Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Black & Blue 2008 - Digital Paradise - Montreal - October 12, 2008

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"Get there early, get there early", although I knew my entrance to the Palais de Congres was going to be easy (media), the drama of the Bal en Blanc 2008 could not get out of my head. My advise to anyone that asked me, was to get there early, just in case there was a delay at the door.

Unlike the "Bal en Blanc", the "BBCM" did everything possible to keep the entrance process as just a minor inconvenience. Everyone was super polite and helpful, and not to mention I felt as if I was royalty during my way in. Spoke to several people (VIP and non VIP ticket holders) and all talked about how easy was to get in. Thank you to the organizers, staff and volunteers for such a great beginning of the night.

It was probably around 11:30pm when I made to the giant dance floor, and I must make a statement. All you are going to read are my personal opinions of the night. If I could I would write two reviews, one from Patius and another from a gay man expecting to go to a "gay" musically inclined event (I know I'm going to get blasted by what I just wrote), and keep reading in order to find out why.

The first thing I notice was the big room looking more like a warehouse, obviously you cannot help yourself in trying to compare this location with the Olympic Stadium. At the big “O” everything looks giant, specially when you look up and you see the whole ceiling decorated like if the sky was dress up for the party of the year. At the convention center the first impression I had was modesty, less decoration, more technology, less limitations, and more in touch with the crowd.

Keeping up with the theme of the night, there were giant screens placed all over the room, there were also a wall of LEDs, that I must say worried me a bit because it reminded me of the LEDs at the Telus Center for the Divers/Cité Ball, which were annoying. Luckily, those LEDs were wisely used as part of the light show of the night.

Miguel Graça (21h30 - 1h15), Portuguese by birth and Montrealer by choice, was in charge of the decks when I arrive. I had heard of him before, but every time I was supposed to go to one of his parties, something would happen and I could never go. Graça was spinning a combination of electronic house techy tunes, and I must say it was an interesting choice by the BBCM, because you would expect a much more vocal house oriented type of music to start the night, at least for the Black & Blue event.

The whole set was a solid display of deep house techy music, with nice mixing and great interaction with the crowd. I believe this is the first time Graça has performed in a circuit party and I’m sure he is very happy with the job he did - nice exposure for a DJ that is mostly found in the underground scene of Montreal.

Right in the middle of the dance floor, there was a pyramid surrounded by lights, which became a geographical point of orientation, but even with this central point I was able to get lost a couple of times. Loved the mini dancing stages placed around the place, there were at least four or five of them, plus the giant one for the VIP area. It was great because it was a stage where anyone could go and dance, unlike previous years when only the BBCM dancers were allowed to be.

Dave Seaman (1h20 - 3h40) arrived and he was received with a very warm welcoming noise by the crowd. Progressive dark house music began to be delivered by Seaman, and can I add tranceish to the mix as well? Enjoyed his set, which sometimes was hard and sometimes soft. There were probably more vocals in his set than what I heard in Miguel’s, and some of them were just a trip to the past splashed with the freshness of the present, such a remix of the “Sweet dreams”, which drove the crowd nuts. Some of the music were great tunes with some soft voices in the background, giving you this feeling of lightness.

First time seeing this DJ live, and personally I like what he delivered, not exactly spectacular but was good. On the other hand I don’t think the gay crowd was too happy with the choice of music. I already had people asking me what happened to the vocals, what happened to the anthems, what happened to the house music?

What about the crowd? If you liked the DJ lineup and did not go because the Black and Blue is a gay event, I must tell you lots of straight people have found a gold mine and have not share it with you. Don’t have the numbers, but the place was full and with enough space to dance and walk around, without having to push anyone. There were lots of straight people, and lots of good looking men and women. Actually, emphasis on the good physics found at the convention center.

There was a whole section that had been taken over by the bears, and it was easy to figure out the area, you just need to look up at the balloons, and their had obviously some Teddy Bears imprinted on it. Actually, thinking about it, their section was kind of large.

When Peter Rauhofer (3h45 - 6h10) was announced I think you could hear the relief felt by many people that were still waiting to hear that “gay” sound, and weren’t they in for a surprise? Peter delivered a strong dark sexy almost non-vocal house type of set. I had just seeing him a couple of weeks ago, and this Black & Blue set had nothing in common with his last one in Montreal. Both were different and both equally good.

Peter came super energetic and pumped, and he kept the energy level of music very constant from the beginning until the end. Obviously he dropped some vocals, but not as many as everyone might had expected, for a gay event we only heard one Madonna song being played all night long. Minimal was dropped, deep tribal, techy, and the crowd went wild when he started to play “Happy People”, among other remixes. Once again he was able to deliver a strong set without smiling once, and by the time Rauhofer had finish his set, I felt as if I had just drank 5 bottles of energy drinks at once - talk about getting me hyper.

Had the chance to check out the VIP area, which offered some snacks and chill out space for the people inside, not too much glamour but some people enjoy that aspect of the parties. The bathroom situation was under control, you had to wait in line for a bit but not too long, maybe longer because some people did not realize there were actually 2 lines inside, one for the toilets and another for the water fountains - one which was not working.

Checked the toilets, or at least tried, of the regular ticket holders and instead of letting people go down thru the emergency exits, they were required to return by the same path on their way up - this is when I decided the music was calling on the dance floor and I dropped my quest to see what was going on upstairs.

Today I will stop saying I haven’t heard a good set by Mark Anthony (6h15 - 8h40), because this is what I witness on Monday morning. To be honest I was hoping Anthony was going to be the last DJ to spin so I could leave early, instead I’m glad he was placed right after Peter Rauhofer, because he was able to continue the fantastic job Peter has just finished, and transformed into an equally successful set of his own. If D-Formation had been the fourth DJ of the night, the music wouldn’t had flown as well as it did.

Mark Anthony was the perfect DJ chosen to play great music at that time of the “night”. He was able to move the crowd up and down accordingly to his will, and never asked too much or too little from everyone. Music was dropped as waves move in the ocean, and it was great to see such a sea immerse itself in such deep tunes of tribal beats, of vocals, or dark and sexy mysterious music.

Except from the transition to D-Formation from Mark Anthony, there were mini-dance show prepared by the BBCM to entertain the crowd. Honestly, it did not come up to standards set by previous Black & Blue events, specially since I do not recall seeing a moment dedicated to the fallen victim of AIDS, which have been very emotional moments of this event in the past - and if there was one I missed it completely. Who doesn’t remember the thousands of candles set once on the floor of the Olympics stadium? Or the giant towers of metal which was light up with candles from the top to the bottom? Or even the human flag from last year? Or many other special moments, which had become an expected moment during this party. Maybe the Black & Blue is moving towards new horizons, and I guess we just have to keep up with its new reality.

D-Formation (8h40 - 12h00), the most loved and hated DJ from last year event, came on strong and ready to make the people either leave or dance until there was no tomorrow. D-Formation spin the type of music that you either hate or love, and I’m lucky that I enjoy every single minute of his delicious tunes.

Very deep darker progressive type of house music you can think of is what he played while I was there, and out of the DJ he was the one that made me sweat the most, so much that I ended up hurting my ankle. He dropped those very hard base lines followed by faster and slower tunes, and when you least expected, there was so vocals coming of nowhere. There is no way to describe in words how you feel when he is in charge of the decks, this DJ is one you must experience, and not sure about you but his music is one I wanted to dance in a club or a massive, instead of having to listen to it in the comfort of my house.

If the BBCM hinted what direction they were taking the Black and Blue by inviting D-Formation to spin last year, I think with this year’s event, they have confirmed this party is no longer aimed towards mostly to one part of our society, instead they have reached across all the colours of the rainbow, and my suspicious is that next year we’ll see a much more equal representation of the straight and gay crowd at this event.

Overall I enjoyed all the DJs of the night, and I guess I’m lucky because my house music taste is kind of everywhere. Techy sounds were the predominant genre of music played during the whole night, and if I was a gay man expecting to hear mostly “gay” sounds, and please keep in mind I’m generalizing at this point, I would probably had not musically enjoyed too much this event. If you ask the straight crowd, I’m almost sure in the majority will say they really enjoyed the Black and Blue 2008, and lots of their straight friends will make sure not to miss next year’s event.

The convention center is a good venue for a party, but I think we all have gotten used to the Black and Blue in the Olympic Stadium, and I hope next year it goes back to their regular home. Very well organized event, and even thought I wasn’t sure I liked the set up at the beginning of the night, it kind of grew on me with its warehouse feeling. Once again, please remember these are my personal opinions of this party, and what a party.

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