It was a festive and busy long weekend in Montreal. Despite the balmy weather conditions, the changing season was upon us. Fall would soon descend on the city, but not without one more weekend of unhinged partying and screaming hangovers. The kids, back in town after another summer break of debauchery and brain-cell damage, were out in full force for I Love Neon’s highly anticipated presentation of Booka Shade.
September is typically crammed with music events, requiring some serious planning just to stay up-to-date on all the cool shit happening in town. The guys at I Love Neon always know what’s up, so, after reviewing the options available for this epic last long weekend of the summer, I settled on the sounds of Berlin-based techno dons Booka Shade.
Despite the hype surrounding Booka Shade’s appearance, I actually preferred the music during the opening acts, which still managed to steadily build up the crowd despite being more subdued and moody than the Germans. Up first on the decks, local techno-selector Strange Town (Bryan Wolfear) warmed up the few dancers who came out early with deep electro beats and rhythms. It’s unfortunate that Montrealers don’t typically show up until at least 11pm, because they often miss out on some really good music, and this was one of those evenings.
Flex Complet, another techno outfit from Montreal, stood out as a project to watch in the coming year. Although the electronic dance music collective is normally comprised of Kyle Kalma, Seychelle & Seb Diamond, only Diamond and Kalma were on hand for this event. Deep, dark, and slightly minimal techno kept the party moving, but the beats weren’t relentlessly hard. It was probably a good choice of music because the aural assault of Booka Shade was about to takeover the sound system.
Booka Shade probably don’t need an introduction for most techno fans. The iconic DJ-production duo of Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier have been making catchy, techy house and electronic music since their first underground trance track back in 1993 as the group Degeneration – “Una Musica Senza Ritmo.” Booka Shade also co-founded Get Physical Music with M.A.N.D.Y and Thomas ‘DJ T’ Koch. They have a new single on their own label Blaufield Music called ‘Wildest Thing.’
By the time the headliners appeared on stage the crowd was amped. Gorgeous projections finally appeared on the video screens – why these weren’t on all night is a mystery. Epilepsy-inducing white lights that seemed brighter than the sun were powered-up (thankfully these were not going all night), and Booka Shade came out to give the punters what they were waiting for ─ big-room, all-hands-on-deck tech-house.
The German production team have a global reputation for an exciting live show and stage presence, including live drums and synthesizers. I often wonder how electronic acts today can promote themselves as “live” musicians, since most contemporary DJ sets contain live elements in some form. After witnessing Booka Shade I can finally admit that “live” techno still exists, and, although it’s a bit gimmicky, live performances continue to smash dance-floors. The music was slightly upfront for my taste, but the hard beats were a harbinger for the big parties to come on this September long weekend, and Booka Shade’s die-hard fans enjoyed every minute of the performance.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Stacy Basque
*edited by Kate Erickson