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Beats, Booze and Braving the Cold

by Archives January 27, 2009

So this being my second year in Montreal, I finally “get” the winter here. You have to suck it up, stop bitching, and drink – drink lots. Igloofest, although not my usually choice of venue, seemed like a better alternative to trudging up and down St. Laurent, going to the same bars with the same people.
So, first I checked the forecast for Saturday, Jan. 24: -33 degrees with the wind-chill. Awesome. Then I dug out my long underwear and Parka, layering up so I could properly boogie down – by boogie down I mean dance really awkwardly and self-consciously.
Hopping on the metro, I had my first run-in with Igloofesters. They were two dudes dressed in ironic early 90s full-body snowsuits, clinging onto glo-sticks and giving the impression of being on some stimulants – could have been Redbull, could have been red pills. These arctic-ravers were harmless though, and like me, just wanted to get outside and hear some beats.
Finally getting acclimatized to the balmy -33 degree evening, Ben, the newspaper’s photographer, and I walked down to the Jacques Cartier Quay and got in the line. When we got inside, there was probably already 600 people raving, at about 11:30 p.m.
We missed the first three DJs, but were able to catch the headliner, Spanish DJ Damian Schwartz. He was spinning minimal techno, blaring deep bass drops and robotic drum sequences, and the crowd was loving it.
I saw more of those ironic full-body snow suits, some in neon green and pink, and lots of people wearing ski goggles. Then it all got a bit blurry, and the booze hit me, while I tried to focus on the music bouncing around the semi-enclosed space, ping-ponging off of the steel rafters.
Outside of the main stage area, people hung out in real igloos and sat on ice sculptures, and others stood by small bonfires to warm up. I also noticed that every stall was selling energy-drink inspired cocktails – I bet a Rye & Ginger would have some caffeine or energy elixir mixed into it. Rave culture and dance music is all about “energy,” I guess.
Just as I became overcome with my own energy of a sugar high, short-lived buzz, and beginnings of a hangover, Ben suggested we make our way into the crowd of dancers, and I haphazardly agreed. As we pushed past people, I noticed the crowd was quite mixed, spotting a 45-year-old cougar on my left, and a pocket of 18-year-old students to my right.
The attendees were totally into the music, constantly bobbing up and down and pumping their fists. But what really impressed me was people crowd surfing and moshing, at an outdoor electronic music event, in -33 weather.
It wasn’t what I imagined – I thought people would be huddled together in a tight circle like a bunch of penguins, making groaning sounds, in agony. Quite the opposite. It was really as if the weather was the furthest thing from their minds – which it should be, since you can’t do a damn anything about it (except maybe move closer to the equator).
Igloofest was every reason why Quebecers are probably less depressed during the winter than Anglos, since to them the phrase, “it’s too cold out” takes a backseat to “La Joie de Vivre.” I recommend Igloofest to anyone who is open to electronic music and the possibility of looking like a dork, as a way of experiencing a hybrid-culture that is uniquely Québécois. Just don’t forget your tuque.

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