When it comes to programming, Igloofest—Montreal's famed annual winter electronic music festival—still skews towards a slightly older, more traditional audience. Case in point: the two biggest nights of this year's eleventh edition were headlined by techno and house veterans Laurent Garnier and Carl Cox.
On the other hand, February 2 was all about the kids. Montreal-based Kannibalen crew member, "vomitstep" inventor, and OWSLA affiliate Snails, and his many loyal subjects—many of them clad in toques and sweaters bearing the DJ's instantly recognizable logo—took over the icy grounds in the city's Old Port. It's not often that Igloofest organizers will put a new era EDM artist on its main stage, but for a local hero who's set to play the revered 9,525-capacity Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado this September, exceptions can be made.
Sure enough, the Sainte-Émélie-de-l'Énergie native—who first played the festival four years ago opening the night on the side tent—rewarded bookers with an angsty, teen-friendly set of viscous drops, along with Drowning Pool, Alice Deejay, Eurythmics, and System of a Down tracks. Not your usual Igloofest fare. For their part, the thousands of kids in attendance loved every minute of it, opening the floor at the DJ's behest to aggressively mosh in sub-zero temperatures. Early forecasts predicted minus 20 degrees Celsius, but in the end it was closer to minus 10.
Over at the side stage—where experimentation is not only welcomed but expected—the howling wolves of, well, "Wolves," could be heard during Fractal Fantasy first couple Sinjin Hawke and Zora Jones' joint set. In-between moments devoted to their innovative A/V project—Jason Voltaire provided visuals on this night—they mechanized the already mechanical Travis Scott, and remixed other choice hip-hop cuts. The pair had end-to-end smiles on their faces throughout, and their energy was infectious.
Was Snails' appearance at Igloofest the start of a change in philosophy for the fest? Has his success opened the door for the Skrillex's of the world to get booked? Probably not, but it's always reassuring to see a Montreal institution take some chances when it comes to who's on the decks. (Although it would be nice to see a couple of big name female headliners in 2018.)
For Snails, dressed in a fan-made Montreal Canadians jersey with a snail logo, the night was a chance to reflect upon the last four years. "The last time I was here there was 25 people watching, including my mom," he told THUMP backstage before his set. "I told her then I was going to make her proud, and here I am four years later with my Kannibalen crew."
As an experienced Igloofester with an expertise in sock layering, the producer also had advice for first-time artists and attendees alike: "Every time I've been here I've gotten so wasted. It's always so cold here, so if I'm going to survive, I'll need a few drinks," he said with a laugh. "I also always make sure to come here with friends—you need friends and to not think too much to have fun here. I think of Igloofest as a religion, or just a poutine—it's something people from here are proud of."