Review: We finish off the Toronto summer festival season in epic style with Electric Island

“All good things must come to an end.”

In 1374 Geoffrey Chaucer immortalized these bittersweet sentiments. It is a natural part of life – like the changing of the seasons, the receding of the storms, or the death of ones we hold dear. For Torontonians, September 7th marked the end of a summer series of events that has gained recognition internationally. It represented the end of the summer, and a transition to the beautiful colours of autumn. Organized by Embrace, Footwork, and Platform, the event was tightly coordinated with exceptional execution on all fronts.

The water taxi lines were quite stacked this time around, with party goers favouring the $10 extra required to bypass the sheep herding style transport of the ferry. This was supposed to be the most humid day of the summer, and the weather report showed a steady 33-35 Celsius the whole afternoon. Luckily, the sun hid behind the clouds for most of the day, and the heat was manageable. In fact, the usually sticky and humid Island had a nice breeze coming through.

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We arrived on the Island at 4pm, right as Frank and Tony began their duties. The crowd was a little shy to start – a much later arrival than the previous events. For a while, the dance floor near the front saw only the hardcore early arrivals moving their feet. Frank and Tony made it really difficult to stand still. Usually at that time people are just talking and grabbing drinks, but I could see that people were dancing even without drinks in their hands, utilizing the temporarily spacious grounds to show their appreciation to the DJs. By the middle of their set, in came the masses of arrivals of people on their fourth and final pilgrimage to the Mecca of Toronto Techno. What I really liked about Frank and Tony’s set was their clever use of volume to trick the audience. They would pull back the volume during a transition, and during buildups, making the crowd think there was something wrong for just a split second. Then the bass kicks in, and the crowd realizes that it was all part of the plan. I loved this kind of suspense.

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Up next came Recondite. I have been waiting for a long time to see him live. You could instantly tell there was a change of DJs, from a bouncy and punchy brand of house, to a deeper, more sinister techno sound. Recondite really took us on a journey through his signature sound. Lots of FM bells, lots of deep and empty bass drops, clean wobbles and unorthodox percussion. It was interesting to hear a combination of rich organic sounds with harsher electro-esque elements mixed together. These sounds were atypical of a techno stage, and the lower BPM of the set added a seriously eerie undertone. It was to the point where I was socializing near the back speakers with some friends, and I left to run into the crowd quite abruptly – having to apologize to them for it the next day. Recondite definitely had a lot to say to his Toronto fans. His point was widely accepted, and felt from the front to the back.

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After Recondite’s deep and dark set, on comes the lady-killer. In the words of a random EDM fan that I happened to overhear in the crowd, whose origins and purpose will forever remain a mystery: “Who is this guy again, ‘LOCAL DICE’?” You know what though, as funny and horrifically inaccurate as that comment may be, good for them for making it out and getting exposed to our beloved underground music.

I’ve always been impressed with the technical abilities of Loco Dice. Possessing the abilities of a turntablist and controllerist simultaneously, Dice’s heavily improvised style is the mark of a truly forward thinking DJ. With his signature quick tap hand gestures on the Traktor Vinyl; he really cranked up the energy with his world-renowned brand of Latin-infused Tribal Techno. Needless to say, by this time of night Electric Island was slammed. It was incredibly difficult to navigate through the VIP section to the stage entrance for photos. Luckily, we managed to snap a couple of close ups. Loco Dice played until it was dark, and finished his set with one of the most memorable moments of the night: Gesaffelstein – Variations. This was completely unexpected from him, and the crowd didn’t know what hit them.

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The crowd is buzzing, the sun is down, and the lights from the stage are the only thing that keeps the Island from being pitch black. It was a perfect moment for some Drumcode, and Adam Beyer wasted no time getting right into the heavy rolling bass, and the dark reverberated Moog-like stabs that he and his Drumcode imprint are famously known for. I have never seen the Island so full before, and speaking to some of the production team made it clear that it was quite possibly the most full it has ever been. Adam Beyer did not let off the intensity until three quarters through his set, at around 9:15pm. What is great about Beyer is that he knows exactly when the crowd is feeling a little tired, and when they need some melodic breakdowns to catch their breath. The finale was quite satisfying.

With each Electric Island, it seems that the stage production just keeps getting better and better. The sound system is so crisp and punchy, and very reminiscent of the experience you get inside of Coda. The light show and screens are starting to look like that of a major festival. I strongly recommend getting a season pass for next year. Electric Island is growing at an incredible speed, and the Holy Trinity of Embrace, Footwork, and Platform will keep the execution at a world class level in the coming years.

Photos By: Maria Coliviras

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About the Author

Anton Silaev aka TWONO (writer) is a DJ/Producer from Toronto, Canada. Anton believes that everything deserves a story, and he strives to create it through his music and writing.