dance music festivals toronto

The top 10 dance music festivals in Toronto for 2015

Dance music festivals in Toronto don't have the same traditions that their European counterparts do, but that's been changing in recent years. Ever since Ontario loosened up some liquor laws a few years ago, there's been huge increase in the number of music fests, although that's most evident in the rock scene.

While events like NXNE and CMW have dance components, they usually feel like afterthoughts. In comparison, experimental music series X Avant and tropical funk festival Uma Nota both dabble much more seriously in DJ culture, though it's not the focus.

Unlike Montreal and Miami, Toronto has never been able to really make a winter electronic music festival work, so the vast majority occur in summer. Back in the rave era, multiple day camping festivals like WEMF and OM were a big part of the culture, but these days the closest comparable events are much smaller and aimed a more chilled-out hippy crowd, like the long-running Boreal party, the OM Reunion Project: Solstice event, and the Land-scapes weekend party thrown by the Archi-textures team.

Here are my picks for the top Toronto festivals for dance music in 2015.

Drum'n'bass doesn't have nearly the same presence in Toronto that it did in the late-90s, when tens of thousands of partiers would turn up for events, but it's easy to forget that each March, when Bassweek takes over Toronto clubs for a week of breakbeats and pummelling sub-bass. Catch the final 2015 parties the last weekend of March.

Electric Island
Some might argue that the annual Electric Island events on Centre Island are more a series than a festival, but we respectfully disagree. This year the parties take place May 18, July 1, August 3, and September 7, and you can already buy your season pass. The lineup haven't been officially announced yet, but we can tell you it will include Sasha, Tuskegee (Seth Troxler and Martinez Brothers), Pan-Pot, Shiba San, Green Velvet, Tom Trago and more.

Technically the inaugural Toronto edition of UK music fest Bestival isn't a dance music event, but with talent like Flosstradamus, SBTRKT, Skream, and Jamie Jones, it basically qualifies as one. Taking over Hanlan's Point June 12 and 13, they've even got a "Sunday Best Balearic Beach Bar," which we assume involves some dancing.

Despite losing their dream location at the last minute, last year's Foundry series still managed to be one of the most memorable events of the year. They're back again this summer for a four part series of events, in collaboration with the Power Plant gallery at Harbourfront.

Some of you will argue that Pride doesn't qualify as a music festival, but you can't talk about the history of dance music without mentioning the history of gay rights, not to mention that it's next to impossible to attend Pride without dancing to at least some house music along the way.

Digital Dreams
This year's Digital Dreams festival will be a bit different than previous years, as Live Nation has handed the two day event over to the team from Veld, instead of the promoters who created it and ran it since the beginning. Returning to the Flats at Ontario Place June 27 and 28, 2015 is headlined by Armin Van Buuren, Carl Cox, and Pete Tong.

Mainstream EDM fans will once again be flocking to Veld Festival this summer, held at Downsview Park, August 1 and 2. There's not a lot of info out yet, but we know that Deadmau5 will be returning, and Hardwell is also headlining. Last year was massive, and this one could be even bigger.

Technically, Time also isn't strictly a dance festival, but like Bestival it has a history of booking DJs and electronic acts alongside rock bands, and treating that aspect as an integral part of the overall experience. No talent has been announced yet, but it's hitting Fort York on August 15. Hopefully all the acts can make it this time.

Mad Decent
Also returning to Fort York this year is the Toronto edition of the Mad Decent Block Party, which hits town August 29. There's nothing announced yet in terms of performers, but you can expect some of the label's biggest names will be involved.

Harvest Festival
This will be the 17th year for Harvest Festival, and if you've ever gone to the long-running rural techno party you know why it's still growing after so many years. Running from September 18-20 this year, the party returns to its surreal home at Midlothian Castle, near Burk's Falls.

Benjamin Boles is on Twitter: @benjaminboles

Photo by Jesse Milns

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