The “coldest music festival in the world,” Igloofest, lived up to its reputation on this brutally cold February night. As I grabbed my spot on the VIP terrace with a beer in hand and the arctic wind whipping across my face, I thought to myself, “Why would anyone spend several hours partying outside in Montreal in February? I’m not interested in dancing just to keep warm. I also don’t like dancing in winter boots. What’s the logic behind this insanity?”
There are some advantages of having an event outdoors during the coldest days of winter. Obviously coat check isn’t necessary because you will need every item of clothing to survive. Also, unlike most parties nowadays, cell phones are rarely checked because it’s too damn cold to remove your mitts for more than a few seconds. And let’s face it, the cell phone glow is annoying at concerts anyway. Finally, my beer remained frosty right until the last sip.
I was at Igloofest’s opener this year, which happened to fall on a relatively warm, late January night. Hometown headliner Kaytranada laid down a memorable set, and thousands of people danced to his soulful grooves under the stars. Maybe it was the mild temperature, or Kaytranada’s post-genre future-funk, but that night the dance floor was on fire and full to capacity. However, as I mentioned in my review, I missed the pounding and hypnotic techno that Igloofest is famous for.
That wasn’t the case on February 2nd as the festival welcomed two legit ‘90s dance music legends: Sasha and John Digweed. The duo released some essential trance and techno mixes, like the genre-bending 1994 three-CD Renaissance: The Mix Collection, and practically defined what it meant to be a superstar DJ. Sasha and Digweed haven’t performed together in Montreal for over a decade, and their set, the highlight of this year’s calendar, was a must for anyone old enough to remember raving in baggy pants and masks covered with Vicks VapoRub.
As the moon glowed above the main stage and the temperature descended, the duo opened their extended, back-to-back set with a long ambient introduction. Normally I love when DJs start slow and steadily build momentum before reaching a critical mass of drums and bass. But on this night it was so cold that a long intro with no beats, and therefore no dancing, was the wrong choice in my opinion. Maybe from the comfort of the heated stage the DJs forgot how cold it was on the dance floor. The beats eventually picked up, and the two legends put on a show worthy of the hype.
With only one opening DJ for the night, Montreal’s Tone Depth had his work cut out for him. During his set the smoke blasting from the main stage made the arctic-like dance floor look like the set of an alien movie. The crowd was thin at the start, and Tone Depth played smooth and atmospheric trance to warm up the party. His beats were blissfully chilled out, like a Burning Man set but in bone-chilling temperatures. As the masses began to appear towards the end, the local selector dropped dark and experimental techno, with moments of hard acid. On the side stage, Montreal’s Pulses, Cassandria Daiva, and dB kept the music deep and minimal for the cold night.
The quality of music was high, and trance and techno were the perfect genres for losing yourself in your thoughts while trying to forget about the cold. When the temperature became unbearable, Igloofest’s wonderful VIP areas, equipped with private dance floors and heated cabins, saved me from freezing a few times. The VIP tickets were easily worth the extra expense to hear your favorite DJ but avoid the wind-chill, and a lot of people had this idea because the cabins were packed. In the end, however, I’m sure everyone was proud to call themselves an Igloofest “Minus 25 Warrior.”
Written by Rob Coles
*edited by Kate Erickson