fantsy land

Digital Dreams ’14 highlights and lowlights

by Jackie Willson

While the Canada Day long weekend lives on for some with a few extra days off, for many it ended with Digital Dreams, by choice or by sheer exhaustion.

As teenagers in flower crowns (yes, that’s still happening) and neon tanks flooded the streets of Toronto unloading trains and buses, the Flats of Ontario Place begun to fill with energized crowds.

In its third year this was the biggest festival in Toronto yet, an estimated 80,000 people came out, or at least tried to, some of them didn’t get past the security due to…being tired let’s just say, early on in the day. Electronic Nation, in collaboration with Uniq, Capture and a few other partners, made the festival bigger and brighter than ever before. The main addition was the fourth stage, Fantasy Land, located in the back of the island on the bank of Lake Ontario occasionally gracing the audience with a sail boat or a pirate ship.

While small groups of people wandered the flats eating raw bell peppers, sleeping under trees, or chilling out in Muskoka chairs, crowds were gathering in front of stages in scattered dance circles. Fantasy Land proved to be just the right place for trance on a bright Saturday afternoon. With Saad Ayub and Alex M.O.R.P.H. people went into deep euphoria while the bigger beach was graced by Sébastien Léger forming mosh pits on the sand.

The highlights of day one were mid-day/early-evening performances at the House of Boom: Hydee, Thugli, Keys N Krates and Crystal Method delivering serious hard-hitting trap and drum ‘n’ bass beats. Keys N Krates, known for their versatility, dropped a solid variety shredding tracks you may have already known off by heart to bits while Crystal Method came here to show he’s not going anywhere, nor do his narrow retro shades.

On the second day of the festival the vibe around the flats was a little more relaxed and a little less busy at first. People slowly trailed in for the first few hours just hoping to get some food, struggle with a warm $10.00 beer, and sway to some music until they got their energy back from the day before. The skies were clear, the sun was out, there was no shortage of bacon-wrapped hot dogs or deep fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and the music was quickly taking over.

In the true festive fashion Canadian DJ Jelo lit up the Dream Stage early on in the day. Known for his intense performances, Jelo came out in full force with some hard hitting progressive techno, and rock-and-roll inspired mixes. A little heavy for some in the middle of the day, but his true fans and lovers of all things music kept the energy up crowd-surfing deflating dolphins and lifting girlfriends in bikini tops closer to the sun.

The Chainsmokers hit the stage right after. This being their first year at the festival was eased by every self-obsessed teen’s favorite single, “Selfie” released earlier in 2013. The crowd was pleased and properly warmed up for Fedde Le Grand. While confusion began to spread across the crowd about set times and locations of things, Fedde started almost on time causing crowds of sweating people to flock to the main stage across a shaking floating bridge. Fedde brought a solid set playing a mix between his old and new hits like “Twisted,” but leaving out his infamous “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit,” and his new track “Love Never Felt So Good.”

For day two to everyone’s confusion, the new stage got renamed to No. 19 Social Experiment. This sunny and windy side of the Flats was where the festival came alive (and got wet). When long-time DJ Green Velvet (real name Curtis Alan Jones) hit the stage, the areas quickly became the busiest it had been all weekend. With a perfect view of lake, and a choice between dancing your heart out or chilling out on a hill with your posse, this was definitely the best part of the day. Green Velvet killed it as always even when Mother Nature decided to spring a rainstorm on everyone in the middle of his set, Jones kept on spinning. Most of the crowd ran for shelter, but his true fans could not be bothered by a little bit of water (ok, a lot). A few tiny technical glitches, a few thousand damp festival-goers, and about half an hour later, the skies cleared, and everyone was ready to take on the night to the last few notes of “La La Land.”

At this point most of the festival made their way to the main stage to reserve a decent spot for Tiësto. Eric Prydz got the crowd alive and warmed up after the storm and before you knew it, Tiësto was taking the stage. “How are you doing Toronto!” came Verwest’s excited Dutch accent spilling through the speakers.

Hosting Tiësto is a pretty big deal since he doesn’t tour much, so Toronto welcomed him back with open arms, fireworks (really, really sad fireworks), and a lot of fist pumping. Being an older DJ playing for a (mostly) younger crowd can be tricky, so it wasn’t too surprising that Tiësto played most of his recent club hits, but it was somewhat of a shocker that his set was nearly identical to the one he played last year on the same stage.

Looking up at the fireworks trying to make their way into the sky with no real climax lighting up the city skyline, surrounded by thousands of people coming together for the love of music (drugs, drinks, and dancing), it was a good weekend to be Canadian and a great way to kick off the summer.