Not unlike that time they dropped skydiver Felix Baumgartner from the Earth’s stratosphere, Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp landed on our planet – Montreal instead of Baumgartner’s chosen drop zone on New Mexico – for four days at the end of February with a tremendous amount of anticipation. In its second year, Bass Camp is one part can’t-miss parties after dark and another part serious info-sessions during the day. Business in the front, party in the back – just like a hockey player’s mullet.
This year, Detroit producer Kevin Saunderson, Compton rapper DJ Quik and hometown golden boy Jacques Greene bestowed their wisdom upon classrooms of hotly tipped music makers. In addition to dropping knowledge on a who’s who of young Canadian artists – like Allie, Tennyson, Beta Frontiers, Iron Galaxy and Da-P – they also assumed their rightful places on stage. While the lectures and workshops were only for selected delegates, the shows at night were open to the public.
Here’s what EARMILK thought of the four evening events. Each happened at a different venue.
Jacques Greene & Ango at SAT
Bass Camp’s night sessions opened with a pair of erstwhile Montrealers who regularly make return visits. Armed with a strong visual component courtesy of Jason Voltaire, the two artists performed their sets surrounded by three walls of projections. Toronto resident Ango kicked things off by doing his PBR&B thing, singing and mixing at the same time. Jacques Greene’s set was compact by DJ set standards – a tidy hour-and-fifteen minutes – but the Vase and LuckyMe signee still took the fired up hometown crowd on a journey: from a hard introduction, to atmospheric chill out music, to new Drake, to new experimental material to eventually Ciara. Greene was so in his element, so in control of his musical tones, they had no choice but to unleash the doves on the screens around him.
DJ Quik and Mannie Fresh at Le Belmont
The classic-era Compton rapper has undergone a career resurgence in recent years, first from 2009’s Blaqkout (with Kurupt), then last year’s critically acclaimed This Midnight Life, but on the Belmont stage, Quik was feeling more nostalgic. Clad in red and flanked by hypeman Hi-C, a decorated MC in his own right, Quik opened with a couple of 90’s standbys, "Dollaz & Sense" and "Sweet Black Pussy.” He then told the crowd: "Let me take you back to 1991, when all your favourite rappers were still alive." Mannie Fresh DJed till last call (3 a.m. in Montreal), but instead of dipping into his incredible back catalogue of hits, he deferred to popular demand, playing Rich Gang, O.T. Genasis and ending the night with Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” Too bad he didn’t play more originals, because the crowd went nuts for “Go DJ.”
Kevin Saunderson and Kenny Larkin at Espace Reunion
Only the finest of sound systems would do for these two dignitaries of Detroit techno. Espace Reunion isn’t exactly known as a premier afterhours space in Montreal, but given that this night also doubled as Nuit Blanche, where over 200 events occur across the city after sundown, anything seemed possible. Larkin came on first and experimented with more unconventional melodies on top of his pounding rhythms. Saunderson was next up on a night that went well past last call and also featured performers Woulg, CMD, Adam Feingold, Drol. and Kevin McPhee. The Inner City mastermind’s no-nonsense two-hour set was far more entrancing and direct than Larkin’s. Either way, the night was pure heaven for classic techno fans looking for pristine sound quality and worship-worthy beats in a space that somewhat approximated the factory experience. Of course that’s only if you managed to get in, which wasn’t easy.
BadBadNotGood at Theatre Fairmount
A brand new venue in Montreal was christened on this night – another one with a surprisingly good sound system – and who better to open the place than the jazz and hip hop trio of Canadian wunderkinds who just dropped an album with the unassailable Ghostface Killah? Tony Starks couldn’t make it, so BBNG skipped out on playing Sour Soul sans vocals. But they did pay tribute to Montreal’s own Lunice by covering TNGHT’s heavy, lurching track “Bugg’n,” with their usual drums, keys and bass configuration. (Along with guesting horn players.) There was also a lot of interest in another Montrealer set to conquer the world, producer Kaytranada, who was hanging by the DJ area near the stage.