After a week of chilly weather, Montreal crowds knew what they signed up for when they headed to Igloofest. Vieux-Port is hosting the annual music festival, which is now halfway over after a second weekend of survival dancing in neon snowsuits.
I volunteered to join the crowds and report back, so last Friday I suited up and travelled south to scope out the ‘club-ification’ of Montreal’s historic district. The Jacques-Cartier pavilion—a tourist info centre in the summer—houses a shop to buy Igloofest hats, warm up, and rally one’s troops. Between marshmallow roasting and table-curling stations, a structure sponsored by Jagermeister let people sample their wares before careening down an ice slide. I was sorely tempted, but instead found myself drawn to the main stage by another German attraction—Berliner DJs: Pan-Pot. Both artists succeeded in playing enough techno to keep everyone warm, with much of the audience raving like it was the ’90s (in ski jackets from the same era).
If I was comfortably numb on Friday, Saturday’s feature duo, TNGHT, had me sweating under my parka hood. Normally, this could be attributed to giddy nervousness in anticipation of talking to Montreal native Lunice; but I was informed earlier that day that he had declined to do an interview. Instead, fuelled by a mixture of electronic trap tunes I’ve been listening to for weeks, I fought and danced my way to the front row. From this vantage point, I noticed that TNGHT’s other half, UK producer Hudson Mohawke, was conspicuously missing, leaving his Canadian collaborator to mix all by his lonesome. A Brit I talked to later on had come to see Mohawke specifically, yet did not notice his absence. Perhaps Mohawke has moved to bigger and better venues since signing with Kanye West’s vanity label G.O.O.D. Music. But I wasn’t bitter—just a little cold.
My theory is that as a Montrealer, Lunice alone realized the advantages of playing at Vieux-Port. All things considered, it’s an incredible space. From the artists’ perspective, colourful neon signs and strobe lights illuminate an enormous, enthusiastic crowd against the backdrop of Old Montreal’s skyline. The organizers clearly put some effort into both the elaborate ice sculptures and the delightfully juvenile sideshows. The eponymous igloo of the festival works well as a more intimate stage for smaller acts, and I can see it serving as an especially good space for the garage and trance music that’s bound to be played in upcoming weekends. I plan on going back on the last Saturday of the festival to see Joy Orbison, an UK producer, who, despite his Igloofest-appropriate music, will be playing to a main stage crowd.
The festival makes for an entertaining weekend, especially if you’re a fan of Igloofest co-organizer Piknik Electronik’s annual summer series (or, if you’re simply tired of dealing with coat checks). In 2013, the festival failed to score the same EDM giants they did last year (i.e., Diplo and A-Trak), but the wide variety of smaller international acts have, thus far, proven themselves capable of holding down a heated dance party off the coast of a frozen river.
Igloofest runs Thursday through Saturday nights at Vieux-Port until Feb. 9th. Weekend admission is $40, individual nights range from $16-20.