This past week, Toronto played host to one of the biggest underground music events of the year – the Redbull Thre3style World DJ Championships
(say that 5 times fast). It was a week-long competition featuring 21 DJs from around the world, competing for the title of the world’s best DJ. The event was broken down into 4 nights of qualifiers where 5-6 international DJs, selected randomly on Monday
, would each play a 15 minute set showcasing their skills with mixing, scratching, technique, song selection and crowd response. The panel of judges included DJ Jazzy Jeff (yes, Fresh Prince’s sidekick), Jess Jubile and Toronto’s own Scratch Bastid, Kid Koala & Grandtheft.
Later that night, the first round of World Qualifiers started at Adelaide Hall. There was a lot of confusion as to where the event was actually taking place, as it was initially advertised to be at the Great Hall on Queen West, but was actually held at Adelaide Hall
at Adelaide & John. I’m sure many people missed out on some of the show due to the mix up, but luckily there was still a huge turnout – with surprise guest (and my future husband) Macklemore making an appearance in the crowd. Chile’s DJ Byte won and would move on to Saturday’s finals.
Wednesday, November 6th: Discussion & Q&A w/ DJ Jazzy Jeff @ The Thompson Hotel
Round 2 of DJ finals @ Virgin Mobile Mod Club
The Thompson Hotel once again hosted a discussion, this time with legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff, who – apart from a more modern hair style and a few extra pounds – looks exactly the same as he did back in the day when he’d appear as Fresh Prince’s best friend Jazz on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He talked about his musical influences, his outlook on the DJing scene today and how Toronto plays a part in it. With a huge turn out, there were some great questions and discussions, including a guy determined to run for Mayor. It was entertaining and interesting to say the least.
This was the night where things started to go downhill for me. The doors opened at 9pm at the Virgin Mod Club, but as most people know, it’s cool to arrive “fashionably late” for any kind of music event. So being the oh-so trendy person that I am, my friend and I arrived at the Mod Club around 1030, not thinking anything of it (plus we had media passes which usually means no lines, no charge, no worries). Boy we were surprised to find 3 different mobs of lines around the building with no one really knowing what was going on. It was raining outside, and minus one million degrees, but I was determined to get my and my friend’s asses in there. We managed to push our way to the front of the line, where I managed to catch one of the media coordinators of the event. She made it seem like I should have known better than to come so late, and that she would let me in, but show up early the next day. Lessoned learned, but damn, was I not impressed – and that wouldn’t be the last time over the week that it would happen.
The show itself was worth the wait outside in the cold and rain, Germany’s DJ Eskei83 stole the show and killed the competition to move on to the finals on Saturday. DJ Jazzy Jeff and Scratch Bastid showed us what it means to really DJ and had the whole jam-packed club dancing, raging, and sweating like crazy. It was definitely a good time.
Thursday, November 7th: Discussion & Q&A w/ A-Trak @ The Thompson Hotel
Round 3 of DJ finals @ The Hoxton
Due to an airplane delay and the chaos that is the Gardner Expressway, A-Trak was an hour late for his discussion panel, but made up for it with his entertaining perspective of the music industry and his stories from different performances. He didn’t talk much about Toronto – or even Montreal for that matter- and seemed to be getting more distracted by how big his career is getting. Dropping names, advertising his album and how he has a residency in Vegas, kind of took away from his initial allure and just made it seem like he thought he was too good for us. Nevertheless, he still puts on a good show, so I was excited to see him perform later that night.
Having learned my lesson the night before, I arrived at the Hoxton at 8pm, an hour before the doors opened. Knowing the Hoxton is significantly smaller than the Mod Club, I knew I would be fighting my way in again – but not to the extent it got to that night. The line was already insane and split into 2 sections – one for ticket holders and one for people on guest list and/or with wristbands (which was us). Supposedly, they had once again over booked guest list and were only letting ticket holders in. By that point, I was getting irritated and spoke to some girl who was walking around giving out free tickets to people who “have the look”, who then informed me there was a separate line for media. THANK YOU FOR TELLING ME THIS AFTER WAITING IN LINE FOR AN HOUR. Not that it really mattered, as we ended up waiting in the media line for another hour, watching random people off the street get chauffeured in. Then, what really got to me, was when the people who we were initially in line with, got in before we did. Seriously, not to be a snob or anything, I don’t expect special treatment, but as someone from the media, who plans to write about your event, you’d think we wouldn’t be left out in the cold for two and a half hours with no explanation other than “you should have gotten here earlier”. It really left a bad taste in my mouth – however it was nothing that couldn’t be cured by some strong drinks and good dancing as soon as we got inside (at 1030pm).
We got in just as Torro Torro was finishing up their set, got some extremely expensive drinks, and then made our way to the front of the stage for the competition. Jamaica’s DJ Inferno killed it with his mix of reggae, socca, hip hop and a bit of electro, but it was DJ Trentino from USA who stole top place to move on to Saturday’s finals. A-Trak took the stage and brought more house/edm music to the event which was a refreshing change from all of the hip hop we had been mostly hearing all week. By 1am though, we were exhausted (maybe it was from the 2hr wait), so we left before A-Trak finished his set and before Trentino was announced the winner of the night.
Friday, November 8th: Round 4 of DJ Finals @ The Danforth Music Hall & Saturday, November 9th: Final Round of DJ Championship @ The Kool Haus
I decided to skip out on the last two nights of the RedBull Thre3style DJ Championships. Friday, I already had plans and wouldn’t have made it anyways, and by the time Saturday came along, I was exhausted from going out every night this week (it seems I can’t party like I used to). Nor did I want to deal with another night of poor organization on Redbull Thre3style’s part. I was truly disappointed with how poorly executed the event was. Sure, once you got in, it was an amazing show and good time, but the process to get to that point was just not worth it – especially now that it’s basically winter. On top of that, I’m a west-ender and missioning it all the way to the east side of the city only to possibly wait for hours and not get in again just didn’t seem like my ideal way to spend my Friday/Saturday nights. I had promoted this event to all my friends, been so excited for a week of awesome music and competition, but it just wasn’t what I expected.
As frustrated as I was about the process to get in, RedBull Thre3style World DJ Championships was an amazing event and helped promote Toronto as a force to be reckoned with (even in the midst of cracked-out Rob Ford). We got to see many of Toronto’s artists, and brought different styles of music and people together. It was cool to see how people from all over the world, people speaking so many different languages, could come together and connect over music. The Redbull Thre3style World DJ Champion ended up being wildcard finalist DJ Shintaro from Japan – who couldn’t even speak English – reinforcing that language is not a boundary for music. I had an amazing time, danced my ass off and had probably had Redbull flowing through my veins by the end of the week. To top it off, rapping Fresh Prince of Bel Air with the whole audience in between DJ Jazzy Jeff’s sets was probably one of the coolest moments of my life. All I can wish for is that next year, wherever they host the finals, they will learn from our mistakes and have a much more fluid event.
Also, thanks for the awesome tuque.
Article by Celia Schepp