Nuit Blanche 2017: when downtown Montreal became Antarctica
If any city in the world truly knows how to put on a great party in the middle of winter, it’s Montreal, and the proof is in the city’s yearly Nuit Blanche event. 2017’s edition – its 14th annual – was yet another fun evening of shows, activities, art installations, food tastings and more that kept rolling on until the wee hours of the morning. The only problem? Mother Nature was in no mood to party with us. The weather outside felt like -20 with the windchill – and if you’re like me and you tried jumping from venue to venue to see how different places celebrated despite having to walk for 10-20 minutes at a time, it got to you. Here are my biggest takeaways from a night I’ll unfortunately remember more for the frigid cold than for its otherwise solid events.
This year’s Nuit Blanche celebrated the 50th anniversary of Expo 67, and milked it for all its worth.
Musical references to the era – such as DJs playing songs like “Twist and Shout” as well as Quebecois songs from that time – in addition to artsy projections of photos from the expo were only a couple of references made to the 20th century’s biggest World’s Fair that night. At the dome upstairs at S.A.T, 3D graphics of “LOVE” and the Beatles’ yellow submarines would occasionally pop up. The overall ‘60s vibe many events tried putting on – including the very ‘60s-themed record sale at S.A.T.’s main floor that night – went off nicely.
Despite the weather, a lot of Montrealers still came out to party in the cold.
With fire pits, marshmallow roasting, deep house DJs – and of course, the freezing weather – defining the activities around the Quartier des spectacles while I was in that area, this year’s Nuit Blanche felt a bit more like your average night at Igloofest than any other year I’d gone. To those of you who likely queued for an eternity to ride on the zip line on Saturday night: I envy your patience and cool (pun intended) under pressure.
Thankfully, it seemed as if enough people stayed home so that walking through the crowd on Ste. Catherine actually made me feel like I wasn’t packed like sardines amongst everyone else – probably the first Nuit Blanche I’ve been to where I felt that way. The same cannot be said for when I headed home for the night, however: the crowd waiting on the metro platform heading north on the Orange Line at Berri-UQAM at 2:45 a.m. rivalled that of Tokyo at rush hour.
The dab is still alive and well.
As much as some people might hate to admit it, dabbing doesn’t look like it’s going out of fashion just yet. I saw several instances of people dancing like they were about to sneeze, the most notable example of which coming through a little boy – probably no older than five – enthusiastically doing so at one of the exhibitions at the Belgo building downtown, to much applause from his mother and the volunteers watching him. Eat your hearts out, Cam Newton and Migos.
You never know what you’ll stumble into sometimes.
While being armed with a media pass obviously helps for getting into places without a hitch, I didn’t expect to suddenly stumble into a Mother Mother concert whilst casually checking out what was happening at L’Astral. However, the biggest surprise of the night came at Old Montreal’s Phi Centre. At the venue’s third annual Nuit Tribe event, I arrived to DJs largely playing afrohouse to a packed crowd, some rather provocative art installations (mainly ones that took children’s TV shows and made them very adult), and even a virtual reality gaming station upstairs.
As awesome as all of that is, it pales in comparison to what happened as I was ending my night: while I’m heading toward the back to leave, I spot none other than Kaytranada chatting with his pals near the exits. Clearly, even local celebrities will brave the elements for a fun night at Nuit Blanche. (And no, I did not try and get a selfie with him, though the temptation was obviously strong.)
Cronuts and Nutella are among the most heavenly food combinations you can think of.