Summer is almost over. The days are shorter, students heading back to class, and there is a familiar chill in the air signaling the arrival of fall. Is there a better way to celebrate (or mourn) “la rentrée,” the unofficial end of summer in Quebec, than four days of dancing and debauchery at Piknic Électronik? The weekly electronic music festival also happened to be celebrating its 15th anniversary. I rode the metro to Parc Jean-Drapeau on the final day of this epic long weekend for a set by techno queen Nicole Moudaber, and a dubstep takeover of the Moog Audio stage by local crew Big Tooth.
Monday’s Piknic was a battle between house and techno on the main stage, and bass music at the Moog stage; between commercial, electronic dance music, and the dark, underground sound of dubstep. When I arrived at the site, there were very few people at the main stage for Montreal-based DJ Ostrich. The thin crowd milled around the spacious dance floor and seemed uninspired by Ostrich’s techno and deep house. It was early though, the headliner was several hours away, and across the site local heavyweights Big Tooth were dropping ear-slaughtering bass music for their rabid and slightly insane fans.
Early in the day at Moog, SUBstance went back-to-back with Dabman, and I could hear the low rumble of bass, and smell the ganja, drifting throughout the area. If you’ve been to Piknic before, you know the smell of chronic is normal. This year, however, there’s been a noticeable increase in security and police presence on the site, and regulars have complained on social media about the beefed up police presence. Despite the obvious risk of getting bounced, there were plenty of people ignoring the rules.
The stoners in the crowd for Big Tooth’s Bawdy and SHAKE, mostly black t-shirt and ball-cap-wearing young men, skanked to the dark and metallic ghetto beats. Piknic’s evil dubstep alter-ego had taken over, and the bass freaks were out for the occasion. The music was abrasive and angry, but, at least in the afternoon, they were killing the non-threatening beats going down at the main stage. Izzy Vadim and T o a s t played more heavy bass selections, briefly changing up the sound to hip hop and lighting up the crowd with a few rewinds. I headed back to the main stage for Moudaber’s set just as local duo the W4RRIORS took over.
The dancing massive was in for a treat as Nicole Moudaber, a true queen of techno and dance music, touched down at Piknic, bringing with her some ultra-sexy Ibiza sounds. Under periods of light rain, Moudaber delved deep with subterranean beats that sounded crisp and defined on the Piknic system. The Nigerian-born DJ stalked the DJ booth with her characteristic fierce attitude and untamed black hair. It was a classic Piknic set, and went down simultaneously with Krimer and RONIN at Moog. But having spent the afternoon listening to blisteringly aggressive dubstep, I was clearly more ‘in the mood’ for Moudaber’s sexy techno jams.
So who won, big-room techno or bad-boy dubstep? Well, for crowd sexiness, I’d give a big advantage to techno. The bros at the Big Tooth takeover really had no chance against the thousands of beautiful women grooving to Moudaber’s sexy dance music. However, Big Tooth were on the smaller sound system, and, despite this audio disadvantage, dubstep’s ghetto beats melted some faces and the crowd was generally more excited. I prefer a little more dub in my dubstep though, and the Big Tooth sound is overwhelmingly bro-step. I’m back at Piknic this Sunday for a special appearance by The Black Madonna.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Kate Erickson