Who Reigns Supreme in the Canadian Dance Festival Circuit

Which festival reigns supreme?

By Ryan Hayes

The ever changing landscape of dance music continues to shape billings throughout the festival circuit, and 2019 has been no exception for the stable of Canadian electronic festivals. Over the past few years the Canadian festival market has taken a substantial hit—booking costs combined with a suffering Canadian dollar has resulted in the collapse of more than one juggernaut festival. While every 2019 Canadian festival has accomplished something simply by surviving to live another year the are undoubtedly standouts for the upcoming summer season.  

The Cultural Mainstay:

 Shambhala

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 Starting off on the West Coast, Shambhala remains a pinnacle of what a boutique festival can offer. From its humble beginnings to 2019's unparalleled offering it has managed to stay faithful to it's core intentions of authenticity within the world of corporate dance music. Standouts include Diplo & Mark Ronson's collaborative project Silk City, a rare set by Chris Lake & Chris Lorenzo as Anti Up, and what is sure to be a unique set from Kaskade—but the heart of the festival remains with the Shambhala Favourites lineup; which, as always, is stacked with popular fan legacy artists. To this day the festival continues to be a truly singular experience curated for dance music purists, and those looking for a bucket list experience.

 While Shambhala continues its reign as the preeminent celebration of dance culture within the Canadian (and global?) scene, those who can't make it out to Salmo BC, have Ever After. Over the past five years Ever After has been making a play for Shambhala vibes and offers heavy hitting headliners Excision, Illenium, and Kill The Snails (Kill the Noise & Snails).

 The Hybrid:

 Veld

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 Over the past few years Toronto's Veld Festival has vied for the top spot in the hybrid category and for its 2019 edition it has successfully stepped up to the plate. Perhaps the most important factor here; although Veld has evolved in order to stay modern it has also remained as true as possible to its history as a purely dance music festival. Making his second Canadian appearance in year's Skrillex stands tall, and the undeniable draw of dance music juggernauts Tiesto and Kygo solidifies Veld's unbeatable stable of headliners. Add Cardi B, Kodak Black, Boogie, and a handful of other rappers to the mix and Veld's fusion of dance music and rap is perfect representation of what a hybrid festival can be.

 While Veld has provided dance music festival-goers with a varied slate offering them a taste of the rap world this years FVDED lineup has veered heavily towards rap/r&b. For West Coast festival lovers unable to attend Veld, FVDED still provides dance music favourites like Zedd and RL Grime; but four of its top five billings herald from the rap/r&b world, of which over fifty percent of their lineup is comprised. View this year's iteration as a hip-hop festival for fans looking for a little dance with their rap.

The New King:

Escapade

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Although Veld's lineup is so strong that it almost challenged Escapade for this year's Canadian dance music crown, it is impossible to ignore the power and diversity of Escapade's lineup—easily the closest a Canadian dance music event can come to achieving those Ultra/EDC feels. Bolstering four curated stages, including; Deadbeats from Canadian bass legends Zeds Dead, The House Party headlined by Danny Tenaglia-b2b-Tiga, and Ferry Corsten presents Unity...offering the best trance lineup of the year. From here you have two of the most sought after back-to-back collaborations currently booking festivals—the now fabled No Redemption from Tchami X Malaa, and the far more rare (but...oh,so-good) Zeds Dead-b2b-Jauz. With Martin Garrix and DJ Snake headlining the festival it truly offers festival-goers with an open mind a world class smattering of ever genre of dance music. House and trance legends, through bass maestros, and main stage titans—come prepared to be surprised; the talent across the board is world class. 

Regardless of your personal taste this summer has something to offer dance music fans of all genres, it is just a matter of finding the festival that fits your personal tendencies.

7 sets I liked from Escapade Music Festival 2018 (Review)

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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: 

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Armin Van Buuren

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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. 

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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

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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. 

Purple Haze

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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.

Cosmic gate

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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. 

Rezz

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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. 

Sydney Blu

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. 

Slander

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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.