June 21, 2011

Sach O avoided sunburn while drinking copious amounts of white wine. He’s going to tell you about it.

If you see DJs frantically performing reverse rain dances in Montreal, you know Piknic season has arrived. The climatically superior brother of Igloofest, Piknic Electronik is the city’s 21st century bread and circuses: a weekly, mainstream,  outdoor event featuring world class DJs and local talents spinnin’ a few choons for an easy-going audience of hungover ravers, happy families and everyone in between. Neither pretentious nor pandering in vibe or bookings, it’s pretty much the single coolest thing to do on a Sunday in Montreal, rivaled only by the long running Tam-Tams. I tend to alternate between the two depending on who’s playing and the heartiest locals and tourists have been known to attend both.
Of course, as in all things Montreal, Piknic revolves around the whims of the weather as torrential rains can occasionally derail things. They won’t actually cancel the event unless it’s truly hopeless but dancing in the sun beats dancing in the rain any day of the week and poor weather was enough to prevent me from catching House don Julio Bashmore the previous week. Thankfully, the skies were clear this week and by 3PM, the space was slowly filling up with a mix of the party-hearty and not-quite-partied-out, all carrying picnic baskets. Except us.

In all fairness, Piknic’s got a great alcohol policy: you can bring in a reasonable amount (a bottle of wine, a few cans of beer) as long as you ALSO bring in food. Unfortunately, having just eaten an epic Fathers day brunch, my brother and I had neglected our usual arsenal of sandwiches to go along with the vino and were required to purchase a meal voucher. No biggie, but for future reference: they’re not kidding about this being a picnic so for maximum enjoyment and minimal hassle, pack a substantial snack along with your tasty refreshments.

Photo by Miguel Legault

Entrance issues settled, we popped bottles like mid 90s rappers at a video shoot and began to (moderately, sensibly) enjoy a day of music and wine. We also ran into Thomas Odumade who you might remember from such sites as… this one. Now, I didn’t actually know Thomas – dude is visiting town on vacay – and as far as I knew Thomas was a message board icon of a middle aged white dude. Suffice to say he is not. Last name should have tipped me off. In any case, he turned out to be a chill bro and we quickly found a spot to enjoy the music.

First up on the main stage was HEAR, a longtime flag carrier for the Montreal techno scene. While I’m personally not up on my minimal tech, I definitely enjoyed the vibes and flawless mixing with the mood landing somewhere between the sharper edges of Detroit and straight-up European style machine music. Quite a contrast to the sunny surroundings but that’s the beauty of this event: it takes electronic music out of the clubs and into a totally different environment, to great results.

We then headed to the event’s second stage to check out the Swing & Skip crew. I’ve breathlessly praised these guys before so I won’t repeat myself but its great to see HGLDT, Backlash and Hissy Fit grow from the city’s alternative little-guys to Djs with a weekly residency and the opportunity to play out big time events to faces who probably think “Future Garage” is where you park a hover car. The sets were breezy but always creative, with Backlash dropping Girl Unit remixes, Hissy Fit delivering a full-on production showcase complete with Dizzee Rascal acapella (thanks dude) and HGLDT going into some deep, moody garage as the sun went down. A fantastic booking on behalf of the festival and one I hope to see again next year.

Then there were the headliners whom I’m admittedly completely unfamiliar with. I’m sure Dominik Eulberg and Mono-Poly & Fu Ancko mean a lot to people into that scene but I’d be at a loss to describe their music any more specifically than “techno.” It was good techno though and by then, we were all in a festive mood, eating hot dogs, meeting new friends and enjoying the dance as day slipped into night. That’s really the key to this event, whether you’re a huge fan of the DJs or whether you have no idea what kind of music they play, it’s a fun day out and at 12$, it’s easily the best value for your EDM buck these days. Expect more about the Festival in the coming weeks, including a couple of exclusive interviews with some big name Dubstep producers.

Piknic Electronik runs every Sunday, all summer, weather permitting in Montreal.