On January 16th I had the pleasure of attending the 10th anniversary of Igloofest in Montreal, Quebec. Unlike many other cities, when Winter strikes Montreal, the city doesn’t shut down, it becomes absolutely electric. Rather than shunning the cold, Québécoise embraces it, reveling in the frigid temperatures and icy conditions. There are constant winter themed events and activities, with Igloofest being the pinnacle. This iconic outdoor music festival starts the second weekend of January and goes for a whole month, with three nights of artists per weekend (Thursday, Friday and Saturday.) The festival is held at the Jacques Cartier Quay in the historic Old Port of Montreal, and hosts two massive stages with overlapping acts.
I can without a doubt say that this festival was unlike any other I’ve ever experienced, most simply because the actual music seemed to come secondary to the sprawling, icy wonderland that is the festival. It served as a rhythmic, pulsing heartbeat for the event rather than being the main focus. Many of the artists were relatively small Quebec local house and EDM musicians including the headliner, Mistress Barbara. Another notable Montrealite and Hudson Mohawke collaborator, Lunice, also played the festival. Even though the artists individually had rather small followings, the event attracted nearly 25,000 people in its first weekend. While I’m sure there were some die-hard fans of the artists in the audience, the majority of the crowd didn’t seem to even notice set changes. There were no pauses in between artists, with DJ’s fluidly swapping in and out to keep the music going the entire time. Even the Igloofest website and promotional material focuses pretty much exclusively on Igloofest and its traditions, like its weekly Iglooswag contest and a host of ridiculous costumed characters.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t overly familiar with the artists. However, when dancing in the snow alongside the masses of people speaking languages from all around the world, sipping on sparkling cider purchased from a bar made of solid ice, nothing else mattered. Everything else in the world faded away and soon even the freezing temperatures didn’t faze me. It was pure winter bliss. Along with all of the ice sculptures and other winter festivities, each weekend of the festival is given a different theme for people to follow when picking their “most kitsch winter gear”, (the theme was “Fur Madness” for our weekend). While I wasn’t familiar with many of the artists, it’s not to say that the performances weren’t great. The stage featured massive screens that played dynamic visuals along with a full laser light show illuminating the audience. Mistress Barbara’s performance was especially interesting, beginning her set with a mix of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” that she prepared solely for the Igloofest stage.As an outside foreigner it was truly very special to get a first hand look at the way Montreal truly conquers Winter.
Pictured above: Montreal conquering me
Written by Kenny DuMez