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The best and worst of Digital Dreams 2014

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The best and worst of Digital Dreams 2014

Cred: FTF Photography

Cred: FTF Photography

TOTAL SCORE: 8

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Now in it’s third year, Electronic Nation’s Digital Dreams made some changes to it’s 2014 installment in an ever growing attempt to set the standard for Electronic Dance Music festivals in Canada. We’ve chosen the best and worst of what we experienced at the festival.

For starters the line up was simply stellar. You would be hard pressed to find a single person who had any issue with the music at Digital Dreams this year. However will we leave the music review portion for another article as this review’s focus is about the overall organization of the event.

BEST THINGS WE NOTICED

8. The Bridge (grade C) Digital Dreams BridgeThis year they built a bridge between Echo Beach and the main Dreams stage. This made it way easier for to get from Echo to Dreams. The normal travel time through a crowd of 50,000+ would take around 10-15mins. This means that if your favorite DJ is playing on the other side of that body of water, then you’re gonna miss a good chunk of the set. The only fail? The bridge only worked one way! So if you ran across that bridge and hit the Dreams stage only to find out that your favorite DJ’s set time changed, you were out of luck. Because now you had to walk all the way around to get back to House of Boom and Echo. This is exactly what happened during TJRs set, more on that later.

7. Cell Phone Charging Station (grade C) cell phone station Digital DreamsYES, there was a cell phone charging station! If you didn’t know where is was (because it wasn’t that easy to find) it was right near the main entrance, tucked away in the North corner of the parking lot. Yeah, that’s right, right after you got through the line ups after holding in your excitement and bodily fluids for who knows how long, it was right there! Great service with very friendly and helpful staff. Best of all it was FREE! Absolutely FREE! They had chargers there for just about every type of phone too! The only down side? After the rain hit Sunday evening, the power in that area went down and there was no way it was going back up. So A for effort! D for location and power/electrical planning on that one.

6. Water Stations( grade A+)/Cool Zone ( grade C)water station Digital DreamsThe water stations were everywhere and easy to find! We never waited more than 3mins, even at peak times, to get hydrated. The staff were amazing, whoever hired those water station people did a heck of a job! The water was cool, crisp and flowed fast. This effort and execution deserves nothing less than an A+. In the ‘Cool Zone’ however, it was warmer inside than outside. We don’t know what happened, maybe something was broken at the time, but we certainly didn’t feel Cool enough to stay longer than 5mins.

 

5. Washrooms (grade A) – For the second year in a row, we give huge props to the washrooms set up at Digital Dreams. For the most part they remained clean throughout the event. There are always gonna be a few a-holes that mess things up, but for the most part, the washrooms were easy to find, short lines and relatively clean. A!

4. Security (grade A)Access Levels DD2014Simply put, these guys had their hands full! How many times, do you think that guy near the backstage entrance had to deny, someone’s drunk girlfriends, sisters, cousin’s, artist’s roommates, manager friends etc? It wasn’t an easy job, and every single security guard was strict without being rude. The rules were simple: “If you don’t have the proper wrist band, you are not getting into this area.” and there were a lot of different areas. From the photo pit, to the various VIP sections including a new one called Cloud 9, every area had different access levels and different passes were needed, with NO exceptions. This ensured that no area was overcrowded with morons who were friends of a friend of someone hanging out for free next to someone who bought a $399+ Cloud 9 ticket. cloud 9 Digital Dreams The most exclusive areas were the bottle service sections, where not even media was allowed in. Ensuring that if you dished out a couple of grand for that ultimate private experience, you wouldn’t have some nosy blogger sticking your drunken mug all over Instagram for your co-workers to see next week.

3. EMS (grade A) – EMS staff were on top of things! The moment there was an incident, someone with a radio was on it. Police took over from security as soon as they could, blocking bystanders who were trying to get a selfie for Facebook, while clearing a path for a Golf Cart to escort out the injured or sick. They were quick and to the point allowing festival goers the get back to enjoying things. This is much different than you’ll hear from mainstream media outlets who usually focus only on the negative side of the culture. For a festival of this size the 22 reported as treated or escorted out is not a bad percentage at all.

2. Visuals (grade A+) Yes the visuals were as good as promised and got better as the nights progressed. Lots of dancing girls, robots and other strange things found their way across the Dreams stage throughout the two days. Pyrotechnics, were great to look at and for the most part everything seemed flawless. Check out this video from Justice’s headlining set on Saturday.

1. Fantasy Land/No. 19 Experiment (grade A+)The Secret Stage Digital DreamsThere was something magical about this little gem that was tucked away in the farthest corner on the grounds. Some people may have found it by accident, while looking for a washroom, others may have heard about it from friends, but once you entered the area, it felt like an entirely different festival. For starters some of the hardest hitting DJs played this stage. Alex M.O.R.P.H owned it on Saturday and Green Velvet played a hard set through the rain on Sunday. The very best thing about it was there was no sound interference. All the other stages were far enough away from each other that you could hear the DJ you wanted to when you walked into the area. However, there were these weird areas, between House Of Boom and Echo and near the bridge where the sound wish washed around and it was hard to tell where it was coming from. On Fantasy Land/No. 19 Experiment, this was a non issue, when you arrived the sound and vibe consumed you and it felt like another dimension. Certainly, the festivals best kept secret.

 

WORST (needs improvement) THINGS WE NOTICED:

8. Entrance line up (F)Digital Dreams entranceLittle good can be said about the main entrance to the festival. If you were lucky enough to get your wrist band in advance, you were fine as you could simply pass a security check and head straight in, literally 3 mins. However, if you decided to purchase day of or will call you might as well have gone home.

The average wait time was 2.5 hours. Some people waiting as long as 4hrs! “Three and a half hours! got here at 4pm and it’s quarter to 8, I’m so pissed!” said one concert goer we spoke with. The explanation given was that people were waiting in the wrong line ups.

We learned this first hand, as our contest winners waited in the wrong line for 45mins. It wasn’t until THE SCENE came out to escort them into the proper line up, were they able to get through. This was after we asked 3 different people (security/customer service), where they had to go. However once we found the correct line, it was very easy. Let us re-state that we as a media outlet with more information, in/out privileges and access levels than most, found it difficult to navigate the main gate cluster fu*k, so for the average fan if would have been near impossible to figure it out. Eventually everyone got in and the lines cleared up, again over worked staff were actually quite polite at the gate and willing to listen to complaints. For the planning of this we have to give it an F, but for the staff that did the best with what they had we’ll give it a B+

7. Lockers (D) – There were good and bad lockers. The lockers that were brought in specifically for the event were new and easy to use. However the older ones that are permanently located on the grounds at Ontario place were not working properly or in some cases not at all. We have to hand it to the organizers for bringing in the new ones and attempting to solve the locker problem, but a few warning signs on the older ones would have been nice. We spent $4 on a two lockers only to find that our coins got jammed with NO REFUND available. After 10mins of banging on them and trying to stick things into the coin slots we gave up and decided keep our backpacks with us.

good lockers DDbad lockers DD

6. Programming Shuffles (D) – When over 100 artists and their teams are headed to a festival it’s impossible to guarantee that every single one of them will make it through international flights and on time. So it goes without saying that a few programming hiccups were to be expected. TJR’s 4pm time slot on the Dreams stage was changed last minute, presumably due to his flight. Claude VonStroke and Super8 & Tab were also on delayed flights, while Dzeko and Torres filled in for Paul Okenfold who didn’t show.

 

Stated Oakenfold on twitter. While he have to hand it to the organizers for managing to make the best of it and keep the sets seamless, it was the lack of information/communication as to who was doing what when and where that put these hiccups on our list.

5. Lack of Cell Phone Service and Wi-Fi (F) – While there is an official Digital Dreams app, there was almost no way to access it while at the festival. Text messages took minutes, sometimes hours to go through. There was no way to check social media, to find out about the line up changes mentioned above. You literally had to leave the area, and with no in/out privileges for most passes, festival goers were out of luck. You had to ask around and use your ears to find out what was going on. With 50,000+ people trying to text and connect at any given time, this was to be expected, however, a little foresight and planning into a decent wi-fi system would have made the experience more pleasurable. Faster data access would have also made for more shares via social media and a better chance of the festival trending and going viral. Even the media area, which had wi-fi was painfully slow. In most cases it was quicker to leave the festival grounds all together to check messages.

4. Lack Of Clear Maps and Signs (D)sign to nowhere Digital DreamsMaps and information were available at the entrance, but if you didn’t plan your day, you were out of luck while on site. There might have been posters somewhere near the stages that showed set times but we certainly didn’t see them. Even the few arrows that pointed out the stages, were difficult to understand. In fact, all the signs (from beer prices, to the Cool Zone etc) were all the same colour, making it all blend into one endless abyss. Having giant maps with red dots (YOU ARE HERE) would have helped. Last year’s set up was much easier to navigate, hands down!

3. Beer Prices and Selection (F)beer prices Digital DreamsWhile we can completely understand why Bud and Bud Light were the only beer option seeing as it’s now the (Bud Light Digital Dreams Festival), it goes without saying that the lack of beer selection sucked. It would have been nice to see a craft beer section with hand picked locally selected brewers. The various mixed drink options from Bacardi, was the only saving grace. Oh and did we mention the prices? Just a little too expensive for the average person. Drinks in Cloud 9 were half price but the tickets we more than double the price. Will we ever see a music festival in Toronto with reasonably priced beer and excellent selection? One can only dream…

2. Cashless Wrist Bands (F)Digital Dreams 2014 BraceletsThis year Electronic Nation, opted to run a cashless system. This meant that you needed to pre-load your bracelet through one of their load up stations, with either, Cash, Debit or Credit. In theory, the system could have worked well and should have prevented drugs dealers or other people from setting up cash based side businesses at the festival. However as the days neared for the festival there were horror stories popping up on social media daily about people who couldn’t load their bracelets, had loaded it up and couldn’t log back in and had money completely disappear etc. It seems that eventually they managed to figure it out and get things working properly, but it was a little too late for some people who lost confidence in it. Some people needed to get new bracelets after they entered the festival, which meant time dealing with customer service, who had to verify each claim. The speed of the the system seemed to work fine, when it was all sorted out, as it didn’t take long to get a beer and slice of pizza. So why the (grade F), if it all worked out in the end?

Well, nothing at the festival was under $3 so if you happened to have $2 left on that bracelet you were out of luck to find anything to spend it on. We were told that you can go onto the Digital Dreams website link up your wrist band, give them all of your information and wait to get that $2 back, probably via check in the mail. We’re yet to see how this all plays out, but according to Electronic Nation 70,000 tickets were sold. So at an average of $2 per person (like who’s gonna actually wait 6 weeks for a cheque in the mail for $2!?), well you do the math. So what’s gonna really happen to that extra $100,000+? And now these people know how I like my pizza and how many slices I bought? Exceptional market research, fack that!

1. Media Access Levels (F-) – What we were told would happen and what actually happened were two different things. We thought it was possible that perhaps it was just a little mix up between us and the PR team, however when we asked around, it seemed like every media outlet had similar issues. This year Electronic Nation out sourced their PR for the first time to a company that didn’t seem to know a thing about Electronic culture and it didn’t play out well for most media outlets. People with iPhones were in the photo pit or on stage, while dozens of professionals waited with thousands of dollars in camera equipment for a response from a PR company that didn’t seem to care.

Different passes were given for different access levels and it took us a day, learning the hard way, where we could and couldn’t go. After many follow ups we managed to sort out proper credentials, around 4pm on day 2 (in time for our interview with Dirtyphonics), at which point we had missed opportunities to shoot or talk to many of the featured artists who requested coverage with THE SCENE and had already played and left.

If this hadn’t been a major access barrier across the board, in which dozens of people were lied to and ignored repeatedly we wouldn’t have brought it up. It seemed like the only outlets that got what they needed, were the mainstream media outlets who were there for all the wrong reasons. The fact is, that many outlets struggled through an already stressful weekend of two 12hr shifts, with poor wi-fi, little direction and low level access passes. Last year’s in house team, handled the media much better, with more respect, hands down on every single account. Let’s hope Electronic Nation can get their in house team on it again for 2015.

 

Overall, the experience was a good one. Digital Dreams is still a young festival and they are learning and growing every year. We hope they continue to keep this festival at Ontario Place. The cultural significance and community that surrounds it is strong an vibrant. No matter what you hear on mainstream media, we’re not going anywhere, anytime soon.

*BONUS* – Mini Carnival! mini carnival DD

More photos and music coverage HERE

Also…
Top 10 DJ Sets and WHY?

By: Darrell J Shelley

 

 

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THE SCENe


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