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Photos by Nic Pouliot
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WOLFGANG GARTNER, SHARAM, LEE FOSS and BASS JACKERS as part of BRRRRR! WINTER MUSIC FESTIVAL at Echo Beach, Saturday, February 1. Rating: NNNN
The arctic temperatures Toronto's been experiencing of late held off for the second annual incarnation of outdoor EDM festival Brrrrr! at Echo Beach on Saturday. Unfortunately, the heinous weather did not. While the mercury hovered around zero, sheets of rain spilled onto good-natured crowds, more visible in the dark, Ontario Place atmosphere when strobe lights would light up the lakefront venue.
In case you're wondering how EDM crowds - usually prone to skin and fluorescents during their genre's prime summertime season - would dress in the cold, the answer is fuzzy animal-costume onesies or snowboard ensembles, complete with snowpants and goggles. (So much more practical than jeans, wool socks and leather boots, FYI.)
The event itself is near-flawlessly organized and executed (aside from the schlep to get there in the first place, of course). Only two stages, right beside one another, meant that the manageable crowd (you never felt suffocated) could easily move between the two, and one could see every performer (11 total, playing from 5-11 pm) if he or she was so inclined. Closeby, hot-drink huts (spiked coffee and hot toddys), ice bars and Beaver Tails shacks gave the event a wholesome, village-like vibe (if you ignored the one-offs like a 20-year-old chugging Rev to your left, but that has its own nostalgic charms, too).
Dance music crowds are dedicated, and great sports. You'd never know how awful the weather was by how they gamely stuck it out under an open sky. Granted they had help. Dutch duo Bass Jackers lived up to their name with rumbling beats that could truly warm from the inside out, buzzing around your stomach and somehow compelling you to dance, wet parka and all.
Entering the Technodome - the smaller of the two venues, a spherical tent that looks like a cross between an igloo and Epcot - Chicago deep house DJ/producer Lee Foss had warmer grooves hypnotizing a blissed-out crowd. Dropping soul vocals into a steady, driving beat, Foss played on for a super-dedicated crowd before passing the decks over to Sharam.
Unfortunately, by this point, nearly 10 pm, the sandy ground - which had turned to slush long ago - had massive puddles with invisible ice on the bottom. It was not the easiest space to navigate, and perhaps wasn't the most conducive to a carefree crowd. Sharam, formerly one-half of Deep Dish, has been going solo since 2006. He is, consistently, one of the best DJs to come through Toronto. He isn't about instant gratification. There's a method to his careful execution, and if you're patient, there are huge payoffs. Like at 10:40, when he subtly began weaving in When The Sun Goes Down vocals, upping the ante from then til set's end.
Outside, boldest-name headliner Wolfgang Gartner was busy proving why he's managed to cultivate such a faithful fan base. Take, for example, one ten-minute chunk of his set, about halfway through: a tiny black shadow amid a ginormos screen lit with his name in pink Lite-Brite, he teased out the signature sample from Biggie's Hypnotize, leading into a little spell of hip-hop before unleashing a gigantic buildup and abruptly launching into a completely different direction, impressively whipping the crowd into a frenzy.