VELD Music Festival 2023: A Decade of EDM Magic in Toronto

Aerial Photo of Veld Music Festival at Downsview Park in Toronto 2023

By John-Paul Ricchio

You never want it to end. That’s how we felt as we stepped into the world of Veld Music Festival, an electrifying journey that unfolded from August 4th to 6th at Downsview Park. Celebrating its 10-year milestone as one of the world’s premier music festivals, INK Entertainment Group put together their biggest lineup yet, spread across three stages. Veld 2023 covered a diverse musical range, with the main stage for electronic dance music, the Sirkus Stage with pulsating house music, and a hillside stage featuring sounds from UK hip-hop and grime to dubstep and bass.

Veld has hosted superstar DJs for over a decade, and this year’s lineup was the pinnacle featuring the best of the EDM world each day. Headliners include Tiësto, Above & Beyond, Zedd, Loud Luxury, Illenium, Rezz and Deadmau5. UK rapper Central Cee, British duo Krept and Konan, and drill artist K-Trap made their Toronto debuts. Sofi Tukker, Meduza, and Bob Moses were also among the sensational acts.

Day One – August 4, 2023: 

I arrived dressed in a bold white festival look, ready to become a part of the living, breathing artistry that is Veld Music Festival. With my editor-in-chief by my side in full glam, we were swept into a tinted, sleek Escalade, our destination set for Downsview Park. Security and a police presence set the scene as our driver navigated us to the talent entrance where we were ushered into a golf cart named “Charles” and a VIP experience that surpassed all expectations. This exceptional treatment was courtesy of Charles Khabouth, INK Entertainment Group’s CEO and Founder. Veld was founded by INK Entertainment in 2012, creating the first music festival in Canada dedicated to electronic dance music.

Charles personally greeted us, exuding a calm and collected demeanor. With VIP wristbands, we accessed the exclusive backstage area, flawlessly organized to rival Buckingham Palace’s precision.

On that first day, it truly hit home: Veld Music Festival was so much more than your typical music event. It’s a movement of its own. It felt like stepping into a whole universe, and we were lucky to be right at its heart. You could feel the magic that Charles’s vision had brought to life. The crowd’s energy, the music’s beat, and the captivating atmosphere all blended into a perfect mix, setting the tone for the days ahead.

Illenium and Zedd headlined the first night and the crowd was entranced by Illenium, known for his ability to connect with listeners on a deep, emotional level. Fearlessly pushing boundaries, he blends genres beyond the EDM realm, incorporating elements of pop, punk, and hip-hop into his experimental sound. Zedd’s high-energy performance and seamless fusion of electro-house and pop influences gave us an exhilarating musical experience for the first night of Veld. 

Day Two – August 5th, 2023:

Backstage, the spotlight was on Alexander Morris, also known as “Distant Matter,” an electronic pop artist who commanded the main stage with his textured, colourful and sentiment-infused sound. The crowd was captivated by the beats that reverberated throughout the festival grounds.

Distant Matter at Veld Music Festival in Toronto 2023
Distant Matter

During a candid moment, I had the chance to chat exclusively with Charles Khabouth about the origins of Veld. He shared that over 10 years ago, there was a gap in Toronto’s music scene – it was missing a high-calibre electronic music festival. This spurred Charles, with his 30 years of industry experience, and his team to create an event that would fill that void:

“JP, I have been in the business for over 30 years, and 10 years ago we wanted to take it to the next level. There wasn’t a single electronic music festival in Toronto, and we felt the need to produce a nice top-tier show to give Canada something it didn’t have at the time. We have 3 stages here at Veld: The Sirkus Stage, the UK Rap/Bass Stage, and of course, the Veld Main Stage. So, getting the top international talent and diversifying is crucial, as you can’t have the same genre at every stage. Electronic music has dozens, if not hundreds, of genres, so we cater to everyone—not just one sound. We cover all kinds of sounds… electronica, house, techno, jungle, drum and bass, garage, dub step, electro, disco, hardcore, trance, Kuduro, hardcore, ambient experimental, and IDM.

Central Cee and Dave Santana. Photo: INK Entertainment

After our conversation with Charles, we set out to explore the festival grounds. The beats were infectious, from the groove of LUKAV to J. Worra‘s blend of classic house and new school tech sound. Jauz and Dom Dolla‘s performances continued to energize the crowd, creating an electric atmosphere that kept everyone moving.

Photo: INK Entertainment

Moving to the Veld Main Stage, we were treated to the debut performance of “RezzMau5,” a collaborative set between Deadmau5 and Rezz (Isabelle Rezazadeh) a Canadian DJ and producer who adds a unique twist to techno with her experimental space-bass infusion. This collaboration paid tribute to the festival’s history, as Deadmau5 had been one of the original headliners during Veld’s debut year.

RezzMau5. Photo: INK Entertainment

Veld not only delivers unforgettable music but gives festival-goers fun fabulous shopping experiences with access to exclusive merchandise. This year the festival partnered with the renowned clothing retailer Champion for its official merch—a significant first for the event. This collaboration introduced attendees to a one-of-a-kind fashion line that effortlessly merged music and style, resulting in a distinctively cool experience that quickly sold out.

I had a chance to chat with Eric Hattem of Kandies World, one of the festival’s beloved and suitably cheeky vendors. When asked about the inspiration behind the products, he shared that “Creative individuality is what comes to mind. Every soul is unique, and we make almost everything hand-made and unique to match that special someone.” He also expressed his connection to Veld, saying, “We’ve been at Veld for at least 10 years now, Veld is part of our DNA. The Toronto community definitely brings the vibes!” Eric also highlighted the hottest items, saying, “Those fun clacking fans and our custom-made Kandi bracelets to trade and make memories are always favorites!”

Kandies Korner at Veld Music Festival in Downsview Park in Toronto

Global fashion e-retailer SHEIN enhanced the festival with a pop-up experience. The SHEIN station offered festival-goers a chill place to escape the summer heat while adding a touch of glamour to their beauty routines. Attendees could browse the latest accessories, beauty products, and trends to elevate their festival style.

As Day 2 came to a close, the festival was running through my veins and I couldn’t wait for the next day. 

Day Three – August 6th, 2023:

On the closing day of the Veld Music Festival, I wore a power purple structured blazer paired with white shorts and boots. The main attraction was the Veld main stage, where my favorite artists were set to perform.

With excitement growing, I made my way to the VIP section – an exclusive area of three cascading levels in the heart of the park, offering an unbelievable view. Sofi Tukker took the stage, delivering a unique hybrid DJ set that had the crowd absolutely losing it. The Florida-based duo of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, known for hits like “Drinkee,” “Best Friend,” and “Purple Hat,” seamlessly blend danceable moments with a refined touch. Their performance had me dancing like I haven’t in years, and the crowd’s response was electric especially during their remix of “Barbie Girl.”

Sofi Tukker & Timmy Trumpet. Photo: INK Entertainment
Loud Luxury. Photo: INK Entertainment

After the set I headed backstage to chat with Loud Luxury. The Canadian electronic duo, Andrew Fedyk and Joe Depace, expressed their great gratitude to Charles for their inclusion in the festival lineup and for Charles’s ongoing support of their music.

Joe Depace and Charles Khabouth. Photo: INK Entertainment

As the sun set on the festival’s third day, you could feel the buzz of anticipation for the final act – the legendary Tiësto. His set spanned a whirlwind of musical genres, including trance, house, electro, deep house, progressive future, bounce, slap house, and progressive trance. The crowd pulsed to the beats and we were united by Tiesto’s epic energy.

Tiësto’s performance elevated the festival to its peak. As the final notes faded, the realization sank in that this magical three-day journey had come to an end. With the festival now behind us, Talal Farisi, the music director at INK Entertainment Group, shared this with me:

“Looking back on this year’s lineup, celebrating our 10th anniversary, we couldn’t be prouder. Mixing favorite acts from VELD’s history with fresh faces and genres truly kept the Toronto summer spirit alive. The crowd’s embrace of the artists is what makes it all worthwhile.”

How can Ink Entertainment ever top this? As we say goodbye to this year’s Veld Music Festival, one thing was certain – more electrifying experiences await in the years ahead. Stay tuned for what the next chapter holds. See you next year Toronto. JP xo

Photo: INK Entertainment
Above and Beyond, Veld 2023
Loud Luxury. Photo: INK Entertainment

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