The Sonar on Tour at the Sound Academy in Toronto has just finished and brought multiple DJs that you wouldn't normally get to see in North America together for one night to show off their style of music to Canadian fans. The lineup for Sonar was spectacular as it combined Die Antwoord, a rap duo that has generated significant buzz, with DJs that are currently enjoying much bigger success in Europe and may be looking at the Sonar Tour as a stepping stone to wider North American popularity.
I arrived as Paul Kalkbrenner was deep into his set and the one thing you notice right away is the deep passion he exhibits for his music. The crowd was treated to his best hits as the German techno icon showed off tracks from his albums like 'Berlin Calling' and 'Icke Wider'.
Even though he managed to produce a good set I had hoped that he could have stayed to play for a little longer as the 1 hour time slot was not enough to see what this immensely popular artist can do. What hurt was the 30 minutes I had to wait for the stage crew to set up for Die Antwoord while pondering how many tracks Kalkbrenner could have played in that time. Fans of Die Antwoord had to wait in silence before the South African viral sensation were to take the stage.
Judging from the random chatter heard while waiting in line I would estimate that at least 20% of the attendees were there only to see Die Antwoord. The duo has garnered significant buzz from recent public spats against Lady Gaga and for their crazy music videos. Thankfully Die Antwoord were able to live up to the hype by delivering a blistering performance that brought all of their unique dance moves and massive energy to life on the Sound Academy stage. The crowd ate it all up as they turned an entire section of the dance floor into a mosh pit shove fest.
The front row received special treatment as Ninja was giving away a ton of high fives, Yolandi spat water on others, and one fan even managed to slap Yolandi's butt as requested. All of their hits were played to their adoring fans while it was their latest tracks 'Fatty Boom Boom' and 'I fink U Freeky' generated the largest crowd reactions. After 45 minutes it was time to head back to the other room to catch the enigmatic yet highly interesting Gesaffelstein.
Gesaffelstein was an artist on a mission to show off his significant mixing skills. Like Paul Kalkbrenner, Gesaffelstein was very much in his own world and grooving to his own beat as he artfully manipulated any track any way that suited his mood at any particular time. The Frenchman is a master mixer which was fun to witness but hard to dance to as he couldn't leave a single track alone. While playing 'Viol' Gesaffelstein must have changed the BPMs on it at least 3 times from a very fast tempo to slowed down all the way to something that resembles a Trap beat. To do something like this in the same track and make it work is certainly impressive but you'll be hard pressed to dance to it.
I liken Gesaffelstein to a young Roger Federer who had too many shot options in any given situation in his youth who had to eventually edit himself before he became a Grand Slam winner. Gesaffelstein is a master tinkerer behind the decks and brought Toronto fans a fantastic show that managed to showcase his immense talent. I just wished that I could have danced a little more.
After taking a breather to sit down and watch Azari & III perform on the main stage I came back to the second stage to catch the rest of Tiga's set. Tiga is a straight up DJ that let the music do the talking. There was no jumping around hijinx behind the decks, no Jesus posing, and no commands on the crowd to 'make some noise!'- instead he let the music speak for him and the music spoke volumes. He played a peak time style performance with a clear sense of flow and build that made you feel that he was taking you someplace good. The last ten minutes he surprised the crowd with some Trap music worthy of a Flosstradamus set and ended with Major Lazer's 'Get Free ft. Amber of the Dirty Projectors'. Best set of the night.
Seth Troxler finished the night off in the main room infront of the few hundred faithful fans that had stayed to see what the Berlin transplant had up his sleeves. The look and feel to the stage was quite different than the previous acts as there were no spotlights focused on the DJ while a giant video screen provided a visual escape in hue's of blue and red.
Seth Troxler wasted no time in bringing the crowd into his world as he overlaid vocal samples from the Gorillaz and Depeche Mode with tech house beats. Hearing him for the first time on a booming sound system and not on the Internet via Be-At.TV was a real personal treat. Unfortunately for everyone the party stopped at around 3 am even though it looked like Seth Troxler was more than ready to continue on down his musical rabbit hole. Nonetheless, Seth Troxler made a definite impression and I cannot wait to see him again for a longer set.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Sonar on Tour prior to the event, but after witnessing the diverse styles and clear passion in all of the performers I can say that I was delighted to have seen the inaugural North American tour first hand and I'm looking forward to see who they bring next year.