VELD Music Festival has seen better days. The fourth annual event, held at Downsview Park in Toronto on August 1 and 2, joined the ranks of numerous other Canadian festivals that have been plagued by poor weather conditions this season. This year, VELD and its organizer, INK Entertainment and Live Nation, cancelled the second day of the festival due to severe weather conditions. The festival has since been renamed by some of its more resentful attendees, as a Very Expensive Let Down.
And can you blame them? Toronto dance music fans can't catch a fucking break. Back in June, Digital Dreams fell to the mercy of stormy weather, cancelling the first day of its two-day event. On the debut weekend of Bestival in Toronto, attendees endured scattered showers and sweater weather. GoHard Festival persevered through a relentless daylong downpour. And Ever After, held in Kitchener, Ontario was practically a rave in a monsoon.
The calm before the storm, though, was worth it for some. On Saturday, nearly 30,000 ravers bounced through the foothills of Downsview Park and were met by some of the biggest names in mainstream electronic music. This year's lineup flaunted acts like Kaskade, Above & Beyond, Steve Aoki, and the return of VELD's typically estranged father, Deadmau5. Consistent with years prior, the age demographic was unmistakably (and somewhat uncomfortably) young, with most attendees sitting somewhere between 15 and 21. 'How old are you?' was a common precautionary question from friendlier fans.
As always, VELD's main stage knows no such thing as a 'warm up.' Opening sets by local Toronto acts Manzone & Strong and Overwerk thrust the early birds into the weekend with a string of progressive house hits. Midday, everyone's favourite Snapchatters, The Chainsmokers, veered into willowy vocal samples with their tracks "Roses" and "Waterbed."
Partway through The Chainsmokers set, the music stopped. An announcement echoed that due to looming grey skies "the festival would be on a weather standby until further notice." It was here that VELD's luck ran out.
That "standby" lasted nearly three hours. Apart from the makeshift sing-a-longs from festi-fams huddled in the grass, Downsview Park was agonizingly quiet. Some tried to curb the lack of beat-triggered movement with yoga, some took it as an opportunity to test out the newly added carnival games and hoola hoop workshops, and others did what Torontonians do best—bitch and complain. Unfortunately, the prolonged break did force the cancellation of sets by Markus Schulz and Pretty Lights, and shortened sets by others. Did it rain, you ask? No it didn't.
Once the so-called weather threat cleared, the rest of day one unfolded in typical VELD fashion. A shirtless Steve Aoki threw a bunch of cakes, told everyone to 'get fucking crazy,' and everyone got fucking crazy. At the Bacardi Untamable Stage, Borgore assembled his #BorgoreArmy and redefined the Kodak moment by dropping Nati's remix of "Pyramids" by DVBBS and Dropgun to a dust coated crowd. A$AP Rocky, this year's hip-hop representative, finished where Borgore left off and instigated a rowdy neon-clad mosh pit.
Deadmau5 closed out by introducing his hometown crowd to his beloved Thunderdome stage setup. The massive, custom-made jungle gym-like cage procured many oh's and ah's but not all were impressed. "This is basically the same thing he did at Bonnaroo," quipped a bystander as two guys, one dressed as a shark and the other as a hotdog, joined him on stage for a weak attempt at a comedy shtick. "The same songs and everything," she continued, "I think he's even wearing the same thing." The latter is the truest thing I heard all day.
Sunday rolled around and despite Saturday's hiccups, the morale was high. Dzeko & Torres, another product Toronto's vast music scene, christened the main stage on Sunday. "You know what," they hollered while standing atop the decks, "we just got back from Tomorrowland, but we've got to tell you, there's still nothing like playing in Toronto." Nearby, someone muttered ' That's what they all say.'
Meanwhile at the Bacardi stage, SNBRN played what was possibly the highlight of the weekend. His sun-kissed of house music baptized the breezy, open-air tent early in the day—his remix of "Return of the Mack" being the acme.
But just as Oliver Heldens finished serving his usual plate of fizzing deep house at main stage around the 4 PM mark, the once easy-going drafty air became a little more aggressive. An announcement came through the speakers announcing that VELD Music Festival would need to evacuate the premises.
"Due to approaching high winds, lightning and hail storms, we made the proactive decision to engage our safety protocol and evacuate the site," INK Entertainment said later in a statement. "The safety of our patrons is our number one priority."
Gorgon City goes to start their set, only to issue the weather evacuation notice. Note the screams.
The crowd, somewhat in confusion and somewhat in utter disbelief, began chanting "bullshit." No one moved very quickly, if at all. Some sat criss-crossed in the grass in a we-will-not-go protest. "The music is not coming back on," the announcer said again at the sight of nearly 30,000 people frozen in place.
Each mishap only rolled into another. Masses of day-drunk, overly enthusiastic adolescents spilled from the park onto highways, under overpasses, and into any public transit building in reach. It was clear that VELD had barely anything, if at all, in place for a smooth and effective evacuation. This time, though, the severe weather warning stayed true to its word and unleashed a torrential explosion of thunder, lightning, and a sputtering of hail. The sight of an ominous black cloud over top VELD's lustrous main stage frame was worthy of a Marvel comic cover.
The storm passed, as most things do. The influx vicious criticism against VELD and INK Entertainment online, although, is one storm that won't pass anytime soon. At the time of writing this, INK has yet to confirm whether or not attendees will receive any form of refund.
And what happened, then? Well, they say that the Grinch's—I mean, Deadmau5's—small heart grew three sizes that day. At Sunday's Official VELD Afterparty at Sound Academy, the mau5 announced that Hardwell, who was supposed to close out main stage that evening, would be added to the afterparty lineup. And then, the true meaning of VELDmas came through, and Toronto found the strength to rave until well, well past 2.
Rachael is on Twitter.