On August 2nd and 3rd in Toronto, Downsview Park was transformed into a colourful yet muddy, sea of over 80,000 people as the third annual Veld Music Festival took place.  Bringing in a mixture of top talent in the electronic music scene with the likes of Zedd, Feed Me, What So Not, and Nero provided the soundtrack to the weekend.

 The party started early in the day for eager festival-goers, who hosted parking lot pre-game sessions complete with blasting music, decorations, and beer pong tables.  Security lines were full of chanting, dancing and singing of tunes familiar to the festival’s lineup.  Plenty of balloons, blow-up animals and homemade totems were seen floating in amongst the crowds, serving as markers for meeting spots and friend-finding.

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Having attended Veld in its inaugural year, there were many progressions that took place – most notably the stage production.  The main Veld Stage took two weeks to set up.  The DJ booth is surrounded by a repetition of circular scaffolding; as multiple LED screens (also in a circular fashion) adorn the sides of the stages, playing off the visual language of the Veld logo.  The extent of the production is best seen at night, as lights, pyrotechnics and smoke synchronize and dance to the music and beat.  The Bacardi Stage was previously an enclosed tent space, which fostered condensation and often heated up quickly.  Thankfully this year’s set-up included an open concept dome, where the front half enclosing the DJ booth was covered, providing more dance and breathing space.

The VIP section included a raised area overlooking the entire main stage, providing an awesome view without the shoulder-to-shoulder struggle.  There were also plenty of couches underneath a large tent with a bar area; perfect for shelter from the rain, sun, or a mere dance break.

 

DAY 1

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We arrived on site to the bouncy sounds of Nom De Strip, who warmed the crowd up with electro house bangers.  Oliver Heldens followed, bringing in more people who were just as excited as I was to see the 19-year-old producer make his Toronto debut.  Heldens delivered his popular hits “Gecko” and “Koala,” as well as a mix of Corona’s “Rhythm of the Night,” not too long before it started pouring rain – which proved no hinderance to the crowd.  Poncho parties emerged and it was the beginning of the “let’s ditch our shoes” trend, while muddy grounds became main stage terrain.  Slipping and sliding, everyone was forced to “get deep” with both the dirt, and music.

The remnants of rain left during Dannic, who played an energy-filled set true to his Revealed Recordings sound, shouting out his Dutch label mates Hardwell and Dyro (and their songs).  W&W brought an hour of bangers and heavy drum sounds that provided no room for slowing down.  Their big room sound was as consistent as their synchronized arm-pumping “W” movements, while dropping their hits like “Bigfoot,” “Rocket,” and “Jumper.”  The Bingo Players were up next, with a solo Maarten Hoogstraten, who carries on the name of the duo after the passing of Paul Baumer last year, as per Paul’s wishes.  The crowd got emotional as the Bingo Players’ song “Cry (Just a Little)” was dropped, amongst other dance-y electro hits and even Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” at one point.

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Being deep in the crowd and near the front of the main stage, there was no way I was going to leave, especially with the next act coming up:  Nero.  One of my favourites of the weekend, their set was accompanied by the stunning live vocals of Alana Watson, providing a chilling depth to songs like “Promises,” “Me and You,” and Nero’s latest, “Satisfy.”  They gave us a taste of their upcoming album, with some house, dirty bass and even some techno, dropping Gesaffelstein’s “Control Movement.”  Hat’s off to Nero, who left us with sore necks and a thirst for what’s to come from them in the near future.

Ingrosso stayed true to his sound, including a lot of tracks from fellow Swedes Alesso, and his now musical partner – Axwell.  Giving us a taste of this new collaboration, we were treated to “Sun is Shining and So Are You” and “On My Way,” both of which had the crowd smiling and eventually singing as they caught onto the new lyrics. He closed off with a piece of his past – Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child.”  Cue the tears.  And pyrotechnics.  And confetti.

In the time leading up to Armin Van Buuren’s performance, the crowd density increased significantly as pushing and a lack of “excuse me’s” took over.  It seems everyone wanted to get as close as possible to witness the king of trance; and with good reason (however I don’t condone the pushing).  Spinning an almost two-hour long set, Armin had the crowd dancing and finding themselves in “a state of trance,” regardless of if they were trance lovers or not.  He made seamless transitions from songs of higher BPMs into vocals including his own “Sound of the Drums,” “This is What it Feels Like,” as well as Gareth Emery’s “U,” and “Concrete Angel.”2

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Making my way out of the festival a bit earlier to avoid the rush and attempt to make it to the after party in a timely manner, I could hear Armin dropping the crowd favourite “Ping Pong,” accompanied by a roar of excitement.  While walking I overheard a lot of “OMG best day ever,” mixed in with “my shoes/clothes are disgusting,” and learned that Waka Flocka didn’t show up (he was scheduled to close out the Bacardi Stage) due to border issues.  I guess that explains the influx of people during Armin’s set.

 

DAY 2

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Entering the Veld grounds on day two, I wasn’t sure if my ear drums had been destroyed from the previous day or if the sound of the main stage was just low.  Even getting closer in proximity to the front, the volume would fluctuate and sometimes become inaudible when everyone around was yelling or talking amongst themselves.  Either way, the energy of attendees was still high, this time with beaming sunlight and heat that graced us the entire day.  Thankfully, water stations were located at multiple points throughout the festival and the wait to refill was no more than an average five to eight minute wait.  Plenty of food and drink vendors were available on site as well; my go-to being the super refreshing lemonade or sweet tea station.  All of the vendors I encountered were friendly and enjoying the music just as much as the attendees – high five to them! 

We started the day checking out the young and promising Martin Garrix, who had an earlier set time as he was also set to play in Los Angeles (at Hard Summer) later that day.  Regardless of this time slot, thousands arrived in time for his big room-filled set.  He’s a little boy with a ton of energy that got the crowd pumped through favourites like the ever-famous “Animals (Botnek Remix),” “Tremor,” “Helicopter,” and “Gold Skies.”

Green Lantern was playing the Bacardi Stage as we grabbed our food. The sound from there was significantly louder (and better) than the main stage’s.  Having no previous knowledge of who he was, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed his loud mix of trap and hip-hop – had me “cooking” and eating at the same time.

emoh Up next at this stage was What So Not, with Emoh Instead present and but no sign of Flume.  As their first Toronto appearance (their last two shows were cancelled due to visa issues),  it was well worth the wait.  What So Not had the crowd grooving to a mixture of melodies and heavy bass, with some trap-hop in between.  They closed with their hit, “Jaguar,” and Emoh said his thank you’s & goodbyes only to find that he was given 20 more minutes.  Not a single person complained.  We love the eclectic mix that is What So Not.

After finally reuniting with the majority of my friends (cellular reception was very hit or miss – almost always a miss) we were treated to the sounds of three strong closing acts to round out Veld.

First up was Zedd, whose hour-long set flew by in minutes for me.  He played a rollercoaster of bangers and electro-house amongst his poppy and popular vocals.  He had the entire crowd singing, smiling, eyes closed, to hits like “Clarity,” “Stay the Night,” and his remix of Empire of the Sun’s “Alive.”  Having seen Zedd perform countless times, I was happy to finally hear his remix of Skrillex & The Doors’ “Breakn’ a Sweat” live.

 Moving from one high-energy set to another, Knife Party takes a place for one of the top sets at Veld.  The momentum continued (or even sped up) as they (only Gareth McGrillen was present) introduced us to a bunch of heavy-hitting IDs – all of which are probably off their upcoming album.  There was a lot of face melting, neck breaking and footwork going on; all of which peaked during songs like “Bonfire,” “Internet Friends,” “EDM Death Machine,” and “Fire Hive.”  Having already been in a vulnerable state of awe, the bass heavy machine dropped Arty’s remix of Porter Robinson’s “Lionhearted,” at which point I probably dropped to my knees and began sobbing because of how happy I was.  Knife Party later threw down a dirty b2b set with Tommy Trash during the official Veld Afterparty at the Kool Haus; and it’s a good thing they did – the hour-long festival left us wanting more. 

Having missed seeing Calvin Harris at least ten times whenever he was in town or at a festival I was attending. His set was nothing I didn’t expect, but I think he was the perfect ending to Veld.  Winding everyone down from the rager that was Knife Party, Calvin played all of his feel-good hits including “Feel so Close,” “We Found Love,” and “Under Control.”  When he dropped “C.U.B.A,” a track played many a time this weekend, the crowd reception was incredible.  Cue the shuffling, booty shaking and all-around madness.  Nearing the end of his set (and subsequently the festival), “Summer*,” an appropriate anthem for the weekend, was dropped as friends, strangers and security/staff alike jumped, held hands and sang their hearts out. The fire, smoke and lights on the stage were also beautiful and perfectly timed.  Some would call his set cheesy, but I like (certain types of) cheese and Calvin definitely grilled it (aka the best kind) to end off Veld 2014.

 Festival goers waddled and trekked through the still-muddy grounds, discussing amongst themselves plans for the next rave.  Roads were hectic around the area, as everyone raced to the Kool Haus, where the Day 2 official after party took place – with a solid lineup including:  Michael Brun, Knife Party b2b Tommy Trash, What So Not, and a surprise set by Zeds Dead b2b Adventure Club – the last of which I unfortunately missed because by then I felt like a jellyfish.  Oh and mister Deadmau5 made an appearance there but didn’t come near the decks.  Maybe next year!

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Thank you Ink Entertainment and to all of the artists, staff, and attendees for making this festival one of my summer highlights.

*While I mentioned Calvin Harris’ “Summer” could be the weekend’s anthem, Disclosure’s “Latch” is a top contender too as I heard it countless times in its various remixes.

Photos by Adrian Muir for Electric Sloth

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