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Theres no shortage of electronic music events in Toronto. Despite the continuous threat to live music venues and the permanent.
Theres no shortage of electronic music events in Toronto. Despite the continuous threat to live music venues and the permanent shutdown of raves on Geary (R.I.P. 191), fans of dance music have continued to find ways to support DJs at clubs and warehouses every weekend.
In the summer, music also moves outdoors in the form of Promise Cherry Beach, a family-friendly event at Cherry Beach on Sundays. And once a month, theres the two-day Electric Island festival on Toronto Island.
With so much going on locally, it might seem excessive to hop on a plane or train for a show out-of-province. But Piknic Electronik, which has been entertaining dance music fans in Montreal for 16 years, should be part of every Toronto electronic music fans summer bucket list.
The all-ages event takes over Ile Sainte-Helenes Plaine des Jeux park nearly every Sunday from May to September. Its a sprawling area that was initially built for the Expo 67 world fair and now accessible by car, bike, subway and ferry. From the venue, attendees get a nice view of the river and downtown Montreal.
Piknic opens at 2 pm, leaving enough time to nurse your Saturday-night hangover and squeeze in brunch before hitting the dance floor. In my case, I got on a train that left Toronto in the morning and arrived in Montreal around 2 pm. At that time, there was a DJ playing the Moog Audio stage, the smaller of the two stages, but the larger party on the Solotech mainstage hadnt started yet.
I got to the park around 5 pm, in time to hear New Yorks Hunter Lombard spin accessible house and techno tracks to the diverse crowd. Across the park were folks from all walks of life, from 20-something hipsters day-drinking with friends, to parents bouncing babies to the beat. Theres a dance floor, but many people chose to lay out on a shaded grassy hill near the stage. The vibe was undoubtedly relaxed and friendly.
An area called Petit Piknic reinforces the family-friendly atmosphere, where activities like dance workshops and music-making are planned for kids at a playground located just far enough from the party crowd.
Another area includes about a dozen food trucks, with everything from tacos and hot sandwiches to tandoori chicken and popcorn. Of course, across the entire park are bars and other drink stations with both alcoholic (Sapporo beers, high balls and beach buckets of sangria) and non-alcoholic options (pop, juice and water) and rows of port-o-potties for when all those drinks inevitably leave you.
At 6 pm, Torontos Bambii started on the mainstage and the crowd began to build. Piknic attracts an audience of around 5,000 every weekend, and this day was no different. Despite the large number, the dance floor still felt comfortable and spacious (probably because it was outside). Theres also plenty of park space for your inebriated friends to walk about, so I never really saw anyone bumping into others or causing trouble.
Bambii knows exactly how to turn up a party. She blends classic R&B cuts, dancehall and house, often in ways that feel fresh and unexpected. Theyre also always plenty of throwback crowd-pleasers in her sets. On this night, it was Crystal Waterss 90s hit Gypsy Woman (Shes Homeless) and, surprisingly, Sisqos Thong Song that elicited the biggest thrills.
Headliner Kim Ann Foxmans sound is more rooted in techno, with house influences. As the sun set over Montreal, Foxman, with her signature buzzed mullet and in a bright rainbow top, remained visible, stoic yet relaxed, as the dance floor dimmed. Her set was less focused on recognizable party hits and more about settling into a deep, two-hour-long groove. The crowd at this point, beach-buckets-deep in booze and child-free stayed for the ride.
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