After braving the elements the night before at Igloofest (reviewed here), I headed back to the Igloofest site for another chilly night of pulsing techno under the stars. This one looked dope, not only because it was the festival’s regular season finale (they’ve added a few extra “Off-Igloo” weekends starting February 10th), but also because the master of relentlessly terrifying beats, Dave Clarke, the “Baron of Techno,” was on deck. Clarke canceled his Igloofest set last year, so I knew he would cook up something special this time.
Electronic music and politics don’t always mix, but Clarke has more punk rock spirit than most DJs. He said he won’t perform in the U.S. while Trump is President, and rocked a “Don’t Suck Corporate Cock” t-shirt on Boiler Room. Politics aside, the guy’s a true DJ’s DJ, a selector with the deepest, darkest dubplates on his laptop, who seamlessly weaves magic on the mixer, juggling beats and tweaking levels like an assassin (with a hoodie pulled over his head all night, he even looked like an assassin).
Clarke put on an underground techno clinic, but I was also impressed by the stunning videos by Montreal VJ Diagraf, a Mutek regular, running on the main stage. Thanks to the new, more immersive set-up, five monolithic blocks were placed around the site that acted as massive screens for futuristic video projections. Diagraph created an outer-worldly visual environment on the dancefloor that perfectly accompanied the dark techno soundtrack.
The festival’s team is extremely nerdy about curating the right environment. Nicolas Cournoyer, one of the festival’s organizers, mentioned that Igloofest draws tourists from far outside Montreal because of the unique atmosphere. “It’s the ambience…nowadays people are coming from around the world, and they look for an experience. People are coming from warm countries because they want a challenge,” not a typical festival. “…The vibe is special, it’s like they can go back in their childhood. They are fighting against the elements. Once you’re there it’s cold, but the music is great,” he said.
The artists also love the atmosphere and look forward to playing the festival, he said. “The people are emotional and the artists feel it, they leave and they are just stoked. They love the ambience.” But the DJs also understand that up-tempo music works better in the cold conditions: “We don’t go into experimental stuff or down-tempo, because the people need to dance, and if they are cold they stick together like penguins,” he said.
At times I felt like I was dancing in a walk-in freezer, but the temperature was refreshing like a cold drink of water. “We had -40 nights and people still come because they love the artists,” boasted Cournoyer. The crowd was upbeat, despite looking somewhat ridiculous dancing in full winter gear, and there were a few sightings of the elusive sasquatch!
The music was solid all night, with Louisahhh, her only Canadian stop on the “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” tour, and Montreal-based selector Motions warming-up the main stage, while Moxie and Seychelle provided the soundtrack on the side. But regardless of your taste, Cournoyer said, “…you don’t need to be a techno fan to come. Once you are there you just dance, no matter the music.” I’m already planning my costume for next year.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Kate Erickson