There we were, inside a west-end warehouse at an electronic dance music festival in 2012, and neither a big drop nor a WUB WUB WUB to be heard. The walls indeed throbbed, but with 4/4 beats and that deep soulful vibe I can only imagine was present at the original Warehouse.
Toronto’s first annual Sound in Motion (SIM) festival, held this past weekend, was a well-timed response of sorts to the term EDM, which has reached popular consciousness and rockstar-in-a-stadium status over the past few years due to the pop and bro sensibilites of David Guetta and of Skrillex respectively. You might say SIM Toronto and it’s organizers Studiofeed are on a mission – albeit an oldschool mission only an ex-raver might understand – to keep dance music experimental, non-corporate, and, in essence, “about the music.”
With SIM’s panel discussions (”Art and Activism – Exploring the Use of Art for Positive Social Change”), films, the warehouse, club and beach parties, there’s no reason this festival shouldn’t eventually be revered in North America. It’s not yet comparable to Montreal’s MUTEK in scope (SIM might have competed for attendance with the more bass-oriented Cirqlar also happening this weekend), but the curating was just as impressive – if not better – in terms of it’s lineup: Under-the-radar international acts and best of all top-of-the-line local producers who few outside of small scenes in Europe and Toronto seem to recognize (Murr, Knowing Looks) aside from Juno-nominated Arthur Oskan of course.
“This festival is amazing. It’s just so pure,” says David Last (of NYC label and project Konque) who came up from Brooklyn to perform SIM’s Sugar Beach party Saturday. The chill daytime event saw folks revel and dance under pink umbrellas in the fake beach sand by the lake to deep house (and some quirky and mesmerizing minimal techno) from the likes of Chicago native Billy Delessandro, Zurich’s Dualism, finishing with German veteran Sammy Dee’s funky, crackling all-vinyl set. It drew a crowd of many 30+ whose experience goes back decades, which leads me to wonder, are the kids not craving these intimate vibes and off-the-beaten path venues?
Toronto is now flooded with large scale EDM, Last says (and he’s right – both Skrillex’s Full Flex Express and the Identity festival were competing this weekend.) SIM is filling the void in between.
At the finale, held in the 40-degree heat inside 213 Sterling Rd (normally used for rec floor hockey leagues) we enjoyed the sensual-yet-punkish US singer-DJBlack Light Smoke unveiling a new electronic synth pop ballad he wrote last week; his pairing with dancefloor veteran Francis “Adultnapper” Harris was a big-energy highlight. Then US-born Berlin-based John Roberts changed pace to some more fluid, textured deep house, parts of which were indescribable – like something between xylophone and harp and “what geishas would dance to,” commented one patron.
Many people, despite appearing completely entranced with the music, did not know which DJs were which. Unlike your typical Deadmau5 show, patrons did not worship the DJs as if they were rockstars, It was the closest thing you’d get to an oldschool party, where you showed up because you were guaranteed good people, positive vibes and good music – and that, with the help of events like SIM, can and should be preserved.