Preview: Montreal's Bacchanale Festival

XLR8R checks up on a new multidisciplinary fest—one that boasts a world-conquering lineup.
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La Bacchanale - Jeff Mills -1422362706926

You're undoubtedly familiar with Montreal's MUTEK. You may know about Piknic Electronik and Igloofest. But unless you're from the City of a Hundred Steeples (thanks for that one, Mark Twain), you probably aren't aware of the city's new Bacchanale Festival. We suspect that will change soon, though. An offshoot of La Bacchanale, a series of throwdowns held throughout Montreal—past events have featured such world-class artists as Jeff Mills, Ellen Allien and Ben Klock—the inaugural edition will be held at the Old Port, kicking off with an opening party on Sunday, September 6 and culminating with a weekend of revelry from Friday, September 18 through the following Sunday. In the words of the team behind the festival, "We are proud to introduce you to our dream project: a nomad festival, offering a utopian alternative to our current urban unrest. Bacchanale Festival inspires to be an art piece aiming to diffuse certain fundamental values in which we believe in in regards of today’s society. Nomadic by essence, Baccchanale Festival is a multidisciplinary festival. Each edition will present a new and different theme, revealing a new world!"

Pearson Sound

Pearson Sound

Sounds great—we love to diffuse fundamental values—but what will really garner a lot of attention is the lineup, which leans heavily on iconic pioneers like Phuture, Lil Louis, and Octave One; rock-solid vets such as Norm Talley, ExtraweltThomas Melchoir, and Delano Smith; and a cornucopia of other great DJs and producers from both the local and worldwide scenes, including Pearson Sound, Claire, Alessandroid, Answer Code Request and Pär Grindvik. We were certainly intrigued—so we reached out via the magic of e-mail to one of La Bacchanale's cofounders, Martin Loutrel, to find out more.

What was the motivation in starting La Bacchanale? What was the philosophy behind it?
It all began out of a dream to first realize our own events in Montreal, and keep growing until eventually making up our own festival. It was not always defined, but we all had the big idea in mind.

Basically, every edition of our festival would be inspired by a special theme. It would offer various experiences, from music to visual art, design, dance and other forms of art. The music would play a major role, and would offer what’s best in terms of electronic sounds, and more precisely house and techno music.

Overall, the objective is to create a piece of art where we’re able to express and translate an idea during an event.

Does that philosophy still hold true today?
Yes it does, although it's been subject to change since our debut of course. The main debate is based on the contrast between the amount of music we’d like to add, and the experience we would like to create on top. The experience is our challenge. It’s hard to define and to create. That’s why it has always remained secondary so far. But we work harder and harder to make it happen at every event we create.

The theme of the inaugural Bacchanale Festival is "Ancient Future"—could you elaborate a bit on that?
It’s interesting the way that some of our generation is becoming more and more conscious about social and environmental issues. Especially in Montreal, there is a movement towards solidarity, and less towards individualism. It’s like we’re going back to more fundamental values like respect, love, and sharing. Ancient Future is a reflection of this tendency, most notably by inviting some of the most renowned DJs and artists who have marked the history of electronic music.

In the lead-up to the festival, have there been moments when you've thought, “Holy crap, what have I gotten myself into?” Do you still ask yourself once in a while?
We ask ourselves this question every day!

Montreal seems like such a great city for festivals, both for electronic music and for music in general. What role does the city play in the success of La Bacchanale, if any?
There is indeed a good history of festivals, among which the electronic scene is well represented. This really helps establishing our project in more significant ways. That being said, we do not rely on this to be successful—on the contrary it encourages us in trying to be everyday more innovative and creative.

 Jeff Mills at La Bacchanale

Jeff Mills at La Bacchanale

I’m sure there have been many sets or moments that have blown you away at La Bacchanale, but are there any that you can pinpoint?
Jeff Mills and Robert Hood were probably the two sets that have impressed us most. Jeff Mills was so energetic, the atmosphere so electric. I think this event will long remain in Montrealers' memories. Likewise, Robert Hood always provides such clean sets, bringing up classical sounds. He was definitely up to what people expected from him when he came over to Montreal.

This year’s edition has such a strong lineup. What is the selection process like when you are putting together your lineup?
First and foremost, we try to respect a set of guidelines which fits our preferences. Today, our identity is more oriented towards house and techno. However, this is not fixed and could potentially embody a broader range of musical genres in the future. One member usually takes care of contacting and booking artists—however it is the whole team which decides who will play or not.

Photo: Marie Staggat

Octave One: Photo: Marie Staggat

The lineup features iconic veterans (Phuture, Lil Louis and Octave One, for instance) as well as newer artists. Do you think it's important to pay tribute to the music's heritage?
Of course! It's important because the techno movement is entering a new dimension today, and the new generation needs to understand where it comes from and what it means. We did not necessarily choose the biggest headliners, but those we believe have talents and are recognized for it. With such a lineup, we want to establish a new trend, and not follow the current tendency of booking the top 20 biggest acts all playing at the same time during the festival.

Do you plan on continuing to produce the festival for as many years as you can? Or can you see an endpoint?
Our dream is, similarly to Cirque du Soleil, to create a series of nomad festivals that move to different cities all around the world. For every edition, we create a different world in which people are plunged into. One day, we'll hopefully get there!