Electric Island Festival 2016
@ Toronto Island, Toronto
September 4th & 5th, 2016
Electric Island hosted its first two-day finale this past Labour Day weekend on Toronto Island. Event organizers Embrace, Coda, and Platform brought a captivating array of outstanding underground Electronic talent from Toronto and abroad to Hanlan’s Point for the festival’s second year in its new, larger location. Running Sunday, September 4 and Monday, September 5 from 1:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Electronic music lovers were given a strong dose of both live and DJ sets this year, happily quashing any back-to-school or end-of-summer doldrums.
Since the festival’s white-tented nascence four years ago at the original, breezier Centre Island location, Electric Island has bloomed into a much larger-scale music festival. Despite its growth, however, the organizers still guarantee excellent music and a small festival vibe with funky boutique shopping, delicious food trucks, tasty bar selections and no aggressive bro-factor. Plus, 2016 introduced green “leave no trace” initiatives this year including no straws on site. Special mention for the reprise of SXMusic Festival’s neon, tropical stage flowers at the main stage.
While it’s always hard to pick the best from the best, here are a few highlights and reviews from the dirty, sweaty two days:
This Irish duo, made up of Andrew Ferguson and Matthew McBriar, delivered their usual top-notch set to plumes of dust and screaming festivalgoers. Despite the hot weather, they played tough from start to finish, keeping the momentum building from opening sets by Toronto’s own Sean Miller, Alberto Jossue and Members Only. Self-described online as “HOUSE DISCO FUNK TECHNO ITALO COSMIC,” Bicep has an array of music in their growing bag of tricks. Sunday proved to be a bit more of a mix of breaks and techno but these Belfast boys are welcome back anytime. A special shout-out to the go-go dancers, whose sexy moves and space-like bodysuits, designed by Laced with Sparkles, matched the set perfectly.
I have never seen Martin live. I usually miss him by sheer seconds and hear about what a great set he played. Seeing this San Francisco Producer live at an outdoor festival with an outstanding light show was worth the wait. Martin blew Bicep’s solid set out of the water. I don’t know if it was the renowned thumping “dirty” sound that Martin and the DirtyBird label are known for, or because his set was during sundown (with the hot weather finally at bay), but his climax and series of drops brought the dance floor to another level. The light show was equally as powerful.
Moudaber, a Lebanese-Nigerian music producer and DJ, is a festival favourite – and for good reason. I’ve seen her a few times in clubs and have always been impressed. She played her usual strong set at Electric Island but the energy was not as enjoyable for me as Martin’s (kudos still given as she played Stereo in Montreal on Saturday night). She rotated from heavier, bassier tracks to a more melodic mix and then back again. Still she had many fans this past weekend. Her heavier, frenetic beats and mesmerizing light show were the highlights of her set for me.
Get Real: Green Velvet & Claude VonStroke
Green Velvet opened the Get Real closing set on Sunday, September 4, coming on strong with his deep, thumping groove. After closing the 2013 Electric Island finale with a phenomenal set, many fans were hoping for another killer Labour Day set. He did not disappoint. When Claude VonStroke, DJ, producer and owner of DirtyBird Records, came on, however, things got a whole lot dirtier. Just as Martin blew Bicep away, Claude VonStroke manned the decks in a furious way, getting Green Velvet to ramp things up rather quickly when he returned to the decks. The back-to-back set of these two heavyweights was strong from start to finish. I highly recommend catching this duo, either together or separate, when you can.
Fatima Yamaha (Live)
Fatima Yamaha (a.k.a. Netherlands musician and producer Bas Bron, co-founder of Magnetron record label) played Electric Island’s first live set of the day. His Synth-Bubblegum Electronic music inflected an ethereal change from three solid opening sets by Toronto locals, Night Vision, Simon Jain and Jamie Kidd (Box of Kittens). Yamaha’s quirky sound got the early comers going but with a scorching hot field and a slow-to-arrive crowd, who were likely hung over from an amazing day one, Yamaha’s numbers were a bit small for his talent. Be sure to check his “Love Invaders” video online and mark down his next Toronto appearance. While DJing takes a lot of skill, I always enjoy a live set. Yamaha was no exception. While many showed up for Ame’s live set – the prelude to Dixon and Loco Dice’s closing sets – I felt Yamaha’s artistry and Poppy sound a refreshing break to the usual Electronic music festival fare. Not to be missed.
With the growing offering of Electronic music festivals throughout the summer in the 6ix and beyond, Electric Island once again sent out summer with a bang. Loco Dice and Dixon were the highlights of many people’s summers (and for some, their lifetime so far). Dust and strong sun sent me home early but the friendly, music-loving crowd and stellar lineup successfully drowned out Toronto’s well-hated air-show. Next year take the Tiki Taxi, arrive early and bring a hat or buy a parasol. I guarantee it’s going to be electric.
– Talia Wooldridge