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In The Beginning: Sasha at Aria

In preparation for the legendary Sasha, John Digweed, Sander Kleinenberg & Spooky “rave” in Montreal, I began pondering some of my “best ever” parties.

Luke Fair in Argentina, Sasha & Digweed boat cruises, the 2005 Bedrock party at the WMC, the Sander K’s and Tyrant at Stereo, Danny Howells at Breathe and even Mauro Picotto on Canada Day waaay back, all were amazing events. However for me, one most definitely stands out from the rest.

Of all the parties I’ve ever been to – all the dance floor “journeys” – only twice have I been completely and utterly under the control of the DJ in the booth from beginning to end.

pre Sasha at Aria - October 18, 2002The first was at one of Toronto’s most posh nightclubs ever, Meow. That was an incredible night, in probably the most gorgeous venue the city has seen. It was the first time I can honestly say that I experienced next level electronic music.

But for as great as Sasha was at Meow, it wasn’t “Sasha at Aria.” That party on October 18, 2002 remains my favourite of all time, no doubt.

In the early 2000′s you could find as many as 30 – 50 of our friends on any dance floor in Toronto or Montreal that was hosting a progressive house talent. Our Toronto crew was locked into a continuous groove born out of the legendary Friday nights of Breathe at System Soundbar. Add the throngs of locals and Americans that were also obsessed with the progressive sounds of the day, and each and every event we hit up in Montreal had the potential to be the “best ever.”

Every other disc, the entire ride from T.O. to Montreal, was Sasha’s most recent Kiss FM. With the Airdrawndagger tour in full swing, Sasha was only on top form and this set was a fine example of what we were about to hear at Aria.

Download (left-click and unzip):
Sasha – Kiss 100 FM – August 8, 2002

We arrived at our most gracious francophone hosts, poured a few cocktails, cleaned up a little and then we were off to an event of a lifetime.

As always, Aria was rammed upon arrival. Chris Fortier was already on the decks and the phenomenal vibe that consistently encompassed Montreal dance floors was in full effect. We made our rounds but quickly settled into a spot at the front right of the magical Aria booth.

The anticipation for Sasha to hit the decks was almost unbearable, and the tension built by Fortier’s opener made the butterflies circle even faster. When the puppet master finally hit the decks I remember a feeling like I’ve never felt before. I was with my best friends, at one of the best clubs in the world, standing in front of who I still think is the best DJ in the world… this was absolute clubbing satisfaction.

There was a pink haze hovering over the room. The retractable lights filled the space with the most magnificent colour and the sound system, which always presented the highs with incredible brilliance – ideal for Sasha’s sound – was perfectly tuned.

Sasha at Aria - October 18, 2002From melodic to blazing, Sasha guided us through the whole spectrum of his musical genius. When on, he’s THE conductor of electronic sounds and on the floor stands a memorized audience in awe of a most efficient and magnificent one man orchestra. On this night Sasha was totally on!!

I’d say we spent half the night dancing and the other half jumping. Each build was across four or five tracks and all the selections melted one into the next. The breakdowns were MASSIVE! It was an emotional roller coaster ride of the greatest kind.

The encore track was Underworld’s “Cowgirl.” The remaining of the tight crew, which was about 20 at 10am, joined sweaty arms to form a circle right in front of the man himself. It sounds and really was cheesy, but the euphoria of the moment brought us all together to enjoy the final track as one.

As the build up climaxed, we all broke free and mayhem ensued. I don’t think I’ve ever come even close to feeling that good on a dance floor again.

The almost immediate ride home was one of the best we had throughout our over two-plus year run of monthly trips to Montreal. We continued to kill the Kiss FM and stepped back even five years earlier to Sasha & Digweed’s Northern Exposure Tour Triple J Mix Up from 1997; mind blowing music that has withstood the test of time even to this day.

Download (left-click and unzip):
Sasha & Digweed – Mix Up on Triple J – Northern Exposure Tour 1997 – Pt.1
Sasha & Digweed – Mix Up on Triple J – Northern Exposure Tour 1997 – Pt.2
Sasha & Digweed – Mix Up on Triple J – Northern Exposure Tour 1997 – Pt.3
Sasha & Digweed – Mix Up on Triple J – Northern Exposure Tour 1997 – Pt.4

The rest of the weekend included another Sasha experience at the Kool Haus and one of the craziest after parties we ever endured. It’s all just a blur really, as I was hanging onto the bliss of Saturday morning to get me through the next two days. However, I do know this time after the Aria trip helped enforce friendship bonds that will last forever… most definitely the best clubbing times of my life, for sure.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told the “Sasha at Aria” story. If you ask Adriana, waaaay too many. You can surely blame this night for much of the passion I still feel for the scene, the music and the people that put it all together.

It was like a gift from God that I came across these four videos from this most memorable event. I now have visual proof to accompany what many must regard as simply a tale and not a real life, larger than life experience… like it truly was.

Sasha at Aria, Montreal –  October 18, 2002 – Video Sequence