POP Montreal: troisième partie
Sometimes you've just to bluff it. Of course we knew Montreal was on an island. It was hard to miss the mighty Saint Lawrence river but there was nothing on the tourist maps to indicate we were actually on an island. A surreptitious check of a bigger map confirms this to indeed be the case. It's a concrete example of travel broadening the mind of the otherwise ignorant.
The plan was to spend what time we had left on our last day at the Piknic Electronik, an outdoor dance event that takes place every Sunday throughout the summer months on St Helen's, a smaller island in the harbour area. Yeah, you read that right: a season-long event, happening in the middle of the city with all manner of commercial and municipal support. Unthinkable, right? Today's was actually the last day of the programme, with organisers hoping for an end-of-the-season crowd numbering a few thousand in excess of their usual 4-5000. Like the Arcade Fire show a few nights previous, it's hard to imagine anything quite so ... civilised happening back home.
Media relations honcho Francois Fournier explained why the event had become such an integral part of the Montreal calendar: "People who might've gone to clubs a few years ago have kids and jobs now and can't wait around until 5am to listen to a DJ. But they don't stop liking the music so we give them the opportunity to hear stuff they like - and if they want, they can bring their children with them." With a warm Autumnal sun breaking through by the time the gates opened, it was likely to be a suitable send off to another successful season.
As far as public parks go, the island's Parc Jean Trapeau will never win any prizes for beauty, although it provides a fine vantage point to look back across the river to Montreal. With time to kill, we took advantage of the city's bike-sharing scheme; the cycle and docking stations are the model upon which London's new-ish scheme is based and, indeed, Boris' bikes are actually made here in Canada. A brief tootle around the island, stopping to check out a closed-for-the-season amusement park, helps pass the required hour and suggests a bike is not a bad way to get around the largely flat city itself.
The timetable meant we couldn't do much more than get a brief taste of the entertainment on offer back at the festival site: Nymra & Sofistikated opened proceedings on the main stage with a late-summer selection of melodic techno that got early arrivals making some shapes in the warm sunshine; on the smaller lakeside Guru stage, the appropriately named Waterfront Property offered some tuneful, pop-coloured sounds to the picnikers and kids on the bouncy slide. As befits the entire trip, the vibe was just nice. It was a shame that time was tight and we had to ship early, but the crowds on the subway waiting to go out to the island suggested Montreal was determined to not to let the last Piknik of the season pass unmarked.
With so many city-focused music festivals now on the calendar, both at home and abroad, every one fighting for a slice of the action Pop Montreal, with its apparent seamless organisation, excellent venue base and varied programme deserves to find a place on the more adventurous music buff's itinerary. The newbie to Montreal might have to stop themselves thinking they've landed in an episode of The Twilight Zone ("It's like I'm in America ... but everyone is speaking French!") but with an interesting history - much of it British - and busy cultural calendar, it makes for an interesting proposition any time of the year. January's IglooFest for example, a sub-zero outdoor dance festival in the middle of winter, definitely sounds like something to add to the bucket list.
Thanks to Hugo & Tanya @ Tourisme Montreal, Julie @ Brando-World and to Pop Montreal for making the trip possible. Visit Pop Montreal for more information.