Concert Reviews Festival Review Music

KAYTRAMINÉ extends the Summer with a heated Performance at OfF Piknic 

The high-energy rapper-producer duo composed of Aminé and KAYTRANADA kicked off their joint tour in Montreal on September 7.

On Sept. 7, famed producer KAYTRANADA and Aminé—known together as KAYTRAMINÉ—kicked off their sold-out joint tour for their album of the same name in KAYTRANADA’s hometown of Montreal. The performance was held in open air at Parc Jean-Drapeau as part of OfF Piknic, a series of concerts that follows the summer-long Piknic Électronik festival. The duo played joint and then individual sets for a crowd of 8,000 people, cycling through the entirety of their collaborative album as well as songs from their respective solo catalogues.

The show included three openers. Montreal hip-hop trio Planet Giza kicked things off with a DJ set consisting mostly of vintage hip-hop, with Aminé’s tour DJ Madison LST following up with a mix of current hip-hop hits such as Ice Spice’s “Deli” and Sexyy Red’s “SkeeYee,” which lit up the crowd. Lou Phelps’ set was the perfect tone-setter for KAYTRAMINÉ: his style is a perfect blend of laid-back, chill hip-hop akin to Aminé and occasional smooth bouncy production courtesy of KAYTRANADA himself—who happens to be Lou Phelps’ blood brother. 

Just off their first track “Who He Iz?,” it became immediately clear that KAYTRAMINÉ is a captivating duo. Aminé’s rapping style is filled with confidence and conviction, and his occasional shouting of his punchlines makes boastful lines like “we make heat shit, y’all make weak shit” resonate even stronger with the crowd. KAYTRANADA matched the Portland rapper’s energy with ease, bouncing along behind the ones and twos and ad-libbing in between Aminé’s lines. 

The duo not only fed off each other, but also the crowd: Aminé’s frequent use of call-and-response had the audience namely chanting the hooks of “letstalkaboutit,” “UGH UGH” and “Master P”  back to him, as well as getting hands to bounce and people to jump throughout the crowd. Chiara Strollo, a second-year TESL student who was in attendance, commends the duo for their lively and inviting stage presence: “I love when an artist makes you feel like their friend and like you’re all there to have a good time together.”

After a brief break, Aminé would re-emerge and start performing other hits from his catalogue. He performed cuts from his 2022 and 2020 projects TWOPOINTFIVE and Limbo like “Charmander” and “Shimmy,” even going as far back as his 2017 debut album to perform “Spice Girl.” The chorus to his 2018 hit “REEL IT IN” spread through the crowd like wildfire after being suddenly dropped and the slow-burning live version of “Caroline”—his biggest solo hit—proved effective. Fans sang along before the drums finally kicked in, releasing the crowd’s bubbling hype into jumps.

KAYTRANADA followed suit with an infectious DJ set that no concertgoer could resist dancing along to. His medley of songs included his remixes of Sam Gellaitry’s “Assumptions” and Teedra Moses’ “Be Your Girl,” “LITE SPOTS,” and a yet-unreleased remix of Beyoncé’s “CUFF IT.” 

Aminé joined him once again to perform their 2015 collaboration “LA DANSE,” after giving a shout out to the Montreal producer for reaching out and gifting him with free beats during that period. The pair closed the show with some of the biggest hits on KAYTRAMINÉ such as “Rebuke” and “Sossaup,” with the Pharrell Williams-assisted lead single “4EVA” rounding out the entire performance.

Before the crowd could fully spill out amid chants of “olé olé olé,” the swarm of fans that had begun leaving ran back towards the stage as the lights dimmed down again and KAYTRANADA’s hit single “Intimidated” began playing. Fans were treated to an encore and a second serving of “4EVA,” which upped the energy and wrapped up the show on an even more lively note. 

With both artists toting the flag of their respective ethnic background (Ethiopia and Haiti), the show truly felt like a celebration commemorating their heritage, their joining of forces and the pride KAYTRANADA has brought to his home city.

Parc Jean-Drapeau proved to be an ideal venue as the outdoor area perfectly complemented the bright, bouncy and summery instrumentals on their album. Given the club-ready and danceable qualities of KAYTRANADA’s production, the space augmented the party concept to a larger extent. With volleyball courts, ping-pong tables and an entire area dedicated to food and drink trucks and merchandise, the site entertained, served, and accommodated the crowd with ease, while also leaving enough room to keep everything spread out. “It wasn’t too crowded and the overall vibe of the people was great,” Strollo explains.

KAYTRAMINÉ showed and received overwhelming love to and from the people of Montreal, successfully starting off their tour with a bang. Attendee and fourth-year human relations student Alfred Umasao describes the abundance of local artists as “Seeing Montreal artists do what they do best.” Umasao has no regrets from attending the show: “I got my money’s worth for sure.”


Shay Lia hypnotizes L’Astral with her effortless allure

Before Shay Lia mounted the platform to perform her full EP Dangerous, Jon Vinyl warmed up the crowd with his smooth vocals and song instrumentals.

The weather’s been exceedingly cold for this Montreal en Lumiere, but Vinyl managed to shelter the people from the storm through the smooth abilities of his voice. One of the tracks that he sang was “Addicted,” which spoke about a night locked in a love interest’s gaze. The Toronto-native also sang “Work” and first single “Nostalgia,” and by the time the stage was in the presence of Lia, the room had already been dancing.

Lia strode with certain gravity in her thin pumps and bell-bottom jeans, her hair poured over her cheeks like a misty waterfall. The room began to applaud as her striking beauty glistened from the darkness.

The crowd was already caught in Kaytranada’s song “Leave Me Alone,” in which she featured. The motion of her hips and oscillation of her voice pierced through the artificial fog and beams of colourful lighting on stage. The punchy rhythms of the production accompanied by the agency of her vocal range distracted from the storm already ensuing along the Ste-Catherine strip.

“Blue” was also a collaboration with Kaytranada that paints the world in the titular colour. The blue lighting loomed over Lia’s sole figure as she echoed to a missing lover, “A world of constant fear // I want to tell you everything I’ve been holding, for so long // Oh my love, I’ve been strong.” The sound of chimes and guitar riffs trickled throughout the dreamy state of the track, the crowd moving back and forth to the sadness of her tone.

Photo by Ian Alfonso

Soon after, Lia gracefully placed her cat-winged sunglasses when she was about to sing “The Cycle.” “Don’t hit my line when you’re feeling lonely,” she sang in the hook until she cruelly remarked, “you got it bad.” She threw more shade at an ex with a flow of instrumentals that seethes a grim atmosphere and synthetic beat.

Like a pendulum, Lia controlled the movement of the crowd with her musical mastery through her whole set. She also surpasses the genre through her versatility and creativity as a performer.

The crowd danced along to what the singer had to offer, but Lia was probably not so far from the others in the room. Despite her remarkable talent as a singer-songwriter, she humbly introduced herself as someone who settled in Montreal to finish her university studies.

Lia is totally underrated and holds as much talent as American contemporaries like Alex Mali, Sabrina Claudio, or SZA. As an independent artist discovered later for releasing covers online, she was long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize right after Dangerous’ release last year.

She will be performing at Osheaga this summer and will weather Canada’s freezing climate until her upcoming spring show on April 3 in Ottawa. Luckily for her fans, she seems to be here to stay––for now.

Feature photo by Ian Alfonso


Igloofest 2020: 14 years of electric winters

From embracing local hip hop to welcoming new international DJs, the festival slightly reinvents itself this year.

The biggest music festival of the winter enters the new decade, facing past concerns head-on, from diversifying and expanding its programming, to managing gender diversity and sustainability issues.

Montrealers eager to warm up by dancing on the coldest nights of the year will flock to the Quai Jacques-Cartier in the Old Port for the festival’s 14th edition, spanning over nine nights between four weekends, from Jan. 16 to Feb. 8.

This year, Igloofest seems to have found the right balance in its programming, knowing how to please its loyal festival-goers in an ever-changing electronic music landscape.

“We are aware that people’s tastes evolve, and we have always been trying to dig out future trends while pleasing our loyal audience,” said Nicolas Cournoyer, co-founder of Igloofest and Piknic Électronik.

The festival’s aspiration for trendiness might explain why they have dedicated an entire night to hip hop for the first time this year. Along with other so-called “Off-Igloo” events, the night of Jan. 30 will feature local hip hop stars, including rappers Loud and White-B, along with DJ Charlie Shulz.

Closer to Igloofest’s roots, some Montreal favourites are also making their comeback this year. Having just released a very well-received new album, Kaytranada will warm up the Sapporo stage on Feb. 1, along with High Klassified. Kaytranada’s last Igloofest appearance in 2018 broke the attendance record of the festival at that time, likely making his 2020 appearance the most anticipated show at Igloofest this year. Cournoyer said he is very proud to welcome the two DJs once more.

“It was important for us, since the very beginning, to push for Montreal artists to have a platform here,” he said. “Although at first, when we used to be much smaller, we could almost only have Montreal DJs, we still grew in a way that would allow space for emerging local talent.”

With that goal in mind, Cournoyer said that in the early 2010s, the festival decided to build a second stage, dedicated strictly to Montreal artists, that would compensate for the arrival of international DJs. Voyage Funktastique and Cri are among the favourite local stars that had participated in the first editions of Igloofest to come back this year.

Igloofest has diversified itself in many ways — its lineup encompasses many genres, from EDM to house, hip hop to techno, but also with guests from all over the world, and a growing presence of women artists.

Cournoyer said that gender equality is a priority for his festival. “We are flirting with parity in our lineup this year,” he said. “We have been very lucky to find exceptional women artists, such as Nina Kraviz and Charlotte de Witte.” This will be minimal techno DJ de Witte’s second performance in Montreal, following a successful show at Osheaga last summer.

If festival-goers had been complaining about lack of representation of women in music festivals recently, they also raised important questions regarding sustainability. Cournoyer said that Multicolore, the company responsible for Igloofest and Piknic Électronik, will do more this year, as past editions’ efforts might not have been enough to reduce their environmental footprint.

Not only does he claim they will try to compensate for the gas emissions caused by the transportation of their guests by planting hundreds of trees, he says Igloofest will also ban plastic water bottles and will bring reusable cups and straws this year.

Once the festival comes to an end, Montrealers can measure if these efforts have been successful. Until then, they can fight off winter blues by dancing to their favourite DJs.

For more details about the programming, visit


Photos by Youmna El Halabi

Music Quickspins


 Kaytra’s sophomore album doubles down on what made 99.9% so entrancing

When producers make their own albums, they’re mostly messy. Oftentimes, they’re lacking in cohesiveness or interesting tracks, but mainly, they’re boring. Kaytranada is a modern exception to this.

Bubba, the newest unannounced album from the Montreal native, isn’t a successor to 99.9% by name, but it sure feels like the next logical step. The sounds aren’t quite different from his previous effort, but this record is yet another compilation of dance-ready tracks with solid features and wonderful instrumentals.

Beginning with one of the few tracks to not feature a guest, “DO IT” is an uneventful way to start the album. The beat feels janky at times, but thankfully it’s short enough to be only a blip. The following track, “2 The Music,” is where the party truly starts as Iman Omari’s vocals on the track are soothing and lively.

Mick Jenkins, Kali Uchis, and Masego are the stars of the show. Their respective tracks are fiery and continue to prove that performing alongside a Kaytra beat is a surefire way to make a banger.

Sonically, Kaytra focuses on what he does best, but he also does his best at creating Afrobeats-style instrumentals and executes them with a high degree of success, especially on “Vex Oh” featuring Eight9FLY, GoldLink, and Ari PenSmith.

Bubba, like 99.9%, is a full-length album surpassing the 50-minute mark, but still manages to be entertaining to the very end without any lulls or misfires on the entirety of the tracklist.

The album bears a striking resemblance to his previous effort and there probably would have been bigger payoffs had Kaytra taken a few more risks, but the Montreal producer stuck to his guns and dropped a wonderful dance album to cap off the decade.

Rating: 8.5/10

Trial Track: 10% (feat. Kali Uchis)

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Phonte – Pacific Time EP

Phonte, a velvet voice and frontman of Little Brother, one of the most important underground rap groups of the 2000s gave fans a treat to get them to summer. Pacific Time is a four-track waterslide in the sunshine. While Phonte is known for his whip-smart bars and folding flows, he has always impressed with his R&B persona, and this tape has him singing at his smoothest. The opener, “Can We,” is a gorgeous ode to a lazy day with a partner. It’s the most fleshed out idea on the project, and the longest track at four minutes. The other standout moment is a classic Phonte verse on the Kaytranada-produced closer, “Heard This One Before.” Pacific Time could have been an excellent R&B album, but its 10-minute length makes it feel inconsequential. Still, that opener is a must-add for your bedroom playlist.


Trial Track: “Can We”

Star Bar: “’Cause life’s a B when your E-Y-E’s can’t seize the intangibles
It’s like stumbling and tumbling through a drum machine
So kids, read the Lin-Manuel
Miranda Rights, no plans tonight” – Phonte on Heard This One Before (feat. BOSCO & KAYTRANADA)


Lou Phelps gets higher

Montreal rapper is ready to break out with his brother Kaytranada

Previously, Louis-Philippe Celestin may have simply been known as Montreal producer Kaytranada’s brother. Now, he is a standalone artist known as Lou Phelps.

On Friday evening, Le Belmont hosted Montreal hip hop fans for a memorable night of local talent. Montreal West Island rapper Maky Lavender first took the stage at 11 p.m., sipping from a straw in his bottle of Tanqueray gin. Beginning his set with “Fairview Term,” Lavender’s charisma and vibrant presence set the precedent for the hours of lively hip hop to come.

While DJ NMK may have initiated a “SIP! SIP! SIP!” chant for Maky to sip from the bottle, it was the crowd that quickly turned this request into “CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!” at the end of every song.

“Y’all are absolutely crazy. It’s like you want me to die,” Maky said with a smile on his face.

Gin in one hand and mic in another, Maky Lavender spits while he sips on stage. Photo by Louis Pavlakos

Tony Stone of Planet Giza hopped on stage to perform his feature on their crowd-pleasing song, “Keep Up.” Maky went on to sing “Ukannafo (The Susan Song)” with fans hollering the chorus right back at him. Hours later, Maky could be seen standing on top of the DJ booth at Apt. 200, still sipping.

After a brief intermission, Phelps opened up with “Uptempo,” a collaboration song by him and his brother, Kaytranada, under the name The Celestics. Calm and collected, Phelps’s stage presence was a mix of cocky and humble, flawlessly delivering his verses to a packed venue. Stone was called back on stage to perform the Planet Giza-featured tracks, “Fun N Games” and “2 Seater,” off of Phelp’s newest album, 002 / LOVE ME. The two performers showed off their chemistry and crowd swaying abilities throughout the set.

Phelps’s track “Average” off his first album 001: Experiments showed the first signs of a mosh pit within the crowd. He was able to temporarily calm this down by requesting that the audience squat down for his intro to “Want To (For the Youth),” but the chorus drop found the crowd right back where it left off. The energy only escalated from there when “Miss Phatty” came through the speakers, one of the lead singles from his sophomore album.

Continuing with his most recent hits, Phelps performed “Squeeze” and then called artist Pony to the mic to sing their collaboration song, “Tasty.” Yet, the reaction to “Come Inside” made it clear that it was one of the songs the audience was waiting for. Phelps played “Higher” after asking “Montreal, you trying to get higher?,” and went on to close his set with “Come Inside” for the second time. This time, he had a different guest to accompany him. After walking on stage to cheers and applause, Kaytranada hugged his brother and got behind the DJ booth to spin the track that he produced.

Phelps and his brother in the zone. Photo by Louis Pavlakos

Phelps thanked the crowd for their love and support and exited the stage. However, Kaytranada was the DJ for the rest of the night and played a variety of mixes, both his own and other artists’s. This treat kept fans on the dance floor and the vibes up all night long.

For a man who has played at international festivals with crowds of thousands, and collaborated with huge artists, it is admirable that one can still catch Kaytranada spinning for 100 people at Le Belmont on a Friday night. If only passerbys walking down St. Laurent knew who was playing inside.

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