deadmau5 ÎleSoniq

Deadmau5 at îLESONIQ. Photo via Patrick Beaudry.

ÎLESONIQ 2021 hit the reset button on partying in Montreal

Deadmau5, Loud Luxury and other EDM giants rocked Parc Jean-Drapeau last weekend.

Montreal’s brilliant dance culture would feel incomplete without ÎLESONIQ. The annual event at Île Sainte-Hélene’s Parc Jean-Drapeau, the festival gives attendees a chance to catch some of the most prominent EDM acts from Canada and across the globe. This year’s special “Redux” edition featured a healthy array of homegrown talent, including headliners Deadmau5, Rezz and Loud Luxury.

A music festival during a pandemic is just as daunting for the promoters as it is its guests. Vaccines were required in order to attend, with attendees being assigned to their own “islands” featuring a few hundred people each. These precautions worked better in theory than in execution. A number of guests at ÎLESONIQ 2021 complained that their vaccine passports were not scanned, while others pointed out the security’s lack of attentiveness to what section people were supposed to be in.

It may not have been pulled off seamlessly but ÎLESONIQ 2021 brought the city back together in the name of dance music. Hopefully, Evenko can take notes from this past weekend to improve its COVID-19 safety precautions for the Osheaga Get Together festival coming up this weekend.

From Sept. 24–26, we hit the festival grounds at ÎLESONIQ Redux to explore the EDM scene’s gradual return to normalcy.

Paul Kalkbrenner

Paul Kalkbrenner is not an artist who would typically play the main stage at ÎLESONIQ. This limited capacity edition of the festival and its single stage setup, however, allowed for all of its crowd to enjoy house music as the sun set across the city.

As day became night, Kalkbrenner’s fan-favourite “Sky and Sand” blared through Parc Jean-Drapeau. The crowd pleaser felt poetic, as the cityscape backdrop began to light up. With several tracks featuring either a vocoder or French vocals, the DJ knew exactly what ambiance would move his Montreal crowd.


One of the only shows I witnessed in 2020 was a a Deadmau5 performance, live at a drive-in theatre. Seeing the Canadian DJ a year later with a fully vaccinated crowd felt like a full-circle moment. It is clear that Joel Zimmerman cares dearly about his fans. Both of these shows indicate a strong desire to give fans some semblance of normalcy during these incredibly unprecedented times, in venues that are as safe as possible.

Deadmau5 performed a mammoth set, playing for three hours. Equally as impressive, Zimmerman does not play any songs outside of his own discography. This is a testament to his prolific catalogue, a cornerstone of what has kept him a darling in the EDM world for all these years.

“Get that fucking mouse guy out of here,” shouted Zimmerman after running through the hits for an hour and a half. The second half of the show was consumed by Test Pilot, Deadmau5 techno-heavy alter-ego. This headlining set felt more like an afterparty, with casual fans fleeing the scene once the mouse helmet and its accompanying tracks departed.

Deadmau5 performed two sets in one on Friday evening.

Zeds Dead

The world was closed for 18 months, and DJs had that whole year and a half to perfect their live shows. I would rather spend another 18 months without shows than to relive the atrocity that was Zeds Dead’s Saturday night set.

Some songs just don’t need to be remixed — “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Eleanor Rigby” are two no-brainer examples. And yet the Toronto duo bombarded ÎLESONIQ with disastrous dubstep remixes of both timeless classics. These reimaginings make any Glee cover sound like the lord’s work.

Throughout the festival, I often found myself wondering, “Am I too cynical for EDM shows? Or have acts like Zeds Dead been stuck in arrested development since the last time I saw them in CÉGEP?” The answer is probably a bit of both, but battering a Marvin Gaye track probably doesn’t help their case.


It is great to see a Canadian talent go from humble beginnings at Osheaga’s Apple Music Island Stage to headlining Montreal’s biggest EDM event. It only felt right to have the country’s top female electronic artist close out the night.

This artist thrives in her aesthetic charm. With Jigsaw-themed stage graphics and sinister techno sounds, Rezz creates an EDM horror movie for her crowd to get lost in. Much like her mentor Deadmau5, she knows how to control an audience with both poise and gravitas.

Music aside, it was a treat to bump into concert photographer Susan Moss during the set. The strawberry blonde is a seasoned vet in the Montreal music scene and can never be seen without her signature black attire and a giant camera in hand. Seeing Moss further reaffirmed that shows are indeed back in Montreal and they would not feel the same without her there.

Susan Moss is a staple of Montreal concert culture.


For better or worse, Montreal-based Domeno has been a staple of the local EDM scene since being signed by electro house heavyweight Hardwell in 2013. There is something to be said about an artist who has been prominently involved with ÎLESONIQ since its first edition. Promoters Evenko clearly have faith in the DJ to warm up their festival crowds.

Domeno’s set was no different than what one might hear throwing on Virgin Radio past 9 p.m. The bulk of songs were hollow remixes of current pop hits, including a blend of Lady Gaga’s “Rain on Me” and Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” and the Kid Laroi’s “Stay.”

The shining highlight came when he dropped a dance version of Charlotte Cardin’s “Meaningless.” The moment was anything other than what the song’s title suggests. Spinning the record was a gracious shout-out gesture from one beloved local to another. With Loud Luxury essentially acting as a pop duo, this set felt like sign of what was to come.


“I’m not teaching shit, those kids are watching Space Jam 2 tomorrow,” asserts Julia, the fourth grade teacher twerking a few feet to my left.

The statement was soundtracked by Showtek, a Dutch EDM duo I adored during my high school days. At this point of the festival, the bar was set so low to do well. Simply being inoffensive made a set above average. The duo kept things simple, running through their club hits from 2013’s “Booyah” to present.

The only problematic moment of Showtek’s set was deeply so: member Sjoerd Janssen got on the mic during “Booyah” to sing along with a fake patois accent. Aside from this Chet Hanks-esque antic, the pair provided one of the most fun sets of the weekend. It is strange to think that EDM has been around long enough to have “legacy acts.” In the past half decade, Showtek have brought little to the table in terms of innovative releases. Yet, the siblings have remained consistent in their ability to control a festival crowd with the mightiest of grips.

Showtek was one of the most fun sets of the weekend.

Sam Feldt

Would it really be ÎLESONIQ without a few corny Dutch DJs? From the bottom of my heart, I missed generic white men from the Netherlands telling me to throw my hands up, before the same bass drop we’ve heart hundreds of times before.

Sam Feldt’s performance was maximalist in the worst ways. Every single song of his hour-long set was smothered with a vocalist over the track, allowing for no breathing room. EDM is a genre where one can quickly fall into performance clichés. Feldt’s lack of creativity resulted in the weekend’s least memorable set.

Loud Luxury

To cap off the weekend, headliners Loud Luxury came with a few tricks up their sleeves. The Toronto duo brought out Joel Edmundson and Josh Anderson of the Montreal Canadiens, whom they mistakenly introduced as “Stanley Cup Champions.”

Loud Luxury are the reigning Canadian kings of the radio. They are a pop act with enough EDM influence to avoid being jarring. The pair’s performance resulted in peak crowd excitement. Earlier in the day, one attendee turned to her side to reveal a body-engulfing tattoo of their 2017 hit single, “Body.” The track led to the biggest screams of the weekend, with a few thousand people singing along. Such a united moment is something Montrealers have been longing for since March of 2020.

For more on this and future editions of ÎLESONIQ, please visit the festival’s website.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.