As part of my continuing “I’ve never…” series, I went dancing outdoors in below freezing temperatures at Igloofest!

Winter in Montreal is unforgiving, bipolar and frette en esti, which is Québecois speak for really freaking cold! I say the only way to get through it is by taking advantage of it as much as you can, in a “can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em!” sort of way. Shake off the hibernation and get outdoors. Though Montreal is a bustling metropolis, it also has spaces for playing outdoors. Go skating at Beaver Lake, the pond at the Lafontaine Park or in Old Montreal, cross-country skiing at Parc Maisonneuve, snowshoeing on Mount-Royal, winter running/hiking, whatever it is, just find something fun to do outdoors and play in the snow. So what, it’s winter? Get over it and deal. It may be a little killjoy of me to be yet another person writing and talking about Igloofest, but if you hate winter and you hate being outdoors, then I dare you to venture over at least once while you are in Montreal.

For the most part, electronic music is not my thing. I have attended my share of raves and after-hours once-upon-a-time. I’ve had my moments of lust with trance, drum&bass and dubstep. Every once in a while, I need to expense extra energy and freestylin’ my way to the dance floor is one easy way to do it, grooving to the sounds and getting lost in mesmerizing light shows. Igloofest is in it’s 6th edition, located in Old Montreal on the shores of the Saint-Laurent River, and though it has now come to an end, it shows no signs of melting away next winter. The event is brought to you by the same folks that put together Piknic Electronik at Parc Jean-Drapeau during the summer, in aims of democratizing electronic music. Politics aside, this is certainly a must try at least once in Montreal.

Layer on the long-johns under snow pants, thermal shirt under fleece under winter coat. Pile on the gloves, scarf, hat and winter boots. If you want to go the extra mile, raid your parents’ closet for that one-piece snowsuit you begged them to never wear again or hunt one down at a vintage second-hand shop. When the temperature drops way below zero, you definitely want to stay warm if you’re planning on spending a number of hours outside. Igloofest has unquestionably gained in popularity over the years, so you may end up waiting in line. Half an hour after shuffling along the entrance, I finally reached the threshold of ice sculpted bars, contained bonfires and light-shows glowing up the sky. All the while, my toes managed to achieve the preliminary stages of frostbite, and the night was just beginning.

First thought that came to mind was that I had to find a way to warm up, for fear of chickening out on winter and returning to the comfort of a heavy blanket and a movie. Everything feels better after some mulled wine. It was time to pick a stage and get dancing. Brightly coloured one-pieces, animal shaped tuques, all sorts of off-the-wall accoutrement are the norm and are amusing conversation pieces. “Did you see that guy wearing the furry bunny costume?” “Is she really wearing a mini-skirts without leggings?” “Let’s count the number of sombreros we spot in one night!” Visual commentary aside, discussions are limited to woot-woots and other monosyllabic expressions.

IgloofestAfter a couple drinks, jumping up and down and getting my feet moving, I managed to get the blood flowing back to the tip of my toes. Busting a move in the middle of a crowd certainly gets things heated up both inside and out. All senses are involved: the bright lights, the beats pounding, tingly sweetness on your tongue, the heat generating between your fleece and your skin, crisp air on your cheeks, the scent of cold air filling your lungs. Everything beckons you to get lost in the ambiance, let loose and tear-up the frozen dance floor.

Even if it is only once in an icy blue moon, Igloofest is part of living life in Montreal. At the end of the day, I am still a rocker-chick at heart, but for now, back to the game: I’ve never ridden my toes of frostbite while dancing at Igloofest… throw back a shot of Jäger.

Every city has something to offer and Montreal is of course no exception. I have been living in Montreal for over a decade now; I originally moved here for school and stayed to work. In those first inaugural years here, many precious hours were spent experimenting my near-adulthood and basking in the late-night buzz of drinking games. Embarrassing yourself and others, and not really giving a shit about it.

Remember those days? Me too, barely at times. “I’ve Never..” was the drinking game friends and I returned to regularly (and Quarters – I was a pro!). Through it we all caught-up on missed experiences and not-so-innocently compared notes. The rules are simple: if you’ve done it you take a drink. There are a number of things that I’ve done. I have surfed my way to the front stage at punk shows, drunkenly scarfed down a poutine at 4am, ran up the Mount-Royal, lazed on its grass feeling the beat of the tam-tams under the warmth of the summer sun. I have seen (most of) Montreal’s museums, attended (some of) its festivals, but experienced only a fraction of all that Montreal has to offer. There is nothing like a hot bagel from St-Viateur or Fairmount after grabbing a latté at Café Olympico on a warm fall day. There is a bustling energy throughout the city in the spring when the bar terraces first open up, all the hemlines skyrocket and you linger sipping on that first sangria, urging on the heat of the months to come.

Montreal wouldn’t be what it is without its winters, every year marked by the mornings-after of heavy snowfall, the entire city temporarily immobilized under a white blanket, flawless until the morning rush settles into its winter routine. I have come a long way from my first days in the McGill ghetto, just barely venturing past the student “safe zone” of what was the St-Laurent, Guy, Mont-Royal and Saint-Catherine’s perimeter.

Finally, curiosity got the better of me (as it often does) and I slowly started discovering this city’s various eclectic boroughs. I’ve tried the famous hot spots and also accumulated a personalized list of favorites – for no other reason than the memories they ignite. There are those things that are typically Montreal that you must experience at least once, especially if you have lived here as long as I have. There are the Montreal essentials that you can’t miss, some that I’ve mentioned others to come, but others that may not be as obvious. To fully grasp a city it is all about trying things that are not necessarily your cup of tea, but need to be lived at least once.

Whether you are passing through, staying a while or settling down, break out of your own skin and truly see what experiences this city has to offer. If the world truly does end on December 21, 2012, that means that I have less than 49 weeks to let loose and scratch off all those things of my list and truly experience living in Montreal. No more coasting through this city’s day-to-day, week on end. This year I am replaying the “I’ve Never…” game but taking it to a whole other level. If I am going to start calling myself a Montrealer, then let’s make it official shall we? Over the course of this year I’ll be experiencing all the things that make Montreal, Montreal! And I’ll be sharing my experiences here, with you.

 

My first item on the list is Igloofest, happening the last three weekends of January on the Quay of Old Montreal, offering 9 nights of performances by various artists of the electronic scene. I’m thinking this sounds like a rave in a winter-wonderland, glow-sticks and furry boots included. Now, all I need to find is one-piece snow suit…