The third annual VELD Music Festival turned up Toronto this past weekend, hosting a slew of in-demand acts like Iggy Azalea, Nero, Armin van Buuren, Calvin Harris and ZEDD.
Playing to a crowd of approximately 85,000 people, the brash mix of scissor-cutting electro anthems engulfed the sea of neon-printed attendees. The youthful crew of partiers, which seemed to average the 18 to 22 demographic, placed some serious effort into their festival aesthetic that included everything jewel-encrusted bras and flower bands to "We Love Martin Garrix" crop tops, tutus and body paint, a hella amount of body paint. The guys shouldn't be overlooked though, who sported tanks with captions like "Epic Weekend." Shout out to the folks who came equipped with Steve Buscemi signs—just hilarious. A special mention to the sweet "I don't do drugs but I do bacon" banner, which was another grinning winner.
For those who made their way via transit (pretty much 90% it seemed), the party started with chants and new best friends all singing and smiling their way to the grounds. To be honest this was a fun highlight to watch—the bonding of strangers before feet touched Downsview soil.
Two stages played witness to a rotation of artists, the main VELD stage (that apparently weighs the same as a condo building) and the Bacardi Stage, which was tucked more to the back of mud-soaked venue. Day one had some real clinchers including Oliver Heldens, Overwerk and Dutch big room titans, W&W, who fired up the crowd within the first two minutes of their well groomed set, a personal highlight of the whole weekend.
Next to note is Bingo Players whom shifted the intensity to a freeing wedding of electro house bass lines and ethereal waves of synth. "Knock You Out" riled the crowd up and prompted a unison of hugs, lip locks, soothed eyes and raised beverages.
Keeping it sexy, NERO brought the day into the eve with an hour of steady transitions. Having been a fan of the British trio who made a lasting imprint at 2011's WEMF, this was a set that once again deterred from blasting the most popularized tracks or electrifying with spastic bass—it was a purely rhythmic experience of numbing proportions. Scraped legs, soaked butts, beer spillage and muddied clothes didn't matter, it satisfied.
Ingrosso and Armin van Buuren may be among the long vetted crop of talent, and while the previous enthralled with a jumble of big beat, dubstep, drum and bass, and dance music in general, Ingrosso and Armin closed the night with two performances that poured into one another it seemed.
Ingrosso took the plate first sweating out some new gems while also reminding us why Swedish House Mafia will always be above the grain. Then the trance god wrapped the evening up tightly with a set that tingled the backbone and soaked the gut. Anyone who caught his 'Armin Only' spectacle back in April, a theatrical show that included flying high acrobats, musicians, and plenty of audiovisuals, surely noticed a more stripped down but nonetheless bountiful mixture of mesmeric tempo temperance.
Day two arguably had more cohesion both in the format, the weather and the overall stack of artists. There was a comradery between artists backstage that warrants a comment.
"This is just a wicked time and we all get along, there's no hostility and you can see that with the crowd too—they're here to release," explains Aussie DJ/producer and all around sweetheart, Tommy Trash.
From DVBBS high fiving the lads of Adventure Club (who enjoyed their backstage ping pong tourney), to liquor mouth pours, to piggybacks and lap naps—day two came equipped with a "let's go all out" mentality which filtered throughout the crowds of hungry festival-goers. Even Rob Ford made the poster cut out, which was waved vigorously in the crowd.
The Bacardi Stage seemed to welcome a greater following on day two and one of the standout acts that made the legions of fans come together in a messy rave-like madness was SAVOY. It may have been an outside stage but it felt like a trippy underground club and the twosome commanded attention, intermingling mic chat with beat splatter and frenzied synth cuts. Those who caught SAVOY's set got a much-needed fix that consisted of anything but lackluster.
Jetting back to the main stage, it was clear that many of the attendees were anticipating Adventure Club's set as it was packed. Having decided to take it all in front and centre, I ventured into the heat of the crowd to experience classic song entries from the Montreal duo including "Crave You," "Youth" and their closing track of Yuna's "Lullabies." The security guards even grinded and hand-smacked the crowds, getting right into the body moving spirit.
The rest of the night seemed to go off without a hitch with Tommy Trash taking things up a notch, combing electro house with some offbeat synergies. Then came the demure but nothing short of lovely, ZEDD, who seemed to wow many of the chicks and for the remainder of the night had "ZEDD killed it, he's literally the best" comments circulating the grounds.
Along with the garnered praise of ZEDD was an equally impressive barrage of hype and gratification for Knife Party who brought the dirty drum and bass renderings from Pendulum beginnings to the present. This was my most anticipated act and I'm not sure what the rest of the folks thought, but for me, this is when the night got heightened. Again, shying from the popularized Top 40 jams or the songs that have been remixed by every DJ and his mother—the Australian power duo combined furious coils of exhilarating electronica ("LRAD," Bonfire") making for one of the most defining performances of the entire festival. They also set the stage for the closing headlining act, Mr. Calvin Harris.
The Scotsman had a busy weekend that included a stint at Chicago's Lollapalooza the night before, but that didn't seem to phase him when he whipped together his age friendly, radio friendly, and all around friendly mixture of songs including the contagious, "Summer."
Other notable mentions go to Australian hip-hop princess, Iggy Azalea and Gramatik who closed off the Bacardi Stage in moving form. The bus loads of people chanting Iggy and Calvin tracks, along with more "Oh Canada" renditions and other random nonsense sealed a weekend that brought out characters from all walks of life.
There were two tragic deaths and unfortunate hospitalizations at this year's festival, which should not go unnoted.
And for those who pushed themselves to the extremes, whose ears are still ringing and voice is raspier than Joan Rivers, you came to party and you did just that.