Techno beats heat up an icy village

Driving an hour and a half away to stand in below-zero temperatures for hours may not sound appealing, but add moshing to techno inside of an ice village and you have the unique experience that is Igloofest. Since 2007, neon-clad hipsters and other techno music fans have been flocking en masse to Montreal’s annual winter electronic music festival. Spanning across three weeks, Igloofest takes place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in January. Igloofest drew 4,000 people in its pilot year, growing to host 45,000 in 2010, according to the Igloofest press release. Old Montreal is transformed into the venue for the festivities, with ice-block walls encasing the stage and massive dance floor. More icy walls make up a separate area for relaxing and roasting complimentary marshmallows. Friday, Jan. 21, was smack in the middle of this year’s Igloofest and featured DJs from Canada, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. From entering the gates to dancing in the middle of it all, Igloofest was colorful, friendly and full of energy. As the beats reverberated through the crowd, keeping the sea of people moving together, colorful light shows were displayed across the walls and stage. The DJs who played on Friday are famous, such as Andrew Weatherall, a British DJ and producer who was “one of the formative figures in early UK rave,” according to the Igloofest website, but you didn’t have to be techno-savvy to appreciate the music. Even if you were unfamiliar with the DJs, the electronic beats were clearly above average. But the crowd at Igloofest made it awesome as much as the music did. Attendees were generally outgoing, there to have a good time and possibly make friends, exchanging compliments on outlandishly colorful snow gear and attempting to traverse the French-English language barrier. Although layers and winter wear were definitely required — Igloofest hats are even sold for $10 and are the most practical souvenirs you could ask for — in the midst of thousands of people dancing things got pretty warm. Friday night’s temperature hovered around -10 degrees. This was surprising, but very welcome. However, despite the toasty benefits of being in the middle of the crowd, it could get scary as people moshed back and forth on all sides. Feeling like I’d never reach the edge of the crowd, it was necessary have to fight at times to prevent being sucked under and trampled. The stairs on the side of the main dance floor provided sweet relief, and good vantage point to observe everything, with festival-goers and bright lights in front of the backdrop of the stately buildings of Old Montreal. Ultimately, Igloofest’s icy setting — which might seem like a drawback — ended up providing character. As anyone who has  ever headed downtown to the Burlington bars in the winter or to the mountain on a chilly day knows, below-freezing temperatures have a way of imbuing fun activities with a certain sense of triumph. Igloofest is the pinnacle of such experiences. Igloofest continues next weekend on Jan. 27, 28 and 29, featuring more than 20 DJs. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and events last until midnight. Tickets are available for $10 per night online.