What does it take to convince thousands of attendees to venture out in bone-chilling, glacial temperatures, bearing umpteen layers of clothing to join thousands of like-minded individuals in an outdoor winter dance party? Citizens of Montréal will scoff at the question, put on their winter attire and head out their door with a sense of pride and voracity, not looking behind. What may seem like a challenge and an instant rejection for some, this city says otherwise.
Illuminating the quaint and charismatic Old Port neighborhood for their 13th edition is the infrastructure of Igloofest Montréal, the self-proclaimed, “coldest music festival in the world.” Shipping containers artfully adorn their way into the festival’s framework, paying homage to the nature of the location whilst introducing a notion of industrial comfort to the ambiance. Attendees flock gracefully in packs, a true talent due to the limitations of wearing multiple layers. Dressed with poise in the brightest of colors, Igloofest hasn’t just thrown a festival, but instead fostered their own winter movement.
“It comes with the vibe, no one comes to Igloofest to be posers or just attend because it’s not worth just to be standing there when it’s -15 and you’re gonna die. Everyone’s in a good spirit, and everyone’s having fun” – Robert Robert
The 2019 edition of Igloofest Montréal spanned the course of three weekends, with the opening night hosted on the evening January 17, followed by the closing ceremonies on February 2. For the first time in Igloofest history, the outdoor festival sold out two separate nights ahead of their annual opening ceremonies, headlined by electronic mass moguls Diplo, and Above & Beyond. During the opening weekend, temperatures dropped to an astonishing low of -31 degrees Celsius, enough to freeze the Sapporo cans in the hands of attendees, but not enough to keep guests from dancing. Held over the course of nine evenings, local and international talent was far from few, welcoming headliners from each end of the electronic music spectrum. Akin to the city’s open-minded musical interests, headliners of the house, techno, trap and trance realms took the stage, attired in their own brightly flashing jackets and signature Canadian tuques.
Igloofest first came to fruition in the winter of 2007, yielding a mere 4000 attendees for their first edition of the festival. With years of cultivation underway, the winter event series has imprinted their existence into a principle component of the city’s winter lifestyle. Each year, artists from all corners of the world are continually shocked at the frigid temperatures that encapsulate the event, yet are met with the warm reception from thousands of attendees flashing their smiles, unbothered by the elements working against them. As their recent edition year has accrued almost 65,000 fervent attendees over three weekends, it bears the question, “How has Igloofest succeeded in attracting people to come party in extreme polar temperatures?”
Nymra & Sofisticated speak to the lively spirit behind Quebec’s festival culture, referring to the “joie de vivre”, or zest for life, that makes Igloofest special.
Familiar to the Montréal electronic music scene are female duo and Igloofest second-time performers Nymra & Sofisticated, though their fondness of the event runs deeper than their performance history. When asked about their most memorable experience from the festival, the two named Pascale and Sophie speak with unfaltering enthusiasm, drawing energy from each other as they recount their past, “During one of the coldest Igloofest’s, it was like -40 and was cold as hell. We’re playing in the dome, there was a lineup to come in, and it was a huge party. It was perfect because we’re playing all night like six hours in the dome…people were dancing on the bar, the vibe was wow.” Fresh off the raw adrenaline of opening the secondary Videotron stage, it’s clear that this festival occupies a soft spot in their hearts.
Montréalers aren’t unfamiliar to the blustery, sub-zero conditions that can characterize their winter. In fact, the temperature itself has become a pawn in an unspoken challenge of ‘who can one-up each other in partying the hardest’. The chill seems to bring out the crowd’s cheeky antics, composed of individuals dressed in astronaut helmets and spacesuits and matching the weekly #Iglooswag theme, “Space Odyssey”. Co-founder of Igloofest and seasoned festival maven Nicolas Cournoyer boasts about the pleasure of witnessing the festival’s impact on Montréal’s music scene, though it wasn’t apparent overnight. Reflecting back on the process of conceptualizing an outdoor winter festival, he says “At first we laughed about it and thought it’s not a good idea, but the afterthought was, ‘why not?’Apart from family events, there’s no events for youngsters, for people who like electronic music and nothing outside…We thought, give them a good reason to go outside, and what’s the best reason? Throw a party! That was our challenge at first because we didn’t know if people would jump in the idea. Once we started, we knew we had something because there was no competition, nothing to compare to Igloofest.”
Referring to the usage of the shipping containers as a staple addition to the festival’s aesthetic, he continues, “It was special to have that warehouse feeling, to be in a rave but outside with your winter jacket, tuque in -10, -20 degrees Celsius. It’s not only about the music and going to see a show, you go there for the DJ and music. The scenography is really important for us to be in an immersive experience, but the fact that we’re in winter levels up everything, because you can really feel it. You can feel the ambiance between the people when it’s cold and everyone’s packed together.”
Complete with testimony from Tony McGuinness, one of the three faces behind Above & Beyond, he states “Igloofest is like Burning Man in the snow, unique and totally life affirming.” Arctic temperatures be damned, as festival-goers triumph through with nothing less than unadulterated joy painted across their face. The succession of the 13th edition has affirmed if not many, but one outstanding assertion- Igloofest has cultivated and upholds a burgeoning festival scene unparalleled to any other in the world.
Photo credits: Charles Prot and Sylvain Granier