Music festivals are fun—when they happen. Rain has plagued many multi-day outdoor festivals before and that should come as no surprise (cough, Glastonbury). Whether it was Ultra Music Festival or Digital Dreams in 2014, the rain can change everyone's experience, simultaneously upping the intensity and decorating day-of vibes with a sort of pathetic fallacy. This year, the struggle against mother nature proved too much to handle for Digital Dreams. Live Nation and Ink Entertainment were forced to cancel the first day of the weekend festival at Toronto's Ontario Place after severe winds combined with lightning, threatened the functionality of the stages and ultimately the attendees' safety.
As the torrential downpour flooded the grounds of the festival throughout the day and into the night, two of Saturday's headliners took to the newly renovated Sound Academy to throw what was a highly-anticipated afterparty with none other than Toronto favourite Steve Angello and Carl Cox. Unsurprisingly, Toronto had long been ready to get their dose of proper beats from Carl Cox who has taken his time returning to the city, scaring fans that they might have to wait just a little longer after the festival was cancelled. Playing well into the night, Steve Angello, the Swedish superstar, family-man played his self-proclaimed brand of afterparty music, a refreshingly more tech-oriented side of the EDM ambassador. It was going to take something special to gain fans' forgiveness after cancelling day one of Digital Dreams; without the Guvernment at their disposal, the Sound Academy was the necessary link for Ink between a poor first impression and their second chance at success.
Sunday morning was cold, wet, and windy once again, the kind of weather made for blankets and not bass drops in one-third of your usual clothing. Nonetheless, Digital Dreams organizers pushed through the adversity of the inclement weather but not before they delayed the commencement of the 2015 edition from 2 PM to 4 PM Sunday afternoon.
Digital Dreams was ripe with comparisons to their extremely successful first three editions and to the sadness of many a Toronto trance fan, they did not return the former picturesque lakefront Fantasy Land stage. Along with house and techno label No.19's lack of involvement, fans were also longing for the confined and high energy shelter provided formerly by the Bacardi House of Boom—now a carnival ride littered, fog-infused Bass mecca. Regardless of the death of the famous tent, which felt more like a madhouse, Flux Pavilion, Excision, and Datsik all returned to Toronto to slay crowds and destroy proper postures at least for Monday morning.
The Dreams stage, which previously held acts such as Tiesto, Dash Berlin, and Eric Prydz, was handed off to the reigns of Canadians Adventure Club and Martin Garrix, who even joined long-time friend and collaborator Zedd for a B2B track or two. Zedd closed out the festival and played slightly longer than curfew with favourites like "Stay The Night." In the process, he used enough fireworks to satisfy even the shortest attention span.
Although production levels all-around suffered this year, the TD Echo Beach stage was once again a highlight, this time fitted with a brand-new lighting rig and much more elaborate LED visuals. Although no longer a beach and more of a mud-garden, Sunday night's performances were jam-packed with a veteran attitude which cut through the damp weather and had fans grooving and moving regardless of June's fall-like temperatures. Dirtybird label boss Claude VonStroke had the tempo high and beats heavy, exactly as expected from the man behind one of the most popular house music imprints of today. All the while, fans cried about not seeing Carl Cox or John Digweed slay the Echo Beach, some may have forgotten that it was the professor Pete Tong who curated Sunday's performances. Naturally, it was VonStroke who dutifully—and swiftly, brought the energy back into a dreary, fragile-looking crowd. It was Pete Tong himself who continued afterwards, playing an extremely energetic set, not digging too deep or dark, but keeping things light and happy. Finally, Echo Beach was paid another favour in the form of Deep Dish; no strangers to the Toronto crowd, Dubfire and Sharam took the stage with a swagger that was uncannily similar to the swagger that the crowd adopted as soon as they played their first few tracks. Whistles and claps finally filled the air as the rain stopped and concluded what was an admirable effort on the part of organizers combatting some of the fiercest weather the city has seen this summer.
In a positive turn of events, the second of the Sound Academy afterparties, once again featured a day one headliner who suffered the force of the cancellation. Armin Van Buuren headed to the Sound Academy where he, like Steve Angello the night previously, had been gifted a piece of the legendary Guv floor that both have worked on destroying themselves, on so many long, dark nights on the Queen's Quay.
With such a highly saturated market as Toronto's electronic music industry, keeping relevant as a festival can be difficult. This is not the first edition of Digital Dreams and no one is sure whether it will be the last. Considering the improvement in stage production and musical curation taking place on festival stages across six continents, and this weekend's significant lack thereof, if Digital Dreams is seeking to stay around and be something more than a local long-weekend party than Ink Entertainment and Live Nation better step their game up.