Arts & Entertainment

Ancient Future festival blends art and electronic music

Most of Montreal’s partiers end their nights seeing the sun rise from St. Laurent or St. Catherine, but rarely over Old Port’s stoic buildings and stunning views of the Saint Lawrence river. From Sept. 9 through Sept. 11 Ancient Future, Montreal’s newest electronic music festival, brought thousands of Montreal’s techno heads to the Old Port for an immersive musical experience. The festival featured house and techno headliners and pioneers like Randomer and Kerri Chandler, as well as more accessible electronic acts like Or Room, XXYYXX, TOKiMONSTA, and Montreal-native RYAN Playground.

This was only Ancient Future’s second iteration, but the project’s organizers— a group of promoters known as La Bacchanale—are already a familiar name for Montreal’s techno fans. Known for their darkened warehouse parties, La Bacchanale has gained renown throughout Montreal as curators of unique musical experiences. Inspired by their time in Paris, La Bacchanale began as a one-off birthday party for one of the founders of Ancient Future.

“The party was supposed to be intimate in the first place,” Francis Corbeil-Savage, a press representative for the Ancient Future festival, said. “We ended up renting a loft on Papineau, booking several DJs from the local scene, and creating a trippy vibe bringing more than 150 people. The party got shut down at 1:30 a.m. but I remember everyone had lots of fun.” This off-the-cuff style is characteristic of La Bacchanale’s events, even in a fully-fledged festival like Ancient Future. While the scope of the parties grows, the organizers attempt to maintain the organic and almost improvisational spirit of its founding.

Montreal is a city well-acquainted with techno as the home of venues that are both world-renowned and local favorites, such as Stereo, Datcha, and Salon Daomé. When it began, La Bacchanale was not directly associated with this scene, and they hosted their events in pop-up locations and put a greater emphasis on atmosphere rather than a specific genre. However, the bookings of bigger names like Rodhad and Robert Hood quickly led to it’s association with techno.

The festival stands on a long and impassioned history of electronic music in Montreal, and artists and organizers alike work to reconcile the old and new scenes. Emmanuel Cote and Karl Chulo, the DJ duo behind Or Room, have been performing with La Bacchanale almost since its inception.

“Last year was way more underground,” Chulo said. “This year they tried to open the festival into a new dimension. They want to bring people more from outside Montreal to reach more people with different styles. And the fact that they are trying, they’re daring, to bring so many different kinds of artists together—it’s something very interesting.”

Ancient Future maintains the underground vibe of its first parties while translating and transforming it into a larger festival format. This year Ancient Future had two outdoor stages for evening sets, while a large warehouse-like space known as Hangar 16 hosted the festival’s larger after-hours party. On Sept. 9 Hanger 16 was filled with partiers, dutifully raving the night away. The space opened out onto the water on one side and was filled with ambient light, which captured the spirit of Montreal’s underground clubs. Saturday evening’s outdoor stages were sweet and fun: Streamers, food trucks, hammocks, and the word escape in large graphic letters were among the decorations more appealing to a larger and younger audience.

The lineup this year was stocked with techno and house heavyweights but included more accessible electronic acts who stray far from the techno and house ethos, which may come as a surprise to existing fans.

“Ancient Future and La Bacchanale are not intended to embody the same musical identity,” Corbeil-Savage said. “Ancient Future will aim for a more diverse spectrum, when La Bacchanale will stick to underground techno and house [….] This year, [Ancient Future] joined the more electronica and future beats scene mainly because we realized that there was a pool of great talents from Montreal.”

Chulo and Cote both expressed that diversity in the line ups often makes for an equally diverse and open audience.

“We are expecting people really open minded here,” Chulo said. “That’s what this festival is all about.” As a new festival, Ancient Future attracts a new audience. Chulo added, “It’s people ready to hear something totally different than what you can hear at Stereo, what you can hear at every different club, at Piknic [Electronik]. It’s artists that some people have never heard before!”

“We’re going to prove [to] Montreal that we’re artists who can provide something new in Montreal,” Cote added.

In harnessing Montreal’s incredible talent, creativity, and passion for electronic music, Ancient Future upholds a longstanding electronic music tradition while breathing new life into it.


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