Boiler Room Montreal: The Underground Music Festival is Now Mainstream

Boiler Room Montreal: The Underground Music Festival is Now Mainstream

Boiler Room returned to Montreal this past weekend. The traveling event for three of my crew and I to this unique event!

What is Boiler Room?

“Boiler Room” was originally conceived of as an underground rave event which is a title it held for years. If nothing else, this past weekend’s two Boiler Room nights is proof positive that the event has moved far beyond its roots and has grown into a globally recognized phenomenon. Its origins date back to 2010 in London, where it began as a small, invite-only event which was streamed online. It provided a platform for DJs and electronic music enthusiasts. The intimate setting and focus on underground music quickly garnered a dedicated following, establishing Boiler Room as a unique cultural staple in the music scene. The event now happens in cities around the world.

Unique Feature

One of the most unique features of Boiler Room is that the DJ set is placed toward the center of the room and not necessarily at the back. This means that the attendees can literally be all around the DJ during the event. This brings a certain level of closeness to the DJs that other events don’t offer. While its simplicity might make it seem like a minor detail, it adds a nice touch to the overall experience, enhancing the connection between the audience and the performers. Boiler Room also places risers around the main dance floor so everyone gets a chance to see the DJ rather than the traditional scene of sometimes being stuck behind a tall person or a sea of people limiting your visibility.

Corporate Takeover

As with many grassroots movements and events that began with heart and sincerity, Boiler Room has evolved over the years toward becoming more corporate and commercialized event. This shift was evident at Boiler Room Montreal in the pricing of merchandise and drinks.

For instance, I attended the event on Saturday, May 11, and tickets were reasonably priced at $62. But once you got into the event, attendees faced sticker shock with $7 water bottles and basic sweatshirts emblazoned with the circular Boiler Room logo costing $120. Even bucket hats were sold for a hefty $50.

But even the choice of venue and the sheer size of the event shouted “corporate” and “money.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing, to be clear. However, when an event begins in a small, intimate setting, especially in a discreet location like a warehouse or small clubs, it carries a certain level of authenticity. In contrast, hosting it at a large, established event venue in a popular and expensive area like the Old Port of Montreal, it lacks that same authentic feel. My guess is there were a couple of thousand attendees. Having a larger event means more people are further from the DJs which is the heart of the event.

Despite these criticisms, the demand for Boiler Room events remains high. The Montreal event, held at the Grand Quai in the Old Port, was so popular that organizers added a second night, announcing there would be a special guest. The night I attended featured a lineup of DJs including Cheba Iman, Manalou, Zeemuffin, Yaya, MNSA, and others.

My Experience

To me, the event peaked around 11pm to midnight on the main floor, where the energy was phenomenal. It was packed with revelers, the beats driving the crowd into a euphoric frenzy. The upstairs section offered an alternative vibe, though neither floor managed to maintain the momentum beyond midnight, based on my experience. Yes, there was still a ton of energy but it seemed to fizzle somewhat as the music selection apparently wasn’t as good. While the event officially ran until 4am, with alcohol service stopping at 3am, a noticeable exodus of attendees began around 2am. Despite this, many partygoers stayed until the end, enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.

At one point, we were dancing just behind the DJ on the main floor and there must have been speakers right under the dance floor because the bass was very loud and shaking everything. Really wild!

A standout feature of the event was the lounge area on the second floor, a haven for those needing a break or a place to chill. The relaxed ambiance provided a stark contrast to the pulsating dance floors, offering a space for conversation and recuperation. It was a great spot to take a break from dancing and taking it all in.

Also, shoutout to the outdoor area set up. It was easy to access and right near the action with plenty of porta-potties. This was much appreciated.

The Boiler Room Delivered But…

Overall, the Boiler Room event in Montreal was a solid experience, though it didn’t quite match the magic of other local events like Igloofest or Île Soniq. I expected more from the event, given the hype but I feel like it came up short. While Boiler Room’s transition from underground rave to corporate event has its drawbacks, it continues to deliver memorable nights for electronic music fans. Would I go again? Probably!

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