As millions of Americans congregated for Fourth of July fireworks and cookouts, techno elites Richie Hawtin, Maceo Plex, Recondite, Roman Flügel, Chaim, Atish and more descended on Toronto for another installment of the city’s quadrennial dance gathering, Electric Island, over the holiday weekend.
Typically hosted on the Toronto Islands, this summer’s events thus far have been forced to move onto the mainland due to flooding after torrential downpours throughout the spring. While patrons have grown accustomed to the lush vegetation complemented by a towering skyline backdrop on the island, the move couldn’t dampen the Canadian spirit.
Coinciding with Canada Day (July 1) — this year, citizens celebrated the country’s 150th anniversary — and located at the Port Lands, an industrial neighborhood near the city skyline’s edge, the day got off to a saturated start with even more on-again-off-again rain, but main-stage openers and Toronto natives Talal & Zoi and Chris Larsen ensured the drenched crowd a safe haven of tech house rhythms. Clouds soon began to part during the late afternoon casting an ethereal glow on Germany’s revered maestro Roman Flugel, whose intellectual bass lines rattled partygoers out of the port-o-potties and onto the dance floor.
The festival’s 10-hour voyage also included house vibes over at a side stage led by San Francisco-based producer and Manjumasi Music boss Atish, as well as Israeli musician Chaim, whose breezy new EP The Perfect Circle was well-received by the intimate audience. Back on the main stage, the evening’s touted live performer Recondite transformed the suddenly sunny atmosphere into an unparalleled dark hypnosis, transporting fans deep into the fantastical brilliance of his layered multi-sensory productions.
The evening’s superstar standouts, Maceo Plex and Richie Hawtin, crafted intricate and peculiar sets reminding us why they have become in-demand brands among the world’s most refined party destinations. Hawtin even incorporated recorded sounds of whipping hand fans, which have become synonymous with the techno scene, into one of his builds, inciting many in the audience to snap theirs in unison. For two artists who have performed at rare, jaw-dropping locations, there’s a reason they chose Canada to ring in their political and creative freedoms on one of the busiest rave weekends of the year.
Unlike the pretension and clique mentality that often comes with too many underground-centric parties, Electric Island — from staff to security to patrons — served as a humbling atmosphere for both artists and fans alike, most likely attributed to the cross-section between earnest hospitality and the crowd’s effervescent ethos. It’s a running joke that Canadians apologize too often, yet that selflessness is part of the charm that’s typically missing. Plus, the U.S. to Canadian dollar exchange rate isn’t so bad either.
Despite the rain and last-minute location change, Electric Island’s magic resides in the people. Ravers, newbies, techno groupies — the festival appeared on the surface like the dance music version of the high school cafeteria map in Mean Girls, but no matter who you were or where you were visiting from, the limit did not exist.