It was a beautiful day as I exited the metro at Parc Jean Drapeau. The deep bass ringing in my ears as I approached the futuristic Biosphere could only mean one thing: îleSoniq was already lit! But why would the massive electronic music festival be scheduled to start on a Friday? Surely the promoters at Evenko must have known some working people would miss the opening afternoon programming. After two days of dancing and debauchery, I understood the method to their madness: you need Sunday to recover.
The unfortunate people who skipped the first day of the festival missed some heavyweight house and trance spread out over the festival’s three stages. Paris-based Dirtybird artist Shiba San, who played a fantastic set at Igloofest in 2017, dropped slamming house beats with a touch of French style under the hot sun. Green Velvet, a tech-house veteran who also appeared at Igloofest last year, followed with his timeless Chicago sound, signature green mohawk, and “Flash,” his ode to nitrous oxide.
The non-stop trance and techno continued on the Neon Bacardi stage with several sets of pure dancing fire. Anjunabeats producer Ilan Bluestone played a hard trance and techno set, followed by back-to-back performances by Germany’s progressive duo Cosmic Gate and Anjunabeats artist Jason Ross. Over on the Oasis main stage, Montreal’s electro house-dubstep team, and heads of Kannibalen Records, Black Tiger Sex Machine brought the crowd to fever pitch wearing their unique tiger helmets. The evening’s headliners, Diplo and DJ Snake, closed out the day with heavy bass music and a crazy pyrotechnics show.
The second day of îleSoniq, another hot and sunny one, was unfortunately hit with cancellations by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Angello. I know these things can happen and it was out of the festival’s control, but fans were understandably upset two headliners wouldn’t be showing up. The promoters made some quick changes, and Chainsmokers played an extended set while Montreal’s Domeno filled in at the last minute.
Meanwhile, some of the hottest young hip-hop and trap artists took over the Bud Light stage for a day of heavy bass and hype energy. I arrived in time for a set by DJ-producer London On Da Track, who actually hails from Atlanta, not the UK capital. But the following sets were weak and proof that artists can’t get by on internet fame alone. Danielle Bregoli, better known as Bhad Bhabie, is a 15-year-old rapper whose claim to fame is the viral video of a Dr Phil episode in which she uttered now infamous catchphrase “cash me outside, how ’bout dah?” Bregoli played a short, uninspiring thirty-minute set. Some of her songs, such as “Hi Bich” and “Gucci Flip Flops,” are good singles, but her live stage presence and vocal abilities were amateurish.
Even more disappointing was a much-hyped appearance by Lil Xan, another up-and-coming trap star with ‘Lil’ in his name and multiple face tattoos. Xan is also known for his love of the prescription drug Xanax, and you might need medication to enjoy one of his performances because the guy had no game. The set consisted of heavy, monotonous waves of bass while Xan constantly jumped up and down, hyping the crowd by repeatedly shouting “…Montreal make some noise!” I encourage young up-and-coming vocalists who are trying to make it in a tough business, but they have to work harder on their microphone skills rather than making viral Youtube videos.
After enduring those two sets I was anxious to hear some quality beats. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long because Atlanta’s Lil Yachty came on and showed those young rappers how it’s done. Yachty, who calls his style “bubblegum trap,” didn’t take himself too seriously and looked like he was having a blast. He jokingly complained about the incessant bugs attacking him on stage: “…this is some country assed shit!” The Georgia-based rapper played hilarious tracks like “Minnesota” from his mixtape Lil Boat, and brought Bhad Bhabie onstage for one final appearance.
Yachty was followed by a gritty set by French Montana. I couldn’t stay long, though, as one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend for bass-heads was going down on another stage. U.K. producer, and one of the original dubstep dons, Rusko delivered a timeless drum and bass and dubstep sound for the crowd which was growing all day in front of the Neon stage. Drum and bass is rare at major festivals in Montreal, but Rusko’s dark jungle sounds sounded deep and set the dance floor on fire.
îleSoniq also delivered some quality festival fashion and attendees put serious thought into their hilarious and unusual attire. Matching outfits were popular, with entire squads wearing Tarzan, superhero, and Where’s Waldo? costumes. The key trends for girls were cat ears, unicorn backpacks (actually, anything with unicorns), stacks of candy bracelets, body art, and glitter, lots of glitter. ‘Bro fashion included plenty of Hawaiian shirts, but it was hot and a lot of guys went shirtless. Check out the hilariously irreverent #brosoniq on Instagram to see what the lads were wearing. I am a dreadfully pale and skinny music writer so my shirt stayed on all weekend.
Like all big festivals, Îlesoniq tries to please as many people as possible with an eclectic music mix. Three of the best sets, in my opinion, were Diplo, Rusko and Lil Yachty. I heard from several people that DJ Snake’s closing set on Friday night was fantastic, but I missed it because I was checking out another stage. One of the problems with multi-stage festivals is the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) on an epic set because you’re at another stage. Îlesoniq’s quality production, professionalism, and fun atmosphere are legendary, though, and having more than one good artist perform simultaneously might be the best problem a festival can have.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Danielle Kenedy