becoming Insane and Send me an Angel. 

Next up in the tent was party god Borgore. With his dirty lyrics and filthier drops, Borgore would turn up the energy to 11 with his high energy tracks. Classics like Nympho and Ratchet had the crowd going insane. In true Borgore fashion, he had asked for as many girls to get up on someone shoulders. It was unreal to see one of my favourite dubstep artists of the early 2000s do their thing and proves that dubstep is alive and well after its time away from the spotlight. 

After spending the majority of my day experiencing the booming acts of the Bacardi Tent, it was time to head to the Dream Stage to check out the night’s closing acts. The duo of Axwell ^ Ingrosso were well underway by the time I had made it across the river. Their anticipating build-ups were met with mind blowing drops. The duo took the crowd on a nostalgia trip playing classic Swedish House Mafia tracks including Save the World, Antidote and Don’t You Worry Child before transitioning into Something New. After day turned into night, Axwell & Ingrosso would bring the sun back with the track Sun is Shining. Their set would end with an extravagant explosion of streamers and confetti as they thanked the crowd for having them return to play our beautiful city.

In between the second and last act, Digital Dreams decided to drop the heaviest track in hopes that the whole city would feel it. Being at the epicentre of the sound, it was incredible to experience but a little hard to tell if the entire city had felt the bass drop at 9:40 PM that Sunday evening. 

After attempting to shake the city, the stage was set for the living legend Armin Van Burren to shake up Digital Dreams. Armin brought his original brand of progressive trance and house to the lakeside stage moving a crowd of millions of people. 

I was incredibly fortunate to experience such legendary acts over the course of the weekend; some acts I’ve been waiting ages to see. The dream had become reality and an forgettable one at that.