For most of us dance-centric Islanders, the Victoria Electronic Music Festival holds a pretty special place in our hearts. I expect almost every experienced DJ around here has had the opportunity to play VEMF, and most certainly every dancer has had the opportunity to rip it up in Centennial or Market Square at some point in the last 9 years. If you ask one of the hundred local DJs who’ve had the pleasure of playing mainstage, I would have to bet that VEMF would show up amongst their top all-time DJ experiences. Am I right?
And now VEMF 2012 has come and gone, and what a monstrous weekend it was! HUGE sets by some of the world’s top artists and thousands of dance community moving in synch to each precision drop. A powerful experience.
We arrived midday Friday to get to work setting up our new Dharma Dohme – which was to be home to the Urbanheart Live art show & bodypainting station (which was back-to-back all weekend, I might add). A few hours later the dome was up, the sound system in place, the fences nicely containing the grounds and the stage was set for what came next!
First of all, have you ever noticed how VEMF seems impervious to bad weather? I mean, I hate to risk jinxing it – but didn’t every other BC festival so far this year just get clobbered with weather? VEMF, on the other hand.. lands on the hottest weekend in recent BC record. Of course! Perhaps the old saying ‘god is a dj’ has some merit. In any case, the heat waves scorched onto a packed Centennial Square as artists like Neighbour, Shiftee, Smalltown DJs & Jesse Rose delivered masterful 1 hour sets to the thousands of happy dancers in attendance. Then 6 time DMC World Champion Craze closed Centennial with his lightning fast hands and hip hop infused electronica.. madness. Check the 20 minute video I captured of his set here!
We had a big multimedia team capturing & spreading all the awesome at VEMF this year, comprised of the VEMF Media Team (pictures and videos coming soon!), the Sunset Street Team (track us via #yyjstreet), as well as bit-sized video captures and ongoing artist interviews by Control Freq Radio! Check in ongoingly to VEMF.org for new pictures, videos, stories and more!
And as the last night in the square came to an end, Primal Fire delivered their amazing annual ridiculously hot late-night fire performance, Craze wrapped his monster turntable set and the VEMF dance crew wearily stepped down from the platforms they’d performed on all weekend… thousands of people smiled, laughed & cheered. Oh – and myself, kristin and some other great folk set to work taking down the Dharma Dohme, and packing her up for future adventures.
Like all major events and festivals, VEMF continues to grow & change. As the event has gained popularity, the operation has has had to adapt to that growth – heightened security, the introduction of fences, a $5 fee, and so on. Coupled with a new vision for the festival under the direction of 2012 Executive Producer John Fannon, and you’re bound to encounter some new elements to our city’s greatest annual dance event.
<pent up rant>For the last few years within my role as General Manager there are some things I haven’t fully had the space to say about this event and our relationship to it. Having stepped down from this leadership position I am inclined to stop biting my tongue. Just my opinions, please take them as such. First, many people have expressed concern about the changes VEMF is moving through. Whether I agree or disagree with these changes, I just want to point out – if this event had electric fences and only held 1000 people and had half the artists and charged four times as much – would it not still be a more amazing event than almost any Canadian city might lay claim to?
I also want to say this – it is a RARE & amazing opportunity to host a huge 2 day event like this beside city hall in downtown Victoria in the middle of summer. And it keeps getting harder to deliver this event, largely because a small handful of people decide to get wrecked and forego any responsibility in maintaining VEMF’s relationship with our host City. If you are absolutely incapable of attending a music event without staying sober, please don’t come to VEMF – this festival belongs to the many thousands of volunteers, artists, vendors, performers and dancers who have built it up over the last decade – and for a few people who dismiss or forget this legacy to put it at risk for us all is SO VERY UNCOOL.
Lastly.. Through my years with VEMF we have always taken people’s wellness VERY seriously – and I don’t expect the new team feels any differently. If someone doesn’t take care of themselves there is little anyone can do about that. And, if even 10 people choose not to take care of themselves – amongst 10,000 – does that not mean we have 9,990 MOSTLY YOUNG PEOPLE who have managed to party for 2 days downtown without causing any harm to themselves or others? Does this not mean VEMF can boast a 99.9% responsibility rate for its attendees? If so, is this not worth celebrating?? Is this not an accomplishment worthy of recognition – not on VEMF’s part so much, but on the part of the 9,990 amazing healthy dancers who love this festival and work hard to honour it and the City that hosts it?</pent up rant>
To all those who created this amazing event this year (and years past) I say THANK YOU!! It has been a great honour to be involved and contribute where I have, and I am excited to see where the new VEMF team takes the festival moving forward. Til then, let’s keep the spirit flowing!