In my last review of Piknic Électronik, I compared the alternate sounds of techno and dubstep (as well as the vibe) on the festival’s two stages. This week, without the distraction of an epic battle between genres, I could focus on what has made Piknic famous: big, booming, four-on-the-floor beats. But I also noticed something potentially more important. Women are killing it in dance music!
Aside from this week’s guest The Black Madonna, three other women headlined or will be headlining Piknic in September: Nicole Moudaber, Honey Dijon, and Montreal’s Misstress Barbara. What is really impressive is that they are headliners, meaning that Piknic is counting on their notoriety and name recognition to draw as many people at the gate as possible. Dance music is notoriously male-centred, so kudos to Piknic for reversing the norm.
But what about the music? Local electro-pop artist Félix Gauthier Mongeon (AKA Radiant Baby) opened the day on the main stage. Back in 2016, I was on hand when Mongeon performed a live set of original music as opener for Peaches. It turns out that Mongeon is also a pretty good DJ, and on Sunday he warmed up the afternoon crowd with sublime disco house and electro. The selections were ideal for a beautiful sunny day, touching on many styles of dance music, including Cajmere’s “Feelin’ Kinda High” and some funky New York garage beats.
As the sun set with the Jacques Cartier Bridge peeking over the main stage, Bamboo Herman got the crowd bumping with an excellent selection of classic techno and house tunes to heat up the party. Hermann grew up in Montreal, was raised by “a Canadian goose and a Swiss watch” (according to Facebook), and is currently based in London, UK. The sound was vintage, greasy electro “with a spoonful of ladyboy realness,” and I was really happy to hear Kraftwerk’s “We Are the Robots.” Considering the influence and magnitude of the mighty Kraftwerk, I was surprised at how infrequently I hear DJs play their songs.
Over on the Moog stage, the crowd was light, but the techno was perfect for the beautiful weather. On a sunny day, good DJs and artists know that the crowd won’t always enjoy aggressive and upfront beats. It’s just more fun to chill in the sun and listen to relaxing music. Bassilus C and Groj know what’s up, and their minimal but groovy techno was perfect for the conditions.
And finally, one of the current leading lights of Chicago’s house scene, The Black Madonna, stepped behind the decks. As Mixmag’s DJ of the year in 2016, The Black Madonna has received plenty of respect recently in the dance music world, so I was really curious to see if she lived up to the hype. Her set was good, touching on disco and the classic Windy City house sound, going quite deep at times in keeping with the chilled out selections of the day. The crowd seemed to want something a little harder and edgier from her though and didn’t respond as well as they did for last week’s headliner Nicole Moudaber. I’ve noticed this year that house and classic disco grooves (The Black Madonna’s speciality) works better in the afternoon with the dark sound of techno ruling the night.
As this was my last trip to Piknic this year, I wish you a happy fall and see you at Igloofest!
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Lia Davis