IleSoniq returned to Île Ste Hélène on August 9th and 10th for two days of beats, bros, torrential rain and dramatic thunderstorms. Yes, the weather didn’t cooperate on opening day, and there were long music stoppages. I think the theme of day one was the rain and the low volume of the music, and people complaining about the rain and the low volume of the music. The sun eventually came out and those who returned for day two were blessed with spectacular sunshine and beats.
Let me break IleSoniq down for you. There are three stages at the festival, each one featuring a different genre of electronic music. There’s, of course, a lot of EDM with uplifting, high-pitched vocals and progressive beats. This style is usually reserved for the big stage with bright lights, robotic projections, and pyrotechnics. Then there’s bass-heavy rap and dubstep. Most of these artists played at the Mirage Stage, with a few exceptions. Finally, deep house and techno were well represented at the excellent Neon Stage, which is where I spent most of the second day.
My festival started at Mirage while the sun was still out. Canadian trap producer Murda Beatz came on for a criminally early 2:00 pm set with only the most diehard fans in the crowd. Later, Boombox Cartel played a mix of dubstep and trap. But the big guns on the rap stage, Lil Pump and Smokepurp, seemed at home with the young festival crowd. Lil Pump’s set was full of drug references, especially the track “Molly.” Projections of his name on the side of pills, and a Pac Man gobbling up pills summed up the vibe. Finally, Bad Bunny brought a Latin flavour to close out day one at the Mirage.
While at the Neon stage listening to bass music don G Jones, I noticed the weather was beautiful and calm as the crowd raged hard to his gritty bass music. Suddenly, an ominous voice came on the PA announcing the festival was delayed because of the weather. I wandered around aimlessly trying to figure out the reason for the delay, hoping to catch the closing set by dubstep guru Liquid Stranger. It turned out to be the calm before the storm because it started pouring rain.
After a long delay, the main stage miraculously started again with some massive, crowd-pleasing tunes from Marshmello. The American DJ-producer came on with heavy rain still falling, and I was amazed the festival wasn’t cancelled for the rest of the day. Many people also complained on social media about the low volume at the main stage. My favourite Facebook quote regarding the sound I had to translate from French: “the best drop was the dude who smashed into the sidewalk!”
Marshmellow wore a giant, well, marshmallow mask and played festival classics like Alice DJ’s “Better Off Alone” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” It was a positive message of hope to end a gloomy day full of crazy weather and delays.
I was expecting the same gloomy conditions on the second day. But when I left the metro at Parc Jean-Drapeau the sun was out and it was shaping up to be a glorious day. While day one was spent wandering around trying to avoid the rain, most of the second day I camped out at the consistently dope I Love Neon stage. Every year, the local promoters take over a stage and curate a deeper, more underground sound for the old-school heads like me.
Neon featured an incredible line up of deep house, trance, and hard techno. Local hero Adam Husa set the tone, along with a great set by Willaris. K. But the highlights of day two were sets by Anjunadeep artists Yotto and Lane 8. These guys expertly read the vibe and dropped chilled out sets in the afternoon sun, occasionally hitting with big bombs to wake people from their haze. To close out the night, the “Queen of Techno” Nicole Moudaber delivered a typically massive and dark set. While the sound was an issue at the other stages, the Neon system sounded crisp and tight.
I wandered over to the main stage to see what was happening. KSHMR, who also played at the festival in 2017, was back again with more over the top dance music, bad visuals, and annoying yelling into the microphone. “Montreal, are you fucking with me?” and “let me see your hands!” were constantly repeated. Anjunadeep heavyweights Above & Beyond closed out the main stage on day two.
Of course, there were other big-time sets by dubstep dons Snails and Excision, but there were far too many performances to mention everything. The cool thing about IleSoniq is there’s not many ‘must-see’ performers like at Heavy Montreal or Osheaga. I spent most of the festival discovering new music and I’ll bet no two reviews are the same because everyone checks out what sounds good at the moment, rather than going for a specific artist. If the weather would magically cooperate all weekend and the sound turned up to a proper level, IleSoniq would be the highlight of the summer.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Mike Milito