Review: (((Stereo))) Grand Re-Opening Weekend
Well, itís been a while since Iíve written a review. I usually only write reviews when a party really does something to me. It had been a while before that had happened.
I planned to go to Montrťal this weekend only because one of my best friends (oldschool420) was visiting. I traveled Europe with him, and hadnít seen him in over a year, so this weekend was already being lined up to be something great. We decided to go in mid-August, and we were so excited about it, we talked about it almost every day. I havenít gone out that much this summer because summers are usually filled with a lot of nights out for me, and I had a decently busy semester at school in the winter. Once we decided to Montrťal, I decided to avoid going out for all of August, just so I could enjoy Labour Day weekend. You can imagine the anticipation that I builtÖ
ÖYou can also imagine the disappointment I felt when I heard that Stereo was lit on fire for the 3rd time, at 4:00am Wednesday morning, 2 days before it was supposed to open. This was piled onto an already rough week for me after having lost my iPhone and hitting a severe administration snag at school. Justin was more than just a little upset too because had come all the way from Alberta for this. Also, we had spent about 80% of our budget already, and barely any of it was refundable.
The week leading up to the Stereo Opening weekend was almost like a high drama movie. Iíve never even a heard of a city where a club gets set on fire 3 times within the span of 1.5yrs-2yrs. Message boards, Facebook, and the Montrťal Gazette website exploded with reactions of surprise, disappointment, speculation and anger. ďWhy was this one club the victim of suspected/actual arson 3 times within such a short period of time?Ē ďWho was responsible for this?Ē, and most importantly, ďWill it ever open again?Ē
Until Thursday moment, there hadnít been so much as even a post by a worker at Stereo about what was going to happen. Finally, on Thursday afternoon Angel Moraes posted on a Facebook group that on the day of the explosion (Wednesday), over 100 volunteers showed up to help clean up. (Can you believe that? Where would this ever happen in Toronto?) He said that it didnít look likely, but they were going to see if they could open it on Saturday. We didnít get another announcement until late Friday night which said that they would open pending city approval. I was pretty skeptical about this because the article said that the club had sustained heavy damage. Also, I found it unlikely that the Fire Marshall would approve them so soon, especially since the police had considered it arson. Therefore, I still had the same feelings about it when I first heard about the news: that it wouldnít open.
We got to Montrťal, settled in, and went to see James Holden @ Piknic …lectronik (to my surprise, we saw three advertisements on the metro for the party on the way there). He played some decent tracks. Otherwise, his mixing was dodgy, and his programming wasnít that good. However, this event became pretty insignificant when we finally found out, at 8:30pm, that Stereo would indeed be opening. I canít remember the last time I was so happy to hear something. I was literally jumping up and down with excitement.
We left Piknic shortly thereafter to get ready for Stereo. Even though it opened at 1:00am, we decided to get there for midnight because we didnít want to have to wait forever. By the time we got there at about 12:15, there was already a line-up of about 30 people. Itís not very often you see people line-up that early to get to a club.
We waited in line for a bit. Then a bit longer. Then even longer. During this time, they started the sound system a couple of times, only to have it turn off shortly thereafter. By around 2:15am, I started to get quite angry. It had passed the point of reason by that point. No one knew what was going on and no announcements were being made. The crowd broke out into a ďLet us in!Ē chant a few times during the wait. At around 2:50am, everyone in our group started to look like they were giving up, and the whole line was getting livid. Some were about to leave, when at 3:00am, they finally opened the door, and the crowd erupted into applause.
Once the door opened, the staff were in a mad panic to get everyone inside. You could see the anxiety and determination in their eyes to get the angry patrons inside as soon as they possibly could. You could also see in their faces how tired they were from how hard they worked to get that club open. After almost 3.5 hours of waiting, we got in at 3:30am (I have only once had to wait longer than that to get into a club). I was pretty mad in line, but I could tell that they had done the best they could to get it open on Saturday: there was still much visible damage to the downstairs area.
I started walking up the stairs to finally see the club that everyone had been raving about, the club that I had wanted to go to for so many years, a club that has had so much drama in its history, and a club that is known all across the world.
I walked into the lobby area, and saw one set of stairs that goes to the dance area. It leads you to the back of a speaker, behind which is the back-center of the dance-floor. The DJ booth is directly in front of you, but very high up, and it is quite darkened. It is a struggle to see the DJ. This is a bit of gamble and is quite unlike clubs you see anywhere else. First, it is near-impossible to see the DJ due to the dark lighting, and it is uncomfortable for DJ-watching, due to the height at which the booth sits. This takes the focus off the DJ, and as a result creates a very different vibe. Everyone is focused on dancing with their friends, or off in their own little zone.
I didnít seen any particularly epic hands-in-the-air moments, but as you walked through the crowd, it seemed like almost everyone is dancing a lot, but talking little. I havenít been to very many clubs where I can say that from 3am-9:30am, on both nights, at least 75% of the crowd was dancing. This gives it a very, raw, serious vibe that I havenít quite experienced anywhere else. That isnít to say that itís better than everywhere else, but it makes the club unique.
The club was full of old-school partiers, and it felt like everyone was on the same level. There was no aggression, it wasnít overly messy, and everyone kept it together. There wasnít much socializing amongst groups, but there was a common respect from each other.
I remember hearing mostly French being spoken, so I assume that the club was mostly Quťbecois. Coupled with the fact that I saw very few from Toronto, it would be interesting to know how much of the crowd were tourists.
There are big screens on each side of the dancefloor which play visuals that can be entertaining at times. Iím not a big visuals guy, so unless itís extremely impressive and noticeable, I donít really pay attention. The lighting rig seems to have potential, but I have a feeling I didnít see the full show. They didnít do too much with it, but it was used effectively. They did go a bit overboard with the strobes, however. One thing that is interesting to notice about the lighting though is that although lots of times the lighting is kept a normally dark level, there are lots of times where they shine the light quite brightly. What makes it interesting is that the brightness at which the light is shone would cause instant tension and anxiety in a crowd in Toronto at the time in the morning, whereas the people in this club didnít seem to mind. And in being from Toronto, I didnít mind it at Stereo either. Iíve also seen this done at Bal en Blanc and a few other parties. Is this a Montrťal thing?
There is a large, well furnished seating area with a bar in the middle at the back of the club with ample seating and place to dance. Most of the seating faces the dance floor from an elevated perspective which permits you to look in awe at the sea of people that seem to move in unison. I canít count how many times I turned to the person sitting beside me to express my disbelief at how many people were still there and still dancing at ungodly hours of the morning.
Angel Moraes took to the decks first to tune the system and work the crowd in. He played a lot of house classics with big vocals, and lots of melodies. Itís hard to comment on the set considering for most of the time he was tuning the sound system. Hector Romero came on next, which was the perfect choice for this time at night. I think he played from about 3am-6am if I remember correctly. He picked up where Angel left off with circuity house anthems. After not too long, he started letting those chuggy, tribal bass-kicks that we all know so well, pulse through the Stereo sound system. Let me tell you that this type of sound takes on a whole new meaning when played on the Stereo sound system. It is loud, monsterous and relentless. It almost feels like you are being pleasantly assaulted by the bass. The sound is at Stereo is indescribably intense, and seems to weigh down on you.
Sometime around 5am, Hector played this one track with a beautiful vocal, whose drop was met with a burst of light from the lighting system. This caused what I can only describe as a dam being broken, with relief, joy, excitement and unbrideled energy instantly flooding the club. Stereo had finally open, and the party had officially kicked into high gear.
Tribal sounds appeared in Hectorís set more and more, perfectly setting it up for Chus & Ceballos. Until about 8am, their set was great. Lots of harder tribal and tech house that really made you understand what this sound system was capable of. Their set got boring after about a couple of hours though. Their set started to lack variety, and there didnít seem any sense to their programming. They just seemed to be more interested in banging the tunes out.
We woke up on Sunday morning at about 4:30am and got to Stereo at around 6:00. We walked up the stairs, and the place was packed. More-so than the night before. It is quite the experience getting a full night sleep, waking up, and immediately being thrust into that: quite disorienting to say the least.
Although I hadnít seen him before, I was most excited to hear Roger Sanchez. I have been getting quite bored of techno and tech house lately. It seems like thatís all Iíve been hearing in Toronto. So, I was thirsty for some fun house music. I had listened to a few of his sets before, and thatís what I thought Iíd be getting. Although he may have played that before I got there at 6am, I certainly did not get what I was expecting.
At the beginning of his set, he was playing that Ibiza electro-y tech-house sound (think Release Yourself or Carl Cox @ Space) with a lot of big builds. It didnít impress me too much, but it didnít last very long. From 6:30am, it was just a relentless assault. Through-out his whole set was this deep, rolling, forceful bass line that just did not let up. The percussive patterns that he played were just maddening. He used builds sparingly, and when he did they werenít very long. It is so hard for a DJ to do this well, but because of what he did, he locked me into a groove that I could not escape from for 5 hours. His set demanded my constant attention, and I actually had to leave the dance floor a couple of times to give my mind a break from the intensity of the experience. Roger Sanchez played to this room impeccably, and I could not have asked for a better set. He played the perfect afterhours set.
I have the utmost respect for DJs like him. His night Release Yourself in Ibiza, where he plays more commercial house, is in the top 3 or 5 highest earning parties on the island. The fact that he can switch from that to the kind of set he played at Stereo is impressive to say the least.
Not only is his programming amazing, his technical ability is rivaled by few in comparison to other house DJs Iíve seen. At points he had 3 tracks going, throwing in samples and EQing with a sniperís precision. Throughout the night, you could see him with his flash light in his mouth, constantly doing something on his equipment.
The 5 hours of Roger Sanchez that I saw gets 9.5/10. A set impresses me that much maybe 3 times a year, if that.
In the time between leaving Stereo and getting to the Stereo/Neon party at Ile-du-Vieux-Pont, reflecting on the fact that I would be going to a party of that caliber bewildered me. I could not wrap my mind around a party with that much potential being immediately after what I had just experienced.
After a few hours relaxing at the hotel room and a late lunch, we made our way to the party. It was a bit difficult to find, and I imagine any who were not from Montrťal probably had a hard time finding it. The venue itself was sort of a small amphitheatre made of grass, behind which was the river. My friends got there early and got a seat on the top tier of the amphitheatre, where we proceeded to enjoy the nice day and the free table service (although the drinks were a bit on the pricey side). Although I expected much more people at the party, it was the perfect way to end off the weekend. Everyone just sat around and recounted their respective weekends.
After one of the Audiofly guys had been playing for a while, I decided to get up and dance a bit. Shortly after I did that, I noticed Clive Henry lurking in the background. I wondered if they could be playing together, but quickly shook the idea out of my head on the grounds that it would be too good to be true (I had been looking forward to Clive Henry and Audiofly more than anyone else that day). The cherry-on-top of the weekend came when Clive Henry put on his headphones. I had been expecting that day to be more about talking and enjoying the nice weather than music, but Clive and Audiofly shattered those expectations. Did those two ever tear that place a new one. Their set was a blurry, wobbly whirlwind of tech house. Their mixing and EQing were perfectly unanticipated. Their set artfully lacked stability, which made for another set this weekend that was played perfectly for its atmosphere. Amidst all the cheese we have been hearing recently, this was tech-house done right.
I canít really comment on the rest of the party, because I was just dead by this point. By the time Beyer came on, I was just sitting down almost falling asleep.
I hadnít had a weekend like this in over a year. As someone who has been going out for a while and is kind of losing interest, this weekend hit me like a freight train. I didnít even know I was still capable of enjoying clubbing like that. I will remember this weekend for a long time.
Although I donít live there, I imagine that Montrťal needed a weekend like this. I check the Montrťal events frequently, and although Iím sure some will disagree, Montrťal has been lacking compared to what it used to be. I remember looking in envy a few years ago at the stacked long-weekends that Montrťal consistently had. Montrťal is a very unique city, and is still one of my favourites out of all the cities Iíve seen. When Montrťal is on, magic happens. So I really hope that with this stellar Labour Day weekend and the re-opening of Stereo, the continued success massives and of Piknik, that the Montrťal scene will pick up again.
Stereo is quite simply a world-class club. I donít know what it looked like before, but Iíve partied in lots of the ďfamous clubsĒ, and this club is just as good as any of them. Stereo has the potential to create that atmosphere we all know, where it literally feels like the sky has been ripped open and heaven is shining down onto the dance floor.
There arenít many parties I look forward to anymore, but I eagerly await the next time I get to experience Stereo.