It was a gloomy start to Labour Day. With the last day of the long weekend—the unofficial end of summer—and a dreary, rain-soaked day ahead, there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to get me in the mood for this one. As I headed back to Parc Jean-Drapeau for my second Piknic Électronik in as many weeks, it seemed impossible anything could top last weekend (August 25th) when Piknic joined forces with Mutek for an unbelievable day of sunshine and techno.
Then, like a miracle, the sun came out for another spectacular day. Montreal’s MEG festival took place from August 30th to September 2nd, and the annual event took over Piknic’s programming for all four days. That’s right, four days of dance music in the park! Rone and Mood II Swing headlined, while Montreal’s Misstress Barbara, who always plays on Labour Day weekend, reportedly had the biggest Piknic ever on September 1st.
The crowd wasn’t nearly as large when I showed up on September 2nd, but the people who came were big fans of French house music. MEG promotes the strong music ties between Quebec and France, and acts such as Bon Entendeur and Bellaire made the trip over from Paris for the festival. Young Montreal producer Robert Robert opened the show with a classy set for his local fans, while Bellaire played big, banging house and disco tracks under the hot midday sun.
Bon Entendeur closed the night on the main stage. They are a collective known for a popular series of mixtapes on Soundcloud. Each episode they choose a French person from the world of politics, music, or movies and pepper samples of their voice over funky dance beats. The mixes have a big following in the French-speaking world, which is why they headlined this Gallic-heavy event.
I like the French Touch sound, but it was the side stage I was most interested in exploring. After an opening set from local selector Dr. Love, Montreal’s Vilify, who now resides in Berlin, came on for a characteristically bass-heavy grime, jungle, and dubstep mix. Vilify is a celebrity in Montreal’s bass scene, so I was surprised crowd was so thin.
But then, for the highlight of the day, London’s DJ Djrum took over and stole the show. This genre-bending artist, who just released a killer boiler room mix, has been blowing up the underground beat scene. Djrum played a futuristic blend of jungle and techno, all expertly mixed on vinyl.
The genre-bending style wasn’t for everyone, and there were very few people in the crowd. But it was one of the most experimental DJ sets I’ve heard at Piknic which tends to book more crowd-pleasing artists. Djrum, a real turntablist who used the Technics like an instrument, created dreamy soundscapes by cutting and scratching on vinyl.
At one point the selector’s tonearm skidded across the record and made a horrible screeching sound. I immediately thought he did this on purpose to remind us he was playing records rather than using a laptop or CDJs like most DJs today. Djrum had very little crowd interaction, instead brooding over his records and mixer for two hours like a mad scientist. But the cold aloofness only added to the mystique of his incredible set, and it was a proper ending to a day that began so miserably.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Mike Milito