This was easily one of my best days this summer. Two of Montreal ‘s electronic music institutions, Piknic Électronik and Mutek, joined forces again for their annual techno smorgasbord at Parc Jean-Drapeau, serving up some sexy beats next to the mighty St Lawrence river. Students soaked up the last days before school. And, with clear blue skies and gorgeous weather, this was, as the kids say, “epic.”
I’ve been to many Piknic’s, but for the first time, I was actually at the main stage when the music started. I thought the first DJ, up-and-coming selector Danielle from Bristol, UK, would open with some dreamy atmospheric sounds and sci-fi movie samples. But no, this being the last day of Mutek, the pounding four-on-the-floor rhythm started immediately. She played classic UK techno and bass music with bleeps and droid-sounds the Mutek crowd usually eats up. But, unfortunately, there were very few people dancing. It must have been the exposed location in the blazing sun that kept them in their seats.
Over the leafy and shaded side stage, local DJ Massyl was holding it down early. When Montreal’s Bamboo Herman took over and laid down dirty, greasy beats, the crowd started to simmer. There was a cloud of smoke hanging over the side stage all afternoon, and the people looked more relaxed than I can remember at Piknic. It must have been the heat or something else I can’t put my finger on.
Bamboo Herman had the crowd coasting along like one of those big boats on St Lawrence. Her set was popping so hard I think the next act, young Turkish producer Aleksandir, let her do her thing for an extra thirty minutes. By the time the young man took over, the people were in such a good mood that he could have played Céline Dion tracks and no one would have minded. Luckily, that didn’t happen and he dropped interesting deep cuts with a Middle Eastern flavour.
With the sun setting behind the skyline, I wandered back to the main stage to check out Canadian techno producer Mike Shannon. The crowd had increased considerably and it was now impossible to get close to the stage without raising my elbows and plowing through a pack of young girls. So, I stayed near the back with a bucket of some mystery alcohol and listened to Shannon’s funky techno.
The highlight of the day was a performance by the legendary Detroit duo Octave One. Mutek has always been about live techno, and producers often show up for their sets with an army of analogue synths and digital instruments. And the Motor City duo didn’t disappoint! They played a high energy set on gear that could have been used to launch a space shuttle. The only problem was that with thousands of people packing the area in front of the stage, I couldn’t see anything except two heads bobbing up and down from behind a wall of gear in time with the beat.
And, as the sunset on a spectacular day in the park, the last day of Mutek came to a close. I didn’t check out much of the festival this year, but it was the twentieth edition. I always have the Mutek takeover of Piknic circled on my calendar because it’s like a nerdy techno snob dressed in black and stroking his chin meets the sexy, tanned house music fan. I’m already preparing for the 21st edition.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy