Hit or Stand: Black & Blue’s BlackJack-21 at the Big O
Of all the things you can say about the fine folks over at the Black & Blue Festival, one thing is certain: they wear their acclaim very well. Voted Best International Circuit Party of the Year by Just Circuit, winner of last year’s Best Of Edge Award from Edge Magazine, and with a twenty-one year history and counting, the Black & Blue’s Main Event is as fresh and cutting edge as ever. With the tagline BlackJack21, the mega-event lands at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, October 9th.
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As was the case with last year’s 20th anniversary edition, there are two rooms to frolic in for the thousands of marauders expected to fill the vast Big O. Fashioned perhaps after the massive summer festivals that dominate the European market, BlackJack-21’s 15-hour marathon features a record-breaking number of DJs and performers.
The Return of the DJ(s)
Montreal’s discerning partygoers have a keen sense of adopting certain DJs and claiming them as their own. This can be said of Hernan Cattaneo, whose closing set last year was enough for organizers to book him again for this year’s Main Event. “I had an amazing time playing last year, and it’s great to hear that my set was this well-received,” Cattaneo says. “I know this time the anticipation will be bigger, so it’s a big challenge as well.”
While Cattaneo is used to leading the pack for massive parties like Moonpark in his native Argentina, Black & Blue is still a plum event for the sound-crafter. “To me, it’s like a massive event but with a club atmosphere, and that is something I have only seen in very few places around the world,” he says. “Normally, big shows are more like festivals, and music wise, not always the best. At Black & Blue, I played like I was in a small club but instead I was at this immense hall full of amazing clubbers. It’s really an outstanding world class event.”
Also returning this year to the helm is Rosabel, the duo comprised of Ralphi Rosario and Abel Aguilera. Rosario’s longevity in the circuit party scene has given him the clout and respect of his peers and the dancers before him; he knows a good party when he sees it. “Being around the great people of Montréal and that energy is very different from the other events,” Rosario says. “I believe the attendees of Black & Blue are true hard music fans. This alone is why this event stands out from all the rest.”
And while many of the attendees might presumably get lost in the flashing lights and thumping bass-lines, the event is a culmination of a week-long festival and is, above everything else, a fundraising event for HIV/AIDS. “Most of the events I perform at are indeed fundraisers as well, but they don’t endure the test of time,” Rosario says. “It’s events like these— that survive and push forward to raise money and awareness— I hold and respect.”
Inspiring a new generation
Just as Black & Blue and its mandate is being fed to a newer audience, it’s also educating an untapped DJ pool who normally wouldn’t have had the chance to play for the gay market had the event not pursued its current modus operandi.
“The first time I played in Montréal, the promoters came and picked me up in a car with massive Black & Blue ads on it,” says Leon Bolier, slated to play the Trance Room. “When I heard they wanted to book me for this event I was delighted because I heard great stories about it!”
As the Black & Blue delivers the best in international talent, it also lets the locals showcase their talent to a much wider audience. Scott James has been making his rounds at Circus Afterhours for almost 3 years and jumped at the chance to lay down his progressive signature sound at the Olympic Stadium. “I was extremely excited when I received the phone call to play,” James says. “I’m a big fan of having two rooms with two sounds because it allows for people to choose what they want and hear new music they may otherwise never get the chance.”
As it Turns…
While on the topic of change being the only constant, a lot can be said of the evolution of the sound that permeates at these types of global gatherings. Trance, house and progressive have all gone through the grind, all of which now seem to aim at provoking the biggest crowd reaction. “I think especially the last few years many artists have been looking for this kind of thing, hence most tracks being put out in trance (and in nearly any other genre) are focused on a big climax,” Bolier says. “Nowadays the straight-forward house sound that has become very popular is an influence to many trance producers out there as well.”
The more progressive house side of things has taken a slight change as well, and Black & Blue is smart to keep a close eye on how the sounds and times are a-changing. “I’d say the new progressive sound as a whole has swept the scene, with icons like Tiësto and Guetta pushing a more progressive sound and the new ‘Swedish’ sound dominating most top 10 tracks,” says Scott James. “The new progressive sound is now a big global trend so it would only make sense that large marquee events like the Black & Blue would have to book DJs that are in line with what’s trending.”
Looks like everyone has done their homework. See you all at the Big O.
Leon Bolier, Hernan Cattaneo, Rosabel, Scott James and more perform at Black & Blue: BlackJack-21, October 9th at the Olympic Stadium.