The “coldest music festival in the world,” Igloofest (every Thursday to Saturday night until February 3rd) descended on our frozen metropolis again, bringing out scores of electronic music fans to Montreal’s Old Port for beats outside in the snow. I’m always blown away by the number of people crazy enough to freeze their faces and feet at this party (although it was balmy compared to a few weeks ago). But, when the temperature drops, rather than ‘Netflix and chill’ all winter, Quebecers just put on warm clothes and go outside. It’s one of the things I love about this province.
Headlining the opening night of the festival, local hero Kaytranada dropped his signature blend of dance music, smooth hiphop, soulful R&B, and funk, and curated an out-of-this-world atmosphere. His Polaris Prize winning debut 99.9% hit like a bomb when it came out in 2016, and, judging by the vibe on the dance floor, peeps are still feeling those funky and futuristic jams.
Kaytranada’s flawless set opened with smooth, dance floor-friendly house, then deftly transitioned to heavy, chest-rattling bass music. Highlights included the head-nodder “Glowed Up” featuring Jazz Festival headliner Anderson Paak, the deep and sexy “Girl” by The Internet, and “One Too Many.” The guy is a dance floor assassin and an incredibly talented producer who had the place bumping from start to finish. But, as I left the site, with bass echoing around the Old Port, it occurred to me that Kaytranada’s music is so deep and smooth that I would enjoy it more from the comfort of my couch rather than outside in the cold.
Local selectors Walla P & Dr.MaD, also known as Voyage Funktastique, started the night with retro-boogie and funky good times. The duo built a solid reputation as local party rockers during their popular Bleury-Bar à Vinyle nights and continue to dominate Montreal’s underground soul and funk scene. Next, Paris’ Kiddy Smile mixed sleazy house tunes like “Short Dick Man” with trap, bass music, and garage. His blast-off moment was Robin S’s timeless 1993 track “Show Me Love,” a gem that just gets better with age. The crowd had grown considerably by the time the DJ dropped that one and the energy shifted into high gear with its instantly recognizable organs.
Here’s my pro-tip: if you show up early, before the masses arrive, the main-stage isn’t busy so you have enough space to bust a few moves and people watch. I spotted a number of pastel-coloured one-piece snow suits—the official Igloofest uniform—but also popular were furry animal costumes like giraffes, cows, and a few squirrels. Meanwhile, the atmosphere was darker and more serious over at the side stage as Green & LaTeez went back-to-back all night with Paskal Daze spinning harder electro beats.
Now in its 12th season, Igloofest has obviously earned a spot among Montreal’s top music festivals. Despite an increase in ticket price this year, thousands of people showed up on opening night and the upcoming parties will no doubt be busy. For some, it’s this popularity that is the festival’s downfall. Line ups at the gate are notoriously long, and during Kaytranada’s set hoards of people jostled for position on the dance floor making it difficult to dance, or even stand up straight. Nonetheless, Igloofest is a unique event and a Montreal winter classic that should be experienced at least once.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy