I went to a rooftop party the other night to listen to a Brooklyn DJ with a few friends. I mostly sat there–listening and drinking shallow swigs of my vodka club–while they gushed about their favorite musicians of the moment. I was pretty uninterested until an Australian friend of a friend mentioned he’d be heading to Electric Island the next week. Having never heard of the festival, my usual festival-snobbiness jumped to the back seat; I was intrigued.
Prior to my Aussie introduction, I spent most of the night name dropping all the festivals I attended that year. Pete, my friend from down under, bought us another round of drinks while teasing me for not knowing about this epic fest. Eager for an opportunity to end the summer the same way I did my junior prom—leaning over a toilet in a random person’s tutu—I immediately wanted to know more. Here’s what I learned:
Monday, August 3rd is the third show of the third installment of the summer concert series at Hanlan’s Point Beach in Toronto Island. I didn’t feel like a total loser when he told me that Electric Island only started in 2013. The series consists of four different shows throughout the summer all at Olympic Island Park. “The weather is hot, the drinks are cold, and the vibes are incredible,” explained the Aussie. In 2002, one kilometer of the Hanlan’s Point Beach on the Toronto Islands was officially recognized as clothing optional. You can get to the island by the TCC, the public transit in Toronto, or by car, water taxi, or ferry for a reasonable cost. Presented by Footwork, Platform, and Embrace, doors open at 1:00pm sharp to ensure the entire day is filled with good music. The previous two shows were May 18th and July 1st, with the closing show on September 7th.
In sync with previous years, the August 2015 lineup delivers some of the most influential still undercover names in house music including Art Department, Green Velvet, Robert Babicz, Shiba San, DJ three, The Junkies with Mike Gibbs and Koki. Perhaps I wasn’t as well-versed in Canadian festivals as I had thought, but I am fluent in DJs. Here is what you can expect from this year’s lineup.
The Junkies are in large part responsible for the rapidly growing techno culture prominent in Toronto. Native to Toronto, The Junkies still show love for their hometown by playing multiple shows for their city every year. They’ve collaborated with the likes of Dubfire, Nicole Moudaber, and Carlo Lio, and with access to the biggest labels in the world, their sets continue to be an example of how Toronto does it right when it comes to electronic sound. Their expert status is especially apparent while they play. You can hear the variety of sounds in their sets, instead of a single pounding beat like many techno artists play.
Shiba San is a great warm up if you don’t frequent electronic shows in Toronto. Shiba San has an arsenal of bouncy hits that have radio appeal yet are intricate enough to be accepted by the some of the biggest industry names. A regular on Claude Von Stroke’s Drtybird label, it is no secret that Shiba San is perhaps not as dark as some of Toronto’s big-name artists, but let Shiba be your guilty pleasure of the day, and no one will tell when you start dancing up and down to his insanely catchy monster hit “Okay.”
With a career spanning over two decades, tech house legend Green Velvet possesses a reach that surpasses the electronic music scene. On major hit “The Percolator,” a deadpan voice repeatedly insists over the beat “It’s time for the percolator…It’s time for the percolator–” creepy, but effective. The song is infectious.
Jones dropped “The Percolator” – also known as “Coffee Pot” back in 1992 under the alias “Cajmere.” His real name is Curtis Alan Jones. Today, Jones does most of his work as Green Velvet, and has prettified a few other stripped-down dance tracks with eccentric lyrics about domestic technology. His infamous voice serves as a signature on the majority of his tracks, which have not only been massively charted by worldwide DJs but on multiple Billboard record charts.
This performance might be a little bittersweet – seeing Johnny White performing solo under the alias “Art Department,” since having mutually split from former partner Kenny Glaslow. It doesn’t make the performance any less exciting; White has continued to move forward with his independence and is expanding his sound. Kenny Glasgow recently performed at the CODA and I don’t think neither Kenny nor Johnny has any trouble giving the crowd exactly what they want.
Known as a live performer and never a DJ, inspiring and innovative German producer Robert Babicz is booked to play live at Electric Island. Babicz caters his sets to the city he visits and exemplifies the definition of a true artist with his use of synths, live equipment, and improvisation as he plays. He began making music in the early ‘90s when acid house was at its peak of popularity. He has covered genres from techno to acid house to minimal. Babicz has played under the pseudonyms Rob Acid, Acid Warrior, Department of Dance and Sontec, and many others and has released a number of very well respected records on labels like Bedrock and Intec Digital, as well as his own Junkfood and Babiczstyle.
Growing up surrounded by house music and spinning records from a ripe age, producing music is near instinctual for the New York underground superstar. Haling from Pittsburg, the American DJ has a sound that encompasses house, techno, and beyond. The complex sound of tradition capped with cutting edge new techniques lends itself to a diverse audience. He’s held residencies at Tampa’s Snatch, Florida’s legendary Simon’s, and NYC’s Twilo.
Electric Island not only brings the heat when it comes to executing a well-done show, but strives to release good vibes onto everyone in the community that supports the artists. Recently, Ten Walls’ performance was cancelled for Electric Island after the producer made comments comparing gay people to pedophiles. Electric Island, along with a range of festivals around the world including Pitch, Creamfields, and Austria’s Urban Arts Forms, have cancelled his shows and even his label, Phonica Records have announced they will no longer be promoting his album. Walls’ apology didn’t do much to help his case. “Our decision was made well before he made his statement,” Joel Smye, co-founder and director of Electric Island, said, adding “his statement definitely came late to the game. The nature of the recent comments by Ten Walls are offensive, not acceptable and out of line with the fundamentals & spirit of the electronic music community we cherish,” declared a Facebook post on the Electric Island page. Electric Island wants to create a community that reflects what the electronic culture represents.
General admission tickets and VIP tickets are still available for the festival here. Your own food and drink are prohibited, as are lawn chairs, animals, fireworks, and a bunch of other things you probably won’t bring. There will be food trucks, vendors, and a plethora of happenings going on around the city of Toronto, not to mention the weather is supposed to be the type you only see in Heaven. There will be plenty of food there, but it’s kind of deliciously mysterious right now since their website hash’t posted its vendors.
After two—fine, three more vodka clubs, I found myself handing over my phone and watching him buy me a ticket and search for a flight. $45.00 rolled off the tongue nicely compared to the easy $100.00 I was spending for similar performances. The Aussie spoke with such sincerity when he told me about everyone he met and danced with during those four shows, I was sold. Toronto here I come.
By: Sarah Kelleher