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Featuring Headliners Rezz and Zedd, Contact Music Festival Has a Bright Future After Redesign

Contact embarked on a new frontier in 2023.

Vancouver’s premier winter music festival waved goodbye to its longtime home at BC Place. The two-day event jumped to hyperspace and settled into a new terminal at the Vancouver Convention Center on December 27th and 28th.

Contact’s new vessel is compact and streamlined, a promising design that just needs a little tinkering. The most glaring departure from past iterations is the festival’s scale. The Vancouver Convention Center has a maximum capacity of 16,000 compared to BC Place’s 54,500. This might feel like a downgrade for longtime Contact veterans. 

The sentiment, while understandable, is more emotionally driven than logical. The economics of Vancouver music festivals have changed drastically since deadmau5 and Skrillex headlined in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Filling out BC Place for two days was no longer feasible. The Convention Center is a solid venue that allows Blueprint and Live Nation Canada to implement some welcomed changes.

A celebrated amendment for 2023’s attendees was the shift from all-ages to a 19+ event. There was a collective sigh of relief among adults who prefer to party teen-free and the calm energy extended to those working the show. Staff interactions were generally pleasant—even security seemed more at ease. I repeatedly witnessed security enforcing rules and then promptly vibing with concertgoers.

I won’t miss the sounds of security busting down bathroom stalls at BC Place. Drink lines were almost non-existent — a revolution considering I’ve missed entire sets at BC Place waiting in queues. Water stations were wonderfully abundant and conveniently located in and out of the showroom. The coat check line ran smoothly enough as well. 

Dancer performing at 2023 Contact Winter Music Festival.

Sharad Gadhia/Blueprint/Live Nation Canada

This year’s show felt packed. The floor layout was naturally narrower than a stadium show but there was room to dance if you were content to migrate further back. The stage set-up was suitable, if uninspired, with plenty of lighting and some pyrotechnics. There are probably limitations with the room’s low ceiling but some creative production elements could make future iterations of Contact pop.

A sorely missed component from past Contacts is the lack of stadium seating. The sight lines are limited and you won’t see much from a seated position. That’s a tough problem to solve but organizers would be wise to expand their seating. The chill zone in the back corner of the venue, while appreciated, should be bigger.

The festival also pivoted from two stages to one. This was a welcomed change as someone who found BC Place’s hallway side stage awkward and cramped. The concise lineup alleviates the stress of stage hopping and encourages a more relaxed concert style. Take the time to socialize, stretch your legs, go to the bathroom and grab food or water if a set isn’t your cup of tea.

The single-stage introduced a compact line-up featuring six artists each day. Day 1 welcomed Zedd, Dabin, Mau P, Cappozi and more while Day 2 featured Rezz, TroyBoi and Disco Lines, among others. Any disappointment with the shorter lineup was remedied by the cost to consumers. The smaller roster drove down the average ticket price, falling roughly in line with the recent STACKED show featuring Seven Lions and his Ophelia Records stablemates at Pacific Coliseum.

Zedd’s headlining set at 2023 Contact Winter Music Festival.

Sharad Gadhia/Blueprint/Live Nation Canada

Zedd’s set was a highlight of the weekend and a pleasant surprise to the more jaded raver. The globally renowned producer paired beloved classics like “Clarity” with a diverse set spanning multiple genres. There was something for everyone, from the mainstream fan to the bass head still buzzing from Dabin’s strikingly nasty set.

Rezz closed out Day 2 with a predictably phenomenal performance. Hits like “Someone Else” primed the crowd but nothing wired them quite like her remix of Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness.” TroyBoi was a fantastic lead-in. His grimy but danceable trap style was a smart buffer between Disco Line’s house-centric set and Rezz’s darker tone. And a special shoutout to Sabai, who delighted fans by shredding an electric guitar live on stage.

Sabai playing electric guitar at 2023 Contact Winter Music Festival.

Sharad Gadhia/Blueprint/Live Nation Canada

Sift through surface-level concerns and you’ll find plenty to like about Contact’s redesign. It’s less a return to form and more something altogether new. It’s a re-imagining that could be a reliable highlight for the city if carefully fine-tuned. 2023 was a promising start for Contact’s new saga.

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