Ozmozis Productions Impresses with Richard Durand at Toika Lounge

by Raymond Dell'Aera
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Richard Durand at Toika Lounge - Fresh Print Magazine

All Photos by Kovacevic Photography

With the surging popularity of large EDM events in Toronto over the last few years, more folks are looking to try smaller venues for their raving needs. This can be a hit-or-miss proposition since the right combination of atmosphere, music and value lie on a pretty thin edge. One company that has been getting attention for providing a winning experience is Ozmozis Productions, which aims to bring talented artists to music lovers in intimate and exclusive settings, creating a “friendly underground” vibe. This created a fair amount of anticipation, then, as I headed downtown to attend Ozmozis’ presentation of Richard Durand, noted “must-see” trance artist and performer, at Toika Lounge.

Richard Durand at Toika Lounge - Fresh Print MagazineThe club, located on Richmond Street near Spadina, is a frequent site of operations for Ozmozis. Arriving a little past midnight, I was relieved to find an absence of impatient party-goers corralled by velvet ropes and burly guards—one of the experiences I surely won’t miss about The Guvernment. No, despite being an hour before the main act was to begin, my press credentials were wasted here as I strolled unmolested into Toika’s cozy interior. Inside, I was met with a stark contrast; there was plenty of activity. Toika, which was renovated this past winter, sports a simple layout: one small main room with painted black walls, a DJ booth at one end, and a bar at the other. There’s no VIP section, booths, patios, or other such luxuries, save for a projector throwing trippy visualizations behind the DJ. In other words, it’s all about the music.

Make no mistake, this is a formula that works well for Ozmozis and Toika, because the whole thing feels like one large VIP setting. The crowd occupied all of the floor space, yet there was just enough room to move around and not feel packed in. It was a good crowd too, differing from both those of other “high end” clubs and large open raves. We’re talking about people in their 20s, casually dressed, feeling the groove–without being either outlandish from attention-seeking, or, at the other end of the spectrum, unfriendly because of seriousness or disinterest.

The time leading up to Durand’s set was, of course, crucial since a rave is something of a journey, requiring effective ebbs and flows which build the crowd’s energy. Fortunately for us, the starting pitcher in this night’s ballgame was Kris Morton, a well-travelled trance/techno DJ (having played everywhere from the West Coast, Toronto, and Montreal, to Europe and The Land Down Under). Morton has played with some of the biggest names in trance, and it’s easy to see why. His ability to read the crowd and respond with the right track, with the right tempo and feel, gave the experience an organic quality. Kris is a resident DJ at Toika and plays events all around Toronto, and with his first release coming soon, he is definitely an artist on the rise. I encourage you to check out his mixes on SoundCloud, especially if you like progressive trance.

Ozmozis Productions - Fresh Print Magazine

Richard Durand and Kris Morton

Although you’re never more than a stone’s throw from the DJ booth at Toika, my eagerness led me front and centre for the start of Richard Durand’s set. The transition between the two DJs was at first unnoticeable, owing itself primarily to the mixing skill of the men involved. But soon, a new personality emerged from the sonic waves enveloping us. It was, undoubtedly, Richard Durand, one of Holland’s trance wizards and frequent tenant in DJ Mag’s annual Top 100 DJs poll. While my exposure to Richard prior to this was obscured somewhat by the number of electronic artists vying for increasingly scarce musical attention, it became clear that his reputation is well-earned. This is, after all, a reputation sparked in 2007 when Tiësto recommended him as his “Tip for the Top”. It was therefore quite fitting that Tiësto tapped Durand to replace him in anchoring his In Search Of Sunrise compilation series in 2010, amidst surging popularity.

Ozmozis Productions - Fresh Print MagazineBy the time the set was at full throttle, everyone in the room had surrendered to the music. It was infectious, gathering energy and dispersing it throughout the club using a combination of upbeat trance and edgier techno influences. As is apparently customary, Durand himself joined in on the fun, getting up on his booth to incite even more mayhem. The three hour long set was intensely enjoyable—what more can be said? The tracks were fresh and satisfying, the DJ was in constant awareness of his subjects, the room buzzed with appreciation. The venue was intimate and never uncomfortable, and felt like a VIP party graced by A-list talent on the decks, for only $20 a ticket. If this is what Ozmozis terms the “friendly underground”, then sign me up.

You can check out Ozmozis Productions’ upcoming events on their Facebook page.

You can also listen to Richard Durand performing a set at the famed Ministry of Sound, from last month, below.

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