It’s hard to believe that it was already three summers ago when Toronto’s most cherished concert series, Electric Island first launched. Those with a memory will recall that very first Island day: It was a hot, humid Monday morning. The sun was shining and if you’re anything like us, you were probably still buzzing from the previous night’s festivities. (Dubfire had been in town and delivered a monster set at Maison).
Still floating on a music high, this was the perfect day to venture over to the island where house and techno DJ/Producer Seth Troxler would be headlining the show, alongside Canadian heavy-weights My Favorite Robot and local, Toronto favourites Nitin, Nathan Barato, Nature of Music and Jonathan Rosa. Unfortunately, the weather would take a turn for the worst, but that wouldn’t dampen Toronto’s spirits. If one thing had been solidified that day, it was that the people of Toronto wanted more outdoor music. The last time the Island had been used for a music celebration like this was in 2009 for Virgin Music Festival. But now, thanks to the people behind Embrace, Footwork and Platform, the Island was about to become a centre piece for Toronto’s thriving electronic, music scene.
Fast forward three years, and we couldn’t be more excited to head into another summer of the Electric Island concert series! The festival has become a Toronto staple for each of the long weekends during the summer months, drawing crowds from both Canada and the US. This year, we will see explicit signs of its growth. From a brand new location to even more head-lining acts, Electric Island has many reasons to celebrate.
We had the opportunity to chat with two of the visionaries that started it all. Electric Island co-founders, Joel Smye and Jeremy Kesten spoke with us about previous years’ events, as well as what to expect heading into Electric Island 2015. Here’s what they had to say:
In an interview with BlogTO from 2013, Jeremy had stated that one of the main goals for EI was to act as a platform for showcasing local Toronto talent in front of big headliner names — is that still a goal today?
JK: Yes, this has always been Platform’s mission statement and we’ve built our company around this concept. This year, Electric Island has more headliner acts, which has resulted in fewer spots for opening acts. As a result, we’re doing other projects such as Sharks with Lasers, which is a promo podcast series that helps build the profile of local artists. This year, Electric Island has also started a new podcast series where we can feature some of the music from the show online.
Do you remember the very first EI? Did you guys know right away that the series was going to be a success?
JK: The first EI was with Seth Troxler, My Favorite Robot, Nitin, Nathan Barato, Nature of Music and Jonathan Rosa. Many more people came than we expected. We saw that it was going to be a success, but needed to grow our setup and fix the bugs. With success comes more infrastructure and we’ve been listening closely to the feedback from our fans and staff to make sure we get it right. Building a safe event site on Toronto Island has its challenges, and we’ve learned to work with the city to make it work for everyone.
For the past two years, the concert has taken place on Centre Island, but this year the location has moved over to Hanlan’s Point— what was the reasoning behind that?
JS: With the old location, we were simply running out of real estate. The new location on Hanlan’s Point will give us more space for everything. More room for vendors, art, food and ultimately gives us a larger area to continue growing in the future, which is really important. We now have more options to do more — whether it be add a second stage, this location allows us to grow.
JK: We also wanted to change it up. The new location allows us to offer a larger stage setup. It’s a wider space that has a flatter ground. We believe it will be a better location for the event and let us grow in the future.
In previous years, roughly how many people attended EI? How many people do you expect this year?
JK: The event numbers fluctuate depending on variable factors like weather conditions. We feel there will be a full site this year for the first show looking at the numbers.
JS: Yes, numbers always fluctuate, but in the past they’ve typically ranged between five to six thousand and this year, we expect it to be the same, if not larger.
Those who attended Corona Sunsets at Hanlan’s Point last year know that the ferry heading over was significantly smaller than the one used to go to EI— how do you plan to deal with this issue seeing as there will be many more people this year?
JS: We’ve actually already been working with the city to ensure extra ferry service to Hanlan’s Point during Electric Island.
Let’s talk about the food— EI has been known to bring in some of the best food trucks in the city, what can we expect this year?
JS: I wish I could names them all off the top of my head, but I know for sure we’ve got Gourmet Bitches coming back. They’re awesome— they offer a lot of healthier, vegan, gluten-free options. We’ve also got Caplansky’s, like the city’s famous deli, plus a whole bunch more!
Another new addition this year is the season pass for $99. Can you tell us a bit about this— does this include ferry? Why is the season pass the best bang for your buck?
JK: The seasons pass was one of the most requested items from the past few years and it’s proven to be something people want. The $99 does not include ferry. Each event is $34.50 early bird without the ferry, so it’s a great savings for our regular customers and is less hassle at the door.
JS: Ya, the season pass is a great way for our loyal customers to save money and also get new customers locked in and committed for the season. Although the ferry is not included in this, season pass holders will still be able to check-in at the ferry docks the same way ticket holders did last year. This year we’ll have a separate tent for VIP and season pass holders.
* Please note that season pass prices have since increased and that a “with ferry” option has been added. Click here for more details *
What can people expect to bring in with them to EI? Creating that relaxed, laid back sense of atmosphere is one of the greatest things about EI— as the festival grows, will people still be able to bring in blankets and set up shop? Is there anything you want attendees to know?
JK: We encourage people to bring a blanket, and relax in the festival grounds. We have a list of things to bring and things not to bring on our website. It can get cooler later in evening on the island, so it might be a good idea to pack a sweater for later on.
Now let’s talk about the music. The season line-up is fantastic, but the line-up for the May 18th show alone is like its own mini festival. We’re used to seeing these names headline major festivals around the world—What has enabled the Platform-Embrace-Footwork team to rally up some of the biggest names in the industry?
JK: Platform has booked many acts over our history and built many relationships. The same goes for Footwork and Embrace. Between all of us, we carefully curate the lineups, which is not always easy given the busy touring schedules during the summer for these artists. Many are playing European festivals during this time and now that Electric Island has an international reputation, we are honoured to have acts take the time to cross the ocean for this show.
JS: The word is out on Electric Island! It’s now known around the globe. Toronto has always been a major market for electronic music and finally, here is an option that caters more to the underground with a beautiful setting and unique location. Many of these DJs have been coming here for years — for example Steve Lawler — but they’ve never experienced Toronto like this, which gets them excited too!
What are some of the things you guys think about when curating a line-up? Based off the season opener alone, what do you think makes Tom Trago- Lee Burridge- Steve Lawler- Tuskegee- Pan-Pot a cohesive group? What can we expect for the next 3 shows?
JS: We always want to have some flow in the day. We also want to bring in new faces, while also giving old faces a different look. For example, Toronto has seen Lee Burridge countless times in a club setting, so it’s nice that now we can host him at an outdoor set. It’s all about finding balance between classic guys and up and comers. You can expect the day time to have a lighter, happier vibe and for things to become heavier as we move into the night.
Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you’d like readers to be aware of before they head to the first show on May 18th?
JK: Can’t wait for a season of fun in the park!
The season opener of Electric Island will take place on Monday, May 18th and feature headlining act Tuskegee (Seth Troxler b2b with The Martinez Brothers), Berlin-based techno duo Pan-Pot, original Viva Warrior, Steve Lawler, world-renowned DJ/Producer Lee Burridge, and funky-disco-house experimentalist Tom Trago plus support from local, hometown heroes Nature of Music and Simon Jain.
In the mean time, warm yourself up for another season with this exclusive EI Victoria Day mix, brought to you by Toronto’s very own Nature of Music: