Around this time of year, a meme resurfaces online that shows a glum, tuque bearing cartoon who ponders: "The air hurts my face―why am I living where the air hurts my face?" Frankly, that's a damn good question. In Canada, January is a month that grants us a few meager hours of daylight, pollutes the world with waterproof wear, and turns so bloody cold outside that our iPhones go from 100 to zero, real quick. But in Montreal, the air peeling away your skin is not an excuse to evade a party. It's more of a reason to party.
Igloofest, started this weekend, January 16-18, the first of four weekends of the valiant, outdoor winter dance music festival that makes the Bonhomme Carnaval look like peasantry. Each January, the Old Port of Montreal transforms into a beacon of partying; one the weak have long abandoned for legwarmers and Netflix binges. What started as a single weekend back in 2007 by the organizers of Piknic Electronik has since developed into a critically acclaimed event by both snow revelers and artists. This year will be Igloofest's ninth and their roster boasts of names like Loco Dice, Oliver Heldens, Justin Martin, Flosstradamus, John Digweed, Keys N Krates, Tiga, and Dubfire over the next month.
This year's inaugural weekend kicked off on Friday with Detroit Swindle and Gui Boratto, but Saturday's Dirtybird charged lineup enticed quite a few more heavily layered fans to the Old Port.
Weaving through ice sculptures and snowball fights, the sounds of Talal & Zoi ricocheted through the bitter air and forced blood back to our extremities. For the prototypical flower crowned kings and queens, -25 degrees is a cruel and unforgiving temperature that rattles your jaw for more than the obvious reasons. Dancers needed a reason to keep moving and an even better reason to stay outside. So the up-tempo joys of J.Phlip and Kill Frenzy's back-to-back set were a godsend to our blood flow. Tech-house, techno and deep house rang through the grounds and invigorated frigid patrons and volunteers―even those whizzing down the ice slide were grooving along.
Justin Martin's set gave impetus to the final stretch of the subzero evening. Fresh off a stint on the infamous Holy Ship!, and Mexico's BPM Justin worked the fervent crowd into over-drive with his deep sub bass, bizarre samples and organic beats. The pseudo Vine star teased us with his track off the forthcoming commemorative album for DirtyBird Records, Dirtybird 10, called "Function." For anyone who's had the album's previews on loop like we have, the surprise was an instant highlight.
Igloofest prides itself on being slightly genre selective. Its main focus has been with house and techno, but it has nourished many nights with bass. It was on Sunday that the bass crowd took Igloofest domination.
After Saturday's unbearable wind chill, the temperature on Sunday had risen significantly. The crowd came back with a vengeance and thrust their gloves up to Gaslamp Killer's absurd set of psych-rock, live scratching and J-Dilla. Flosstradamus drew a rowdy bunch who, unlike the shivering on Saturday, treasured the carpets of snow that unrelentingly came down from gates open to gates close. The HDY Boys laid out a set loyal to their hip-hop disciples, whose response to the proverbial "Original Don" was to initiate a slushy mosh pit of bouncing tuque pom-poms. It was sloppy, yet picturesque scene of soaked scalps and strewn Sapporo's.
To help alleviate the urge to profess your love for 'the coco' while with #HDYNATION, the more underground, deep house tinted sets by Montrealers Project Pablo, Karl Chulo and Thomas White were readily available at the Scène Vidéotron Mobile stage throughout both nights. (Hallelujah.)
Winter is visibly at the core of this festival, thus appropriate attire is compulsory. As a woman who has conquered her fair share of festivals that resemble petty catwalks, I found the sweeping snowsuit apparel was sacred. All the typical woes that put a strain on happy festival-ing melt away when surrounded by fellow down-feather Michelin men and women.
And if you're looking for a real ice-breaker, toss on a Sapporo sumo-suit and try your hand at a three-on-three hockey match. Inflating your body's circumference an extra 15 inches (to the point where you can't see your own feet), while whacking at a puck, will provide bruises and new buddies.
It's not just us Canadians who defy Mother Nature at Igloofest. A herd of men cocooned each other with flags and jumped in unison chanting "Me-xi-co! Me-xi-co!" A trio of 18-year-old Brazilian girls were proudly telling everyone in the girl's washroom how thrilled they were to be in Canada. Even a couple American flags were spotted blanketing those trembling by the fire pit roasting marshmallows.
This is only the beginning, as Igloofest continues for three more weekends and host some of the industry's most distinguished talent in a city otherwise off limits this time of year. Don't let this review stifle the hope for a reprisal―there is plenty more time to make snow angels via two-stepping.
Overall, there is a feeling of rebelliousness to Igloofest―a defiance of climate, a test of will, the ultimate showdown of ravers versus the natural elements. From far and wide, the True North, strong and free will continue to party on our own terms. Eh?
Igloofest will continue on January 23-25, January 30-February 1, and February 6-8. You can grab tickets here.
All photos by Arthur Rad