If you weren’t at the newly-renovated Sound Academy at 11 Polson Street on Friday, June 24, 2016, then you missed something really amazing. Toronto’s Freestyle Nation came out in full force as nearly 1,500 freestyle music lovers attended the “I Love Freestyle” concert that night. This superb concert featured some of the biggest names in freestyle music. Among those that performed were; Canadian freestyle/Euro artist JOEE, Debbie Deb, freestyle queen Lil Suzy and the freestyle king Stevie B. Something this big in the freestyle music scene hadn’t occurred in Toronto in a while, so it was pretty huge. I was planning on going to this concert for a while, and I’m really glad I did. I had a feeling that the concert and Sound Academy were not going to disappoint me that night. The concert had been advertised and promoted for a few months on social media and on the local Toronto radio station Z1035. Freestyle enthusiasts knew that this was going to be a big one. Luckily, I was able to get tickets for this event. This was my first freestyle concert, so I was pretty excited that night. A friend and I attended the concert that night and we heard all the hype about Sound Academy. I was very curious about the new venue and I wanted to see it for myself. I went to a previous venue in the same location back in the late 90s when it was known as the Docks nightclub. Even back then, it was a very popular nightclub to go to. The venue location is probably the best in the whole city. It has a superb view of the downtown city skyline from across the bay. While standing in line waiting to get in that night, I noticed limousine after limousine rolling in front of Sound Academy. Groups of beautiful ladies were all getting out of the limos to attend the concert. If you haven’t guessed it already, freestyle music always brings out the ladies! The majority of the ladies were all there to see both JOEE and Stevie B perform. Their freestyle songs were always incredibly popular with the ladies back in the day. The themes of their songs were usually about love and relationships that struck a chord with female fans. The freestyle music scene in Toronto back in the 90s was huge. Toronto was the northern capital of freestyle music outside of the United States. There was a hardcore following back then as a few clubs in the city specialized or played freestyle music all night long. One could go to these clubs and dance to freestyle music all night long till the early hours of the morning. You could find Toronto’s Freestyle Nation partying at such legendary clubs such as Palazzo, Paparrazi and Plastique Lounge. In the late 90s and early 2000s, Plastique nightclub had Freestyle Fridays which was a live to air party. It was the most listened to club mix show on the radio in history in Toronto and southern Ontario. The show was live on Hits 103.5 (Z103.5 today). The freestyle music scene was not new to me. A lot of people used to listen to both freestyle and Eurodance music for most of the 90s in the Toronto area. My best friend was really into freestyle and introduced me to the legendary freestyle clubs. Every time I went to those clubs, I had a great time. There was nothing like hearing loud freestyle music in the club. The clubs usually had a dress/style code so everyone dressed to impress. The ladies at the freestyle clubs were the most beautiful I had ever seen. By 9PM, a huge lineup of people had developed in front of Sound Academy. There were a few hundred people eagerly waiting to get into the venue for the concert. Large groups of ladies, couples and groups of friends were all there to hear their freestyle stars sing for them. I could tell by everyone’s anticipation that this was going to be a great night. A brand new venue and a live concert in one, this night was going to be sweet! As the line pushed forward, we finally got to the front door and entered Sound Academy. The venue was already pretty full inside. Many had come really early so that they could get a good spot in front of the stage for the performances. We did a walk through before the concert began just to check out the place. I was really impressed with the venue. The set up was totally different from the Docks nightclub that existed there before. Sound Academy is a fairly large venue and it reminded me of the “super clubs” that existed in Toronto back in the 90s that could hold thousands of clubbers. The sound system of Sound Academy was nice and loud and the concert lighting inside was superb. It was definitely a premier concert venue/nightclub. The whole lower level was totally packed. There must have been around 1,500 people there. The second level of the venue was not open that night but judging by its size, could hold many more people. It overlooked the large dance floor and stage below. The bars ran all along the walls of the first level where people were buying their drinks. The VIP booths were located up near the front of the stage off to the left and were completely sold out for the concert. Bottle service was extremely busy that night! The concert DJs were playing 80s and 90s freestyle music to pump up the crowd for the artists who were getting ready to perform. The crowd began to cheer and dance when the DJs played their favourite freestyle songs. I hadn’t heard some of the songs in ages and it brought back some great memories from a long time ago. I forgot how great freestyle music sounded in the club atmosphere. My friend and I found a good spot near the back of the dance floor to watch the concert. I could see that the venue was completely full from the stage all the way to the back wall. Around 10:30PM, the first freestyle artist Debbie Deb started to perform. She sang her biggest hits from the 80s including her ever popular “When I Hear Music”. People began dancing and singing along with her. It was great to hear this timeless classic from Debbie Deb live. It immediately brought me back to the 80s when I heard her music on the radio as a child. When she finished her performance, she got a huge applause from the crowd. The concert DJs then played some more freestyle music for 15 minutes to keep the atmosphere and energy going for the next performer. It was an electric atmosphere inside Sound Academy that night. Lil Suzy the freestyle queen was the next artist to come on stage. She was as beautiful as ever and wore a bright red outfit that made her the centre of everyone’s attention. Like Debbie Deb, Lil Suzy sang a few of her biggest hits. Every time she starting singing a song, everyone would cheer and clap. At one point during her performance a group of eight ladies got onto the stage behind her and started dancing. Lil Suzy didn’t realize that they were there until a few minutes later. She turned around and was a little surprised. She laughed and told the crowd that it looked like she had dancers. Lil Suzy sang “Promise Me”, “Falling In Love”, “Love Can’t Wait”, and her ever popular “Take Me In Your Arms”. The one song that I really liked was “When I Fall in Love”. It was Lil Suzy’s only Eurodance song ever, and a really good one. JOEE was the next artist to perform after Lil Suzy. He got a tremendous applause from everyone when he got on stage as he was Canada’s own 90s freestyle/Euro prodigy. I had heard JOEE perform live a few times before in a couple of nightclubs. This time it was a little different because it was a much larger venue and a larger crowd. I knew that it was going to be a great performance by JOEE. He sang “Died In Your Arms”, “Better Than You”, “I Don’t Believe You”, “Almost Suicide” and of course “Feel it in the Air”. JOEE amazed everyone by going into the crowd on the dance floor and continuing to sing. Many people held their phones out recording him as he went by them. I thought that JOEE had the best performance out of all the artists that night. It was extremely electric and energetic when he performed and the crowd loved him. Both Tony Monaco and DJ Danny D of Z103.5 radio were also in attendance at the concert. Danny D was one of the concert DJs who performed a sensational Eurodance set just before the headliner Stevie B came on at the end. The set lasted about 30 minutes and it had the crowd dancing and singing. DJ Danny D always drops some fierce beats and it was great that they included him in the concert. Tony Monaco was the host/MC of the concert that evening. Tony has been instrumental in bringing freestyle music to Toronto and keeping it alive all these years. He is a strong supporter of this wonderful music genre. For over two decades, he has promoted/played freestyle on HOT/HITS/Z103.5 radio as well as at numerous clubs in the past. In 1995, Tony used to host a show on 103.5 called the Freestyle Fix on the weekends. He would then host the Freestyle Frenzy show till 2004. Tony Monaco also presented numerous freestyle CD compilations over the years (Freestyle Heaven, Euro Freestyle Invasion, Freestyle Frenzy, Planet Freestyle). Tony made freestyle big in this city and put Toronto on the map when it came to both freestyle and Eurodance music. The final artist to perform that night was the freestyle king Stevie B. When someone says freestyle music, this man always comes to mind. Let me tell you, the ladies love Stevie B! Any time “Spring Love” comes on in the nightclubs, you can see countless women singing and dancing to that one. The crowd and especially the ladies went crazy when Stevie B stepped on the stage. There was a very nice moment when Stevie B called Tony Monaco the king of freestyle music in Toronto for all that he had done for the music genre over the years. Stevie B then sang his biggest hits much to the delight of the crowd such as “I Wanna Be the One”, “Party Your Body”, “Spring Love” and more. At one moment, Stevie B busted out some dance moves while performing on stage showing that he still had it. From the response from the crowd, I could tell that Stevie B was the one everyone was there for. photo credit Colin Raininger The concert finally ended and everyone went home extremely happy that they had a chance to see their favourite freestyle stars live. It was great hearing freestyle music again in a nightclub setting; it was ages since I heard it last on a loud sound system at a club. Toronto’s Freestyle Nation will undoubtedly look forward to another “I Love Freestyle” concert in the near future. Sound Academy is a great venue and I hope to be there again one day. If you ever have the chance, check out a concert or a club night there, you won’t be disappointed. 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