Never heard of it? Well you’re about to learn!
My friends and family thought I was insane when I told them I was flying to Montreal for an outdoor music festival in January. Who wants to dance outside on a pier in frigid -10 degrees Fahrenheit? Well, that would be me. I’ve survived worse living in Wisconsin my whole life, and if anything, this sounded like a new challenge. Dancing, not just to have fun, but for survival. This Igloofest Montreal turned out to be, in my opinion, one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. Small in scale, but big in character.
Knowing the city
Just a few highlights about Montreal if you aren’t familiar with this hidden gem of a city. As it was my first trip there, I did as much research as I could, but there was still a bit of a culture shock.
- Everyone speaks French. Montreal is like a little slice of European heaven in North America. Although you don’t need to speak French to find your way around, it definitely helps. The locals speak English too but they appreciate it if you can at least say a few phrases. A “pardon” will be better received in a crowd than an “excuse me.”
- The drinking age is 18. For you young ravers out there, no need to hide your alcohol!
- It’s eco-conscious. When I bought a pin I told the girl I was going to put it right on my hat, so she asked if she could keep the little plastic bag for other customers. Even straws are only on request, and they’re made of paper, not plastic.
Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is everywhere. From the grocery store to the hotel, restaurants, and even the radio, we heard electronic music all over the city. In the U.S., Electronic Dance Music is sort of, let’s say, suppressed. Hearing one of my
favoriteLane 8 tracks while having drinks at a four star restaurant was a refreshing change from the top 40 bullshit I usually endure.
Located on a pier on the St. Lawrence River, this two-stage outdoor festival spans across three weekends–nine whole days of freezing your ass off. Though the lineups mostly consisted of local talent with only two big headliners per day, Igloofest Montreal really delivered some heavy hitters. My boyfriend and I opted for the second weekend since it had the most enticing lineup, and man; was it exceptional.
Each day had its own genre: House, Trance, and Techno. Day one catered to my taste the most featuring Night Bass daddies, Chris Lake and AC Slater. The second day brought out the Anjuna gods, Above and Beyond, as well as Spencer Brown. Day three was all techno all night, with legend Chris Liebing and Mind Against. Needless to say, I was stoked to get so many high-caliber artists in one weekend!
Day to Day
The first day the temperature wasn’t too bad hitting around 18 degrees at its coldest. We started the night lounging at some of their fire pits and roasted marshmallows. But as soon as I heard a Night Bass track, we hastily made our way to the crowd. It did rain earlier that day, so it put a little damper on things since the ground was slippery. But no way was that going to stop me from dancing my heart out at AC Slater and Chris Lake. Both came out full force with amazing sets and the crowd was loving them! I never thought I’d see someone shuffling on pure ice. Montrealers go HARD you guys!
Day two of Igloofest had completely different vibes. Though it was colder than day one, coming in around 5 degrees, you could feel the warm Anjunafam presence among the people from the very beginning. It took me more than a couple songs to rally myself for Spencer Brown since my toes were basically numb. But with the help of my sweet boyfriend and the draw of the crowd, I was able to thaw them out and dance.
When Spencer Brown played “Windows 95 on Acid”, you could just see a smile wash over every moving body, including Spencer himself. It was a great start to a night that I had extremely high expectations for since it was my first Above and Beyond show. And they did more than deliver an incredible experience for me. Singing along to their beloved hits, with the man I love, our new friends, and a few thousand strangers in the bitter cold was nothing short of life-affirming.
It was such a draining previous day, we took it easy on the last one. We mostly bounced between fire pits, warmed our toes at the ice bar, and sipped Irish Coffees. The techno crowd was a lively one, dancing from stage to stage focused solely on the beat. I had very little experience with true techno, so seeing Chris Liebing and Mind Against build their sets from a simple beat all the way to their climactic finales was sensational. It was an outstanding end to an outstanding festival.
Will I return?
Igloofest is definitely a little different from your average festival, but not just because of the temperature. Once you get passed your freezing toes, which no matter how many socks you layer they will get cold, you can see what really makes this festival stand out. Go for the high-quality artist lineup and stay for the local culture. Montreal is a beautiful city with truly amazing people, and I left a part of myself there when I flew home. Don’t worry Igloofest, I’m coming back for you next year!