Piknic Electronik's Opening Weekend Knocks on Summer’s Door

Last Sunday everyone’s favourite summertime festival, Piknic Électronik, kicked off its 20th season with a solid line-up of some of the biggest names in the Electronic music scene; internationally and locally. Taking place from May 21 to October 1 every Sunday on Montreal’s Île Sainte-Helene, festival goers can catch numerous DJ/Producers perform on two stages. This year's line-up includes legends such as New Yorkers Louie Vega and Kerri Chandler, Montreal’s own and Piknic fan favourite Misstress Barbara, and Fred Everything. Returning this year with even more dates, the Off-Piknic series will be showcasing some big and exciting names. Check out Belgian-Techno producer Charlotte De Witte, Canadian duo Zeds Dead, the legendary DJ/Producer Green Velvet, and Claude VonStroke; just to name a few. 

Every end of May for the past two decades Piknic opens for the season. The opening weekend of the 2023 edition happened in a different but albeit familiar location. For the opening weekend only, it was held under the ‘Three Circles" sculpture by American artist, Alexander Calder; or more affectionately called "The Calder" by Piknic diehards. Going back to its original roots under "The Calder" is a great nod to its humble beginnings, where house and electronic music fans would come and enjoy great music every Sunday with their families and friends. Although the site around The Calder might have changed a lot, the nostalgia hasn’t dissipated one bit. 

As we enter the festival ground, we’re greeted with the sight of The Calder and Montreal’s Old Port, downtown view in the background; the main stage nestled along the waterfront heading towards La Ronde’s parking lot, steps from its now regular location. On a hot Sunday, the mood was a festive one and everyone's now-iconic-Piknic Buckets fulfilled. For a moment, we forget we’re still in the latter half of spring. The Scène Fizz, Piknic’s main stage, was already packed with hundreds of partygoers dancing and cheering to the sound of Montreal Duo The Neighbors and belting out some dance floor anthems. The duo seemed to be enjoying themselves just as much as the crowd, interacting with them every so often.

On the Scène Piknic, the second stage under The Calder, Isabel Soto was dropping some heavy techno tunes in front of her hometown crowd. Perfectly setting up the dance floor for the techno finesse master himself, DVS1, closing out the night on the second stage. The night's main event was none other than the legendary Louie Vega, whose career spans almost three decades and has been a major pioneering force behind the New York house sound. Wearing his trademark hat, Louie Vega didn’t waste time getting the festival goers in a dancing frenzy. The Nuyorican legend dropped beats on the powerful Piknic sound system playing well into the night, with a captive audience dancing and moving to every beat. 

Tradition always sets up the opening weekend as a double header event. Monday’s line-up was as solid as the day before.  Even though Sunday was slightly cooler than the hazy summer weather of the previous day, it didn’t deter eager fans filling up the site early and catching Hey: Albert with Alexa Borzyk and Laura Scavo. Later, Montrealer from France DJ, Numea Daze, showcased his wide-ranging taste in electronic music. He is the man behind Bolting Bits, a website dedicated to exploring and spotlighting the wide-ranging variety of genres that make up modern electronic music. Ending off the night, Italian producer Deborah De Luca, made her long-awaited debut at Piknic. Initially scheduled to perform back in 2019, she’s finally gracing the stage for this year's edition. Putting on an amazing performance that perfectly capped off a great opening weekend.

Going back to the original site as an ode to the past was a nice touch! The site has been heavily modified over the years and the old school fans have gotten older (me included). I first attended Piknic Électronik back in 2007, when it only cost 10$ to get in and entire families would spend their sunny Sundays listening to great DJs spin their music over the sound system. Like everything, we grow and evolve yet one thing remains the same: even after all these years and the Covid hiatus, Picnik is still one of the best ways to spend your Sunday afternoon.

One weekend down, a whole lot more to go! With much more ahead and more great acts to come, we’ve barely made it past the gate.