It wasn’t a smooth ride for the Heineken Escapade Festival organizers this year. The popular electronic music festival attracts an average of around 30,000 fans to Ottawa annually, but this time around, the event had troubles before it had even started. It all began when the festival had to part ways with last year’s location, the Rideau Carleton Raceway. The 2017 festival was all set to be held in the same place, but at the last minute, it was revealed that the Raceway had formed a partnership with Hard Rock Casino.
The raceway owners had entered into a $320 million deal, with plans to built a super-casino gaming and entertainment center on the grounds. The new casino will likely feature many of the usual suspects, from the popular American Roulette, in which the ‘00’ becomes the worst nightmare, to poker tables and restaurants. Regardless, there wasn’t going to be an EDM music festival taking place! The money was down.
The Escapade was forced to move on to a new location, which was secured at Lansdowne Park, an unlikely venue usually associated with local sporting events. Officials from the City of Ottawa recognized Escapade as an official event for the celebration of Canada’s 150 anniversary, and the beat could go on.
And yet, logistical problems plagued the festival, likely due to the unforeseen need to move. Guests complained of the lack of organization and couldn’t find the performers they wanted to watch. That Sunday, it seemed like no one really knew where they were going. This was no surprise given that Lansdowne Park already had to deal with the organization of an Ottawa Blacks football game and an Ottawa Fury soccer match during the same weekend, not to mention a Farmer’s Market.
But the final unfortunate event came with the weather, that force of nature that is always beyond our control. Wild rains and howling winds ripped through the festival on Sunday, damaging the main stage, which organizer Ali Shafaee pointed out is designed to withstand 120 km/h winds. The roof panel is supposed to rip off in severe circumstances to prevent the stage from tipping, and that’s exactly what happened, leaving DJ equipment exposed and the show in jeopardy.
At 2:45 p.m. that Sunday, the decision was made to close the Escapade main stage and move the festival to indoor venues including the Aberdeen Pavilion and the TD Place Arena, both of which were already part of the festival, but now became the stage for the entire show. This, of course, caused further logistical disasters, and two of the opening acts had to be canceled. The main acts were salvaged, and once again the beat went on.
The decision to shut down the main stage was a good one. Moments later, two more storm cells hit the festival site. It was fortunate that the organizers could utilize Lansdowne Park’s indoor venues or else the festival may have closed its gates completely.
The capacity of the Escapade Festival, as well as perhaps its reputation, took a blow, with the figures revealed around 11,000 revelers on Saturday, and only 8,000 in attendance on Sunday. On top of this, the storm caused around $40,000 damage to DJ equipment and potentially tens of thousands of dollars of damage to the stage lighting and to the main stage itself. Despite the consistent problems faced by the Escapade Festival organizers, the party-goers showed the typical goodwill of an electronic music crowd, and there was very little trouble throughout the weekend. Notable DJ greats like Tiesto and Above and Beyond performed at the festival.