DJ Harvey casts 4 hour spell on Foundry's dance floor
Toronto's Foundry series is only two weeks into it's 2014 season, but it seems like it's been running for much longer. This might be because last minute changes that the festival has deftly navigated (finding a replacement venue for the Tower Automotive Building at 99 Sudbury with just days to opening night), yet it's more likely because each night has imparted unique memories.
Anthony Shakir and Four Tet balanced Detroit's techno history with the joyous spontaneity of 2014's new DJ tools, and Purity Ring delivered vogue-inspired runway beats from Brenmar and Kingdom, challenging a crowd to shake it at 140 bpm. Likewise, Friday's Cosmin TRG and Efdemin show demonstrated the natural chemistry of two seasoned veterans playing around with sound and texture. Still, as great as it's been, DJ Harvey's set last night easily takes the cake as the festival's unforgettable highlight.
Obligatory accolades go to Members Only, who served the difficult task of warming up a room with an unpredictable headliner - how do you prepare the room for a DJ who jumps between cosmic disco, obscure African polyrhythms and jaw grinding Berlin techno? Fortunately, Adam Beck and Paul Johnston kept their tracks sparse, light, and loose, slowly drawing the crowd out of themselves and onto the dance floor.
Toronto's Invisible City followed, serving a set which blended in some of their catalogue's forthcoming 2014 gems, including a re-issue of hotly tipped "Zambian Fleetwood Mac" band Witch's Movin' On LP. Blending international influences with ease, they nailed the same diasporic disco feeling that DJ Harvey's sets impart.
Thanks to 99 Sudbury's generous amount of space, you could extract yourself from the sweaty hedonism of the dancefloor pretty easily to grab a drink or smoke, and as a tinnitus-prone aging music fan, I was thankful that while the sound levels were booming if you were in the middle of the club, hanging by a wall allowed you to carry on a conversation without going hoarse.
The star of the night was Harvey himself, the UK-born, LA-based disco mystic who took the stage around 1am for a four-hour set. Even though Harvey has publicly expressed his disinterest in crowds that keep their eyes glued to the DJ, there was something magnetic about him behind the decks: exuding the charisma of a cult leader as he clapped along & grinned at the crowd. Even though I heard "um, he looks like Terry Richardson" muttered disparagingly on the dance floor, Harvey's personality was big enough to envelop 99 Sudbury's generous warehouse space.
Harvey ran the gauntlet through classics like Charlie's dissonant italo disco ballad "Spacer Woman", alternating with completely unrecognizable grinding techno excursions - often, a thudding house beat overtop which a series of distorting measures was piled sky-high until the track seemed to creak and groan under the weight of them.
The transcendent moment of the night had to be when The Revenge's edit of Gwen McCrae's underrated disco classic "Keep The Fire Burning" rang out - which, thanks to Harvey's carefully manipulated sound system levels, held off on dropping the bass until six minutes through its run-time, finally giving the audience a tidal wave of cathartic euphoria. In that moment, I could've sworn that the gods of disco had been summoned into the room, all the agony, ecstasy and heartbreak of the genre distilled into a moment of communal dancing. This may sound hyperbolic, but it instantly cemented itself as one of those "I was there" moments - one that I don't think I'll ever forget.
Words by Brendan Arnott, Photos by Alejandro Santiago