Montreal’s sub-zero electronic music festival, Igloofest, kicked off January 18th. On January 19th, approximately ten thousand people braved the frozen wasteland of Quai Jacques-Cartier in winter boots and snowsuits for a sold-out night of dancing under the stars. Honestly, I hate the cold. I can think of a thousand places I’d rather be on a January night than outdoors in Montreal. There’s something special about Igloofest, though, and one night per year I don’t mind losing the feeling in my fingers and toes. As long as the beats slap and the bass is booming.
While local selector Shaydakiss warmed up the main stage, I hit the side stage for Laurence Matte and Nic Falardeau, two of Montreal’s finest electronic DJs dropping deep techno bangers. Matte, who looked at home in the DJ booth wearing a fur coat, played an uplifting set while the Igloofest yeti mascots danced on stage. It was a more intimate party than the colder and more crowded main stage, and you could get right up to the speakers and really be immersed in the music and atmosphere of the festival. L.A.-based producer Eagles & Butterflies closed the night on the side stage.
Back at the wind-swept main stage, Australia’s Nina Las Vegas played a hard and funky commercial house set. The crowd didn’t seem to be feeling it, and I think her selections should have gone darker and more underground to reflect the wintery conditions. Well, she is from Australia and probably isn’t accustomed to playing in the Arctic.
The evening’s headliner, Diplo, came on shortly after eleven and the massive crowd went giddy with enthusiasm as blasts of fire exploded above the stage. Diplo’s the man behind Major Lazer, a prolific remixer, and a guy I try to check out whenever he’s in town. After his dope set at îleSoniq last year chock full of summery dancehall and reggae jams, I was curious how he would adapt to an outdoor party in January.
Diplo’s set was tight, expertly blending futuristic dancehall and hard electro beats in the cold and crisp evening. The California bass music don dropped rolling, bass-line house remixes of Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” “Show Me Love” by Robin S, and the timeless riff from White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” But Diplo’s music is built on a foundation of sub-bass, and the Igloofest system, unfortunately, wasn’t shaking my bones with the lower ends of the spectrum. I was also hoping for more of Diplo’s characteristic future dancehall, trap, and Jamaican-inspired niceness.
Igloofest’s motto is “T’en reviendras pas” (you won’t come back). I like the idea of throwing a party in the deep freeze to see who is tough enough to survive. But, to keep us warm, the beats have to be loud and hard so you can’t possibly do anything but work up a sweat dancing. Unfortunately, the volume was so low I could hear talking, along with the annoying “swoosh swoosh” sound of people walking in snow pants, a sound any Canadian knows very well.
In defence of the festival, they have likely received several noise complaints from residents of the Old Port who apparently don’t want loud techno ruining their fancy bourgeois cocktail parties. It’s too bad they have decided to take out their anger on a legendary Montreal winter happening and one of the most unusual outdoor music festivals in Canada.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Chris Carpenter
*edited by Danielle Kenedy