By Ryan Hayes
The seventh voyage of Contact winter music Festival was a resounding success; bolstered solely by the prolific talent of this year's core A-list roster. While there were some issues with lines, especially when leaving day one, the music spoke for itself. Contact's colossal stage also played its part in wowing festival attendees. Its dazzling light show out did itself once again, entering Ultra level grandeur, and it was easily Blueprint's largest production to date. As always festivals are most appreciated when approached with an open mind, and if you are lucky you'll walk away with a few unexpected additions to your personal best of fest list...
Although fans may experienced Jack U in recent years, 2015 at Pemberton Festival or 2016 at FVDED in the Park, Skrillex' last Vancouver solo set was in 2013. Needless to say the five year gap between performances automatically elevated this year's edition of Contact above recent iterations. With a generous mix of anticipation and nostalgia anything was possible; and for some newcomers to the scene, the set may have collapsed under the weight of its own lofty expectations. However, for the majority of fans Skrillex somehow exceeded the sky high hype that had slowly built since the festivals announcement. In the eight year's since the release of his debut EP, My Name Is Skrillex, Sonny Moore has ascended to the level of a legacy artist; amassing a catalogue of hits that traditionally takes other producers decades to achieve.
Within the opening minutes of his day one set at Contact Skrillex solidified his stature as a rightful legend within the dance music community. His set traversed seamlessly from deeper cuts like Reptile to recent releases including Agen Wida with Joyride. Die hard fans were treated to original drops for quintessential releases Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites, Bangerang, and Devil's Den, among others. Skrillex also showcased new edits of old favourites, Promises included, and highlighted his softer productions like Summit & Would You Ever. Throughout the hour and a half set Skrillex also delved in to his catalogue of critically heralded rap productions/remixes, and featured a Jack U heavy segment. There was something for everyone—it was the by far the most complete Skrillex set I have ever seen, truly showcasing his monumental body of work and solidifying his continued stature and influence within the larger global music community both past and present.
The true highlight of both days of Contact was Skrillex dropping Bangerang in its entirety. Within a second of the tracks opening chime the reaction was instantaneous. Over 20,000 fans collectively lost their minds in unison acting as a reminder to everyone in attendance of the real unifying power of music. Not only did Skrillex meet the hype, he exceeding it in every way. Here's to hoping Vancouver does not have to wait another five years.
2. Alison Wonderland
Few artists have had as big of a year as Alison Wonderland. Starting off 2018 with the release of her Billboard number one album, Awake, Wonderland went on to headline festivals around the world while continually crafting her live act as the year progressed. Beginning her set at Contact in true grandiose fashion with an operatic re-imagining of Prince's When Dove Cry, leading in to Good Enough, and I Want U—I knew from the get go her set was going to be the high point of day two.
Contact may not have been her last set of the year but it acted as the perfect culmination of everything she had accomplished over the last twelve months. Her production was spot on, highlighting both her personality and rising star power, while her set focused on her original productions and festival ready remixes/mashups. Her creativity and mixing are both leagues above the competition and it all rings true to who she is as an artist. While her remix of Dua Lipa's New Rules got the biggest crowd reaction it was her mix of 4B & Teez Whistle, with Virtual Self' Ghost Stories, and her original production Easy that was a personal highlight. Before walking off the stage Wonderland dropped Kanye and Lil Pump's I Love It and got the crowd chanting; “you're such a f**kin' ho, I love it.” She then thanked the packed arena for the compliment and ended her set...it was priceless.
3. The Chainsmokers
The first time I saw the Chainsmokers play a festival Kayne was their newest release and Roses hadn't taken off yet. I had to show up early to see them, and it was lighthearted, mostly progressive house, festival bliss—and easily my favourite set of the day. Two year's later The Chainsmokers had made a jump to festival headliners who were still finding their footing. Drew was just beginning to sing live and the duo had begun incorporating more bass heavy tracks in to their sets sandwiched with their earlier more synth focused progressive work. It was a transition set; yes they had a massive following due to their radio hits but they had not yet sorted how they sounded as festival headliners. Fast forward nearly two years to their headlining set at Contact and The Chainsmokers have it all figured out. From start to finish their set defined what it means to be a world class main stage headliner. They played their hits, past and present—from Roses & Don't Let Me Down, to Everybody Hates Me & This Feeling—dropped insane mashups like The Isley Brothers Shout vs Bellorum & Aazar Back Home, and Drew sang with charisma at all the right moments. Perhaps most importantly they had the confidence to just have fun. No matter what you can't go wrong with 20,000 people belting out Something Just Like This; and the surprised euphoria The Chainsmokers' evoked when they transitioned the intro of The Circle Of Life in to Alvaro and Mercer's Welcome To The Jungle was pure festival bliss. It was flashy, it was loud; it was everything a festival set should be, and I could not have been more won over.
4. Troyboi & Galantis:
Day one started off loud and noisy bringing the headbangers in early. Two acts saved Contact's first day from being solely a vehicle for bringing Skrillex to Vancouver. Troyboi was a breathe of fresh air filling BC Place with his larger than life persona and swagger. His sets are always artistically unique, and his chill bass vibes helped wipe festival goers palettes clean from all of the blundering bass they had just ingested. Taking the stage directly after Troyboi, Galantis turned up the energy representing main stage EDM the way it should be going in to 2019. Their set had a well defined sense of artistic style and personal flare while still hitting broader crowd favourites. Together these two acts elevated night one of Contact beyond a one act wonder.
5. Loud Luxury
The Canadian duo has had an unbelievable year. Riding on the wave of their smash hit Body they were given a chance to play festivals around the world—and fortunately for fans, they didn't disappoint. Pounding Contact with an EDM nostalgia driven set laden with pop hits Loud Luxury managed to fill BC Place early winning over the packed arena with their mashups and edits. Their transitions were tight and their set progression spot on. While they may need more time to amass a catalogue of original material to flesh out their sets with more distinct character everyone danced, sang, and jumped for the entire hour. Body may currently be their crowning jewel, but I expect more hits and an even brighter year for the duo in 2019.