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Montreal's Igloofest music festival is back and cooler than ever

Igloofest celebrated its 15th edition in-person Thursday after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.  (Peter Ryaux-Larsen/Submitted by Igloofest  - image credit)
Igloofest celebrated its 15th edition in-person Thursday after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic. (Peter Ryaux-Larsen/Submitted by Igloofest - image credit)

More than 10,000 people gathered in Montreal's Old Port to dance under the falling snow Thursday as Igloofest celebrated the opening night of its 15th edition.

The popular winter music festival had been put on hiatus for two years due to the pandemic, and Montrealers were clearly itching to get dancing as the opening night was fully sold out.

With two stages and a stacked lineup, festival-goers got to see international headliners like Flume and Chrome Sparks, but local artists are also getting their time to shine, like Jordan Gardner, who played the festival for the first time.

"It was definitely what I imagined," he said. "There was so much excitement from everyone, it seemed like a big room of people acting like kids in the best possible way."

Gardner says he usually isn't a fan of the cold, but the mild weather was "perfect" and, to top everything off, it started to snow right at the end of his set — "like Christmas."

Gardner is working on music of his own, and said the best part of playing a festival like Igloofest is seeing the crowd reacting to his unreleased music.

"They were really into it," he said. "When I played some of my songs, I could see a noticeable lift in energy and reactions, so that was really exciting."

Submitted by Igloofest
Submitted by Igloofest

Gardner says he will be going back to the festival to support his artist friends such as Priori and Ultima Esuna, but also to see Tiësto, who was the first producer to get him into electronic music.

For Igloofest co-founder Nicolas Cournoyer, creating a diverse lineup is a top priority.

"As we're doing 12 nights, we always want a broad selection of DJs," he told CBC's Daybreak.

"We always look for the old-school ones, newcomers … we want people to discover electronic music of all kinds. You need to come with a musically open mind. There's two stages, a lot of artists — big artists, and there's really good ones in Montreal as well."

He also wants Igloofest to be a place where Montrealers don't just tolerate winter, but enjoy it.

Bringing people together

Tasha Prentice, Igloofest's lead content manager, said she was elated to be up and running again.

"It was magical, honestly," she said. "It was really good to be back on site and have this huge event — which is the best part of winter — come back to life."

She said she saw everyone smiling as she walked around the festival and was surprised to see the crowd form so early in the evening. She believes the festival gives people something to look forward to in the dark and cold season.

"I think people were eager to come back and party with us in the dead of winter," she said.

"Electronic music is mainly made to be listened to together so I think that's something you can find at Igloofest."

Gardner agrees. He says electronic music has a certain accessibility that brings people together.

"This whole time it's been representative of a culture," he said.

"Back in New York, Chicago, Detroit it was [in] bathhouses for queer Black and Latin people. Even to this day, the fact that [electronic music] can still represent those cultures who were traditionally not represented commercially … is really interesting and I think that's what helps the underground continue to grow and exist."

This year, Igloofest is trying to expand its audience. Because the festival itself is restricted to those 18 and older, organizers decided to create some family-friendly programming.

Music heads can bring their kids to Igloofête every Saturday between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to see DJs and video art as well as slide on ice and roast some marshmallows.

"It was a big challenge as it always is, but especially this year being back after a couple years … I think we really did beautifully," said Prentice.