I’m starting this Piknic Electronik review with the good news: the latest edition of Montreal’s weekly outdoor electronic music festival was one of the best in recent memory. Not only was the weather superb, and the guest DJ’s from Spain, Pional and Sau Poler, played excellent sets of cutting-edge house and electronic music, but local DJ’s, Chuck Fever and Max Hebert, had the crowd dancing hard on the fake grass of the always groovy, Videotron Mobile stage.
I arrived midway through a performance by Bassilus C, a new project by Montreal techno artist, Jerome Guilleaume. The early afternoon crowd at the main stage was thin, so I quickly headed over to the Videotron stage where things usually heat up early. It was a good decision. DJ duo, Chuck Fever and Max Hebert, under the alias Jack’s Kartel, had the crowd bumping all day to the sound of laid-back, bass heavy house and garage. The Montreal DJ’s rocked the outdoor vibe with touches of funky French house and soulful New York garage, dropping anthems like Master’s at Work’s “Deep Inside.”
Back at the main stage, Sau Polar and Pional delivered an evening of gorgeous, laid back, sun-drenched electronic music that transported the festive crowd to an Iberian beach with a glass of sangria in hand. The Spanish selectors flew in for a special showcase of Piknic Electronik Barcelona, an offshoot of the Montreal festival. It’s a superb idea to bring in talent from Piknic’s other events around the world, and one can hope to see more guests from Piknic’s other global parties in Melbourne, Dubai, Paris, Cannes, and Lisbon.
Pional was by far the highlight of the day. The Madrid-based producer’s probing performance hit an experimental and ethereal style of house music that’s been compared to dream-pop. Frequently collaborating with fellow Spanish electronic musician John Talabot, the duo has released a handful of tracks together including “Destiny” and “It’s All Over,” and have toured together extensively. As a proper selector, Pional also dropped tunes by other producers, most notably Herbert’s dreamy, jazz-house anthem “The Audience.” The set was melodic and soulful, but with a hard-edge of driving techno beats that no doubt left the crowd thinking about packing their bags and moving to Spain.
Now the bad news: Piknic has to do something next year to improve the sound quality at the main stage.
It’s a travesty to book solid, world-class musical talent, only to have them perform on a sub-par system. If the organisers sought to emulate a club-style surround sound system, with a small stack of speakers at the front, and mobile speakers on the perimeter, it’s not working. My suggestion for next year would be to drop this set-up and replace it with a big stack of speakers in the area in front of the stage, like you would have at any other outdoor music festival. If the Piknic organisers properly dealt with these sound issues while continuing to bring in top-quality headliners, the events will truly be memorable, and Piknic will rightfully become a tourist destination like Osheaga. If not, well, I can’t guarantee fans will be so faithful to the Piknic brand next year.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by D. Niko Holmes
*edited by Danielle Kenedy