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By David Mann
2018 was another glorious year for the Escapade Music Festival. Set at the Lansdowne Park for a second year in a row, it really felt like the festival has found a new long-term home in Ottawa as the spacing in between the stages was perfectly balanced. The bass stage was set within the historic Aberdeen Pavilion and was well attended all weekend. The trance/underground stage was at TD Place, which provided a proper dark environment to dance away virtually anonymously. But the the biggest party was to be had on the mainstage, which the majority of the crowd congregated all weekend. The guys from DNA Presents organized yet another almost flawless event that continued on despite the testy weather conditions. Last year the rain shut down the mainstage for one day, but this year the music and fans braved on as the rain couldn't damper their high spirits. Below you'll find the 7 acts that really stood out from this year's Escapade:
Armin Van Buuren
Armin t the best set of the festival as he proved once again how he's the king of the festival mainstage. Through the years I've seen him use music from a variety of genres to pump up the crowd - but this time he relied on the music that he has promoted tirelessly through his popular ASOT radio show - trance.
He started off strong with dropping psy-trance, a genre that a few years ago would be an unlikely candidate to be played at a mainstage at any festival. But with Seven Lions, the sudden popularity of Vini Vinci and now Armin, psy-trance has become a mainstay.
Armin has been busy in the studio for the past year and it showed on the Escapade stage as he played all of his latest tracks which were all well received. Some notable tracks included "The Last Dancer" with Shapov, "You Are" with Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano, and "Blah Blah". Armin asked the crowd if they wanted to be in a state of trance, when the crowd roared in the affirmative, the Dutch legend gave them exactly that and more. The last track played was "Take Me There" by Militia, which was last week's ASOT "tune of the week", a fitting end to a brilliant set.
Chus + Ceballos
The most dancing to be had at the festival was during the Chus + Ceballos set on day 2. The Spanish underground duo are no strangers to the scene as they have played in all of the best venues, including the much beloved Stereo nightclub in Montreal. They felt at home at the underground stage as they rocked TD Place with a consistent yet intense beat that gave you no choice but to move your feet in unison. Fixated on their monitors, Chus + Ceballos kept it to the basics, which was to craft and create the absolute best set they can do within the time given. And did they ever do that and more as the beat never dropped as a continuous rhythmic beat which reverberated within the stadium which allowed fans to dance for the entirety of their set. These guys know what they’re doing and it was an absolute pleasure to have watch the craft of DJ'ing at the highest level. Highlights included the Shaf Huse remix of "Stupidfly" by Daniel Dubb, "See La" by Prok & Fitch, "Grush" by Danny Serrano and Mendo, and "Easy Star" by DJ Fronter.
When Sander Van Doorn announced his Purple Haze project a few years ago, which saw him return to trance and the underground, I was so happy. Having seen him on numerous live streams, including a few A State Of Trance appearances, my anticipation reached fever pitch by the time Escapade rolled around. His vibe was distinctly dark as he dropped driving trance with hints of techno. He started off with the deeper "Voice of Silence" by Cristoph, and slowly built it up to trance with "Desire of Ages" by Joseph Areas, and the recent trance banger by Orjan Nilsen "Simulator". The set was rhythmic, had a driving energy, and most important of all - delighted the fans. Once of the last tracks included Standerwick's remix of "Coming Home" by Dash Berlin, which brought chills.
The trance didn't stop as the German legends Cosmic Gate owned the crowd as they played fresh tracks from Vol. 2 of their latest Materia album. A highlight was when they dropped their remix of a personal favourite track of mine, "Only road" by Gabriel and Dresden. Cosmic Gate got the crowd moving by giving them driving trance beats at a higher BPM mixed interspersed with their well known vocal melodic classics. The guys were animated behind the decks which is always fun to see. Cosmic Gate gave a lot of love to Anjunabeats as they played a multitude of tracks from the likes of Above and Beyond, with special mention to the excellent track by Ilan bluestone and Major Levi called "Will We Remain". When "Fall into you" played, the haunting vocals by Jes was goosebump worthy.
Following Carnage and Ty Dolla $ign came the recent Juno award winner Rezz who wow'ed the crowd with her beautiful visuals and her unrelenting bass beats. Needing only her tracks to get the crowd where it needed to go, Rezz unleashed her powerful tracks including her latest "H E X". When she took a break from her discography, Madeon's evil edit of "Shelter" stood out.
The dreambox stage, tucked away behind the action, was rocking all day long with a great vibe and fans committed to dance. Sydney Blu killed it by dropping rhythmic house music for almost her entire set. She didn’t hold anything back as she never stopped moving behind the decks, being in lock step with the dancers at her side.
By far some of the biggest bass drops and crowd reactions were had when the Los Angeles duo Slander took the stage. Slander delivered a ton of bass including the "Knockout" by Krimer with a mix of hip hop like a trap remix of "God's Plan", and random throwbacks like "Yeah!" by usher. Slander punished the crowd with non-stop nastiness that brought the Abderdeen Pavilion to fever pitch. Did they eventually bring it down to give themselves the room to play their chill "Superhuman" track. Fun set that stood out from the rest.