Review and photos—Contact Vancouver concert at BC Place Stadium, Dec 26 2012
– review by Christine Redmond/photos by Joy dela Cruz
From teenage girls in neon underwear (literally) to adult men in flashing LED furs, the Contact Vancouver concert Wednesday night was no ordinary night at BC Place. The stadium was transformed into a ’90s style throwback rave setting featuring some of today’s hottest acts in electronic dance music (EDM) headlined by Canada’s own Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman).
It’s easy to dismiss EDM events like the Contact Festival as drug-fueled, underage dance parties but the reality is there’s much more to it than this. Pills, coke and MDMA were bountiful as were the sweat-drenched chests and dilated pupils in the crowd but there were also a very evident sense of appreciation for the music and also camaraderie between strangers.
In an in-depth article for the Guardian, Simon Reynolds describes the rise and success of EDM festivals as a re-branding exercise to shed the negative connotations associated raves and techno:
“… the word ‘festival’ itself represents an attempt by promoters to draw line between today’s EDM and ’90s rave. Festivals don’t have the media stigma or face the punitive legislation and policing that raves do. Older and shrewder by the late 2000s, the early 90s pioneers learned how to work with the system, going through the bureaucratic hoops required to get permits, and providing the level of intensive security, entrance searches and overall safety provisions. In contrast with the 90s ethos of throwing raves in exotic and out-of-the-way places, promoters deliberately sought out in-plain-sight sites: ultra-mainstream venues like sports stadiums and motor sports courses.”
Contact Festival fits the mould Reynolds describes but it was far from perfect. However focused and iron-fisted the promoters might have been in their attempts to intercept drugs at their event, supply will always manage to find a way to meet up with demand. The atmosphere of the night was overall a positive one but on the fringes of the 12,000+ person crowd were the slumped and battered few trying to rise above their restrictive highs. Despite the capacity of the stadium, poor organization led to huge lines. Coat-check alone took 40 minutes. For a beer or Smirnoff Ice (that was the choice) another hour of waiting in line was typical. But for many, it seemed the arduous waiting was worth it.
The sets between Chris Lake, Lazy Rich, Alesso and Nero were almost seamless, with each DJ act passing the decks without a hiccup. Alesso’s mix of Drake’s “Forever” really got the crowd pumped with the majority screaming lyrics into the lasers: “So I don’t plan on stopping at all I want this shit forever man.” The best of the pre-Deadmau5 Unhooked acts however was Nero, an electronic group from the UK, who showed just how heavy bass should be dropped. The dubstep duo ignited the crowd into a frenzy that could only by topped by EDM superstar Deadmau5.
In recent years critics have spoken out against the increased spectacle aspect of EDM, suggesting that stadium festivals like this are pre-programmed and all about the light-shows and furry boots rather than the music. Deadmau5 himself caused controversy this year when he admitted that all he really does is press play.
Deadmau5 Unhooked is supposed to be more about the music and less about the spectacle—gone is the iconic mouse head, the cube and back lighting. However, in his own words Deadmau5 admits that for “unhooked” sets he just rolls up “with a laptop and a MIDI controller and ‘select’ tracks and hits a spacebar … Ableton syncs the shit up so no beatmatching skill [is] required. ‘Beatmatching’ isn’t even a fucking skill as far as I’m concerned anyway. So what, you can count to 4.”
Whether you came for the spectacle, the drugs or the music, it all seems irrelevant – in the end Contact Winter Music Festival 2012 was all about the dancing. What better way to wrap up the holiday season than a dance party with 12,000 of your closest friends.