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Behind the scenes at Piknic Électronik Montréal

Alum Patrick Meloche works with local and international DJs at the popular electronic music festival
July 13, 2017
By Richard Burnett

Montreal’s electronic music scene is renowned worldwide thanks in no small part to Piknic Électronik Montréal, the outdoor electronic music event that has exported its brand to the four corners of the globe.

In addition to the hugely popular Piknic Électronik festival held every Sunday from May to September at Parc Jean-Drapeau, Piknic has also hosted events in Barcelona, Spain; Melbourne, Australia; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Santiago, Chile.

Patrick Meloche Patrick Meloche poses with a Piknic Électronik poster frame, above his own image.

For this year’s 15th edition in Montreal, Piknic is back with 19 events that wind down on September 24, showcasing local and international DJs.

Festival programming coordinator Patrick Meloche, BA (Eng. lit.) 12, sat down for a quick Q&A about working behind the scenes at Piknic Électronik Montréal, as well as at Piknic’s sister event Igloofest, held at Montreal’s Old Port in January and February. 

How did you get involved with Piknic Électronik?

Patrick Meloche: “The summer I graduated from Concordia, I began working for them part-time doing production work onsite. It became evident to the people there that I knew a lot about electronic music, and their programmer was looking for an assistant.

It wasn’t my intention to embark on a career with Piknic but I ended up really liking it, and so here I am.”

You are now the programming coordinator for Piknic Électronik and Igloofest. What does your job entail?

PM: “Primarily I handle the artists’ logistics and I am their main point of contact when they are in Montreal.

My boss is the booker. She and I put together a DJ wish list, and once they are confirmed, I will do the back-and-forth with the agents, handle their transportation, accommodations and needs, to ensure they also have a good time.

I will pick them up at the airport, host them at our events, stay in touch with them during their stay and make sure they are happy.”

From your insider perspective, who brings the energy to the dancefloor — the DJ or the audience?

PM: “I don’t think one or the other is solely responsible, it’s definitely a bit of both. If the crowd is not receptive, there’s not much a DJ can do to punch through that.

The flip side of that is I try to make sure DJs are happy when they are here because that really comes through when they’re at work. The environment contributes to the success for an event, and we’re really lucky at Piknic and Igloofest that our audiences come for the full experience.”

Patrick Meloche Patrick Meloche on the Piknic Électronik site at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Who are some of your favourite DJs to work with?

PM: “My favourites tend to be the outsiders, those who surprise people. I really liked Levon Vincent at Igloofest, and we had Mad Professor at a world-music themed event — it was a bit outside of our box, but I love dub and I thought it was great!”

I’m sure you also put up with divas…

PM: “Not as many as you would think! We generally shy away from some of the bigger commercial names. The DJs we work with are more humble. We don’t get much of an attitude problem.”

Why does Montreal have such a vibrant electronic dance music scene?

PM: “I think the European influence on Montreal has a big effect. There are a lot of young French students in Montreal. I think France and Europe have internalized a lot of dance music over the last 15 to 20 years, a lot more than North America has, and they come with a deeper knowledge base.

There is also a DIY scene in Montreal where producers support each other. Unlike other cities, there isn’t quite the same sense of competition. Instead there is a strong support network. It makes a huge difference to the atmosphere, which is generally quite relaxed.”

Piknic and Igloofest are now recognizable brands…

PM: “We are at the point now where we have a level of recognition internationally and certainly in the industry, not just among festivalgoers. A lot of the artists — even if they are coming to play for us for the first time — have heard of our events and are generally excited to play.”

How did your time at Concordia help shape you and contribute to your success?

PM: “I spent quite a bit of time volunteering with Concordia’s radio station CJLO, which was definitely formative for me. I was a magazine editor for them, I was their electronic music director, I hosted a few radio shows, and the spirit of the station and its volunteers fueled my passion.

Following my passion at Concordia gave me the grounding I needed to keep doing that after I graduated. I loved my time at Concordia, and I couldn’t see myself doing that undergrad anywhere else.”

Any tips for festivalgoers attending Piknic and Igloofest?

PM: “Igloofest is all about good boots and socks. Everything else matters too, but if your body is warm and your feet are freezing or wet, you are done for.

When it comes to Piknic, I would say explore the grounds, especially this year since it is a new site. It’s not just, ‘Have a drink, dance and leave.’ Piknic is more about living the experience, the kind of environment where you can sit down and have a picnic during a relaxing Sunday afternoon!”


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