An unassuming guy in a white Neff ballcap and black Nyan Cat t-shirt kept more than 20,000 EDM revelers enraptured Saturday night with his progressive, ahead-of-the-game house and trance emissions, despite a sudden downpour that fell on the inaugural Veld Music Festival at Downsview Park in suburban Toronto.
The guy? Deadmau5, recently ranked No. 6 on Forbes’ world’s highest paid DJ list with earnings of $11.5 million over the past 12 months, and July's Rolling Stone cover artist. He rose to prominence not just for his production skills, but for wearing a giant bug-eyed smiling mouse-head helmet, replicas of which were worn by some in the Veld audience.
“My name is Karma. Please pay it forward,” said one young man, walking around with a necklace of glow bracelets, which he presented to those he felt lacked enough EDM accessories. It seemed to do the trick, for just as suddenly as the rain came thundering down for the first 10 minutes of Deadmau5’s set, it cleared up.
The 31-year-old electro-dance musician – who was born Joel Zimmerman in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and lives in Toronto when he’s not jetting around the world for gigs – performed sans mouse head for most of his 90-minute set. He didn’t say a word, despite being very vocal on Twitter and in the press recently on such matters as the skills of other DJs and Madonna’s "molly" comment. Instead, he just did his thing brilliantly and seamlessly, playing "Cluthu Sleeps," "The Veldt," "Aural Psynapse" "Strobe" and more, against an assortment of visuals that ranged from a tentacle-faced monster to lions to geometric shapes.
Back in 2000, Toronto City Council had temporarily banned raves and enacted new laws for dance events that ultimately killed the genre's growth in the clubs. My how times have changed: Last November, for his Meowington Hax Tour, Deadmau5 became the first-ever Canadian to headline Toronto’s Rogers Centre in the massive dome stadium's 22-year history, joining the ranks of the Rolling Stones, U2, Coldplay, Bon Jovi, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen.
Veld, the brainchild of Ink Entertainment, helmed by nightlife impresario Charles Khabouth, was presumably named after Deadmau5’s recent hit with Chris James called "The Veldt," – itself inspired by the late Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi short story of the same name. The festival featured two adjacent main stages for sets by 30 DJs, including Saturday headliner Deadmau5, Sunday headliner Avicii, and other marquee names such as Tommy Trash, Bassnectar, Gareth Emery, Steve Angello, Knife Party, Steve Aoki and Nicky Romero.
It didn’t matter to the 20,000 Veld-ers that the DJs were dwarfed on the big stages amid dazzling lightshows – the sound boomed throughout the space and people danced. Vendor kiosks gave away free glowsticks, Dr. Pepper samples and water refills, and sold such EDM-friendly fare as fluorescent sunglasses, glow jewelry, and toy guns that shot bubbles.
There was no shortage of fluorescent garb worn by the crowd, along with furry boots and even some rainbow-colored tutus. But the sweltering heat that afternoon, long before any dark clouds loomed, meant most guys went shirtless and girls wore in bikinis and short shorts. The mood was like a glowing Woodstock: happy, young, un-self-conscious as the crowd jumped and danced to the booming beats without a care in the world.