îLESONIQ 2023: A weekend well spent when Montreal had so much going on

“The masses funnelling toward the Longueuil-bound yellow line had made a clear choice. ÎLESONIQ, here we come.”

Life is all about choices. And in the city of Montreal, summer is full of them. 

I mean, just this past weekend alone might as well have been officially named “Under-Pride-Motaku-Tallic-ÎLESONIQ-icka.”

At any rate, that’s what I’ve decided to call my metro transfer experience at Berri-UQAM station on Sunday afternoon, as I made my way to Parc Jean Drapeau for Day 2 of Evenko’s annual EDM festival, ÎLESONIQ.

With Pride underway, guessing who was coming from the parade and who was headed ÎLESONIQ was almost impossible. Add to that the Otakuthon cosplayers and it was a real crapshoot. Lots of overlap, and potentially a healthy cross section of afternoon delighters getting in all three.

The sea of Metallica t-shirt wearing rockers headed toward the Big O was a little easier to distinguish (though I saw more than one And Justice For All… logo in the crowd at Île).

And any single one of us could have been hoping to pop out for a peek at the scaled down return graffiti block party Under Pressure nearby on Ste-Catherine. I wouldn’t have placed a wager that bright, smeared colours on skin meant anyone in this metro mob was painting at UP, but you never know.

The masses funnelling toward the Longueuil-bound yellow line had made a clear choice. ÎLESONIQ, here we come.

And I had made that choice, too, as I have almost every year since the festival first broke ground in 2014.

For this edition, in the thick of the sticky, smoggy and downright strange summer it’s been so far, I elected to casually pass by and observe the mammoth dance party for a few Sunday afternoon hours, as opposed to taking a deep dive.

You see, ÎLESONIQ is young, and I’m most assuredly not. No one really needs the insight of a bald, be-Dad-bod’ed, middle aged dude to determine what the stakes are at the two-day celebration of screeches, thumps, drops, pyro and light displays. 

But you’re getting it anyway.

ÎLESONIQ 2023. All photos by Cindy Lopez

I arrived in time for Ship Wrek on the main stage. Or I thought I had. Ship Wrek, according to their press pic, is very clearly two people, who, for the duration of at least one photoshoot wore little sailor hats.

But when I got there, there was only one notably hatless guy in the enormous DJ booth at the Oasis stage. Which is really more of a DJ shack,so to speak, nestled between two mega-stages broadcasting graphic displays and breathing a Texan tycoon’s payday worth of flames every 45 seconds or so.

This solitary, bareheaded DJ said something about Ship Wrek being sick and regretting not being able to be there. Is Ship Wrek actually just one of the two guys, then? And was this his first mate, Skipper Barnacle?

I don’t know. No one seemed to know. Apologies if I have this mixed up. Ship Wrek (I think?) was okay. Whatever it was.

I set my mind to people watching. By 4 p.m. or so there weren’t as many people to watch as there were later. But among the early sample group of Bud Light-chugging moonsteppers, I saw the standard fishnets, bare asses, dayglo and way-out sunglasses alongside dependably tacky trios of tryin’-to-get-laid-today-bros dressed identically, the whole lot peppered here and there with this year’s hottest fashion trend, Barbie movie enthusiasts. 

You know how they say, “Dance like nobody’s watching?”

That’s bullcrap. I’m watching.

I then circled over to the nearby Neon stage to catch some of BLOND:ISH’s set. On my way, my face lit up when I spotted a comparatively subdued fest-goer in a Boards of Canada shirt. 

My face promptly fell, however, when a gettin’-laid-bro pushed by to barf on a tree.

The crowd at ÎLESONIQ 2023, day 1

Anyhow, over at BLOND:ISH, the dancers were loving life, the music was on point and the artist was having a blast. I parked myself here for a bit and resumed my people-watch position. 

Nearby me for a few minutes, I observed a photographer who seemed to be working on a “Most Boring Basic Fashion” gallery. Or maybe it was “People Who Just Came Today Because Osheaga Last Week Was Fun.”

I didn’t ask. And I quickly lost interest because suddenly, through a hail of limb and bubbles, a guy in a whole-ass, professional grade Spider-man costume emerged, surrounded by his followers. 

Maskless at first, and with a thousand-yard stare that suggested he’d just been to war with the Sinister Six, he staggered determinedly. Probably, I surmised, because he also had on super fucked up winter boots and a backpack.

But when the photographer I mentioned lost his mind at the opportunity to get some pics for the Daily Bugle, Spidey sprung into gear, ditching his backpack, pulling on his mask, and hopping into a series of classic Spider-poses. He then gestured urgently for the photog to wait, and produced…a captain’s hat. I shit you not.

At first I was merely concerned for the guy, suffering the heat to dance in a superhero outfit. The hat, however, completely confused me. 

Our hero, backpack strapped back on, mask adorned, hat in place and beat-to-shit Timbs kicking up dust, continued to strike a series of poses, seemingly unaware that the camera guy had run off two minutes before to take an urgent shot of a guy in a generic Billie Eilish shirt.

Making my way to the other side of the festival and its third stage, gears shifted for better or worse toward dubstep, and the strains of a performance by Layz.

Calcium ÎLESONIQ 2023
Calcium at ÎLESONIQ 2023

When Layz traded shifts and turned the stage over to Calcium, a strange thing happened. Hordes of people left, and hordes more arrived. The strange thing is that the only thing that changed was the person on stage yelling, “Give me all your energy!”

Which, by the way, let’s leave that chestnut here in festival season ‘23 moving forward, shall we? You literally cannot ask someone for all of their energy more than once. It’s physically impossible. You’d be performing to an actual pile of dead bodies. And dead bodies can’t headbang to your dubstep.

And dead people can’t buy your merch. Right about now, I gotta give it to a performer I didn’t see, Wooli. His Expos-aping jersey, selling at $100 a pop, was by 5:30 p.m. the most predominant style choice in sight anywhere at Île Soniq. 

Wooli, you came in second only to Molson and molly in terms of raking in the big bucks today.

I made my way lazily back to the main stage area and was pleased to see that the crowd had grown impressively by the time Cosmic Gate was deep in the cut, and the party was bumpin’ hard.

Because you see, I can talk all the shit I want, but I too freely made a life choice to be at Île Soniq again this year.

Even if I’m far from being part of the festival’s demographic, and though I thoroughly enjoy poking fun at it every year, I’m also a proud supporter of its fundamental purpose: giving people a safe, happy, loud, colourful place to bug out, be themselves and have hot, sweaty fun in a spirit of joyful abandon. 

And from the looks of one lazy summer Sunday afternoon and early evening, ÎLESONIQ successfully did it once again, in a style all of its own. ■

For more ÎLESONIQ 2023 photos, please click here.

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