Misstress Barbara on Igloofest in the Montreal Gazette

Misstress Barbara keeps her cool at Igloofest

Montreal’s ice-cold outdoor dance party returns to the Old Port from Jan. 18 to Feb. 3.

Misstress Barbara is a regular at Igloofest, and lets us in on how the DJs cope with frigid temperatures: “They have heaters. I wonder how it is for the people (dancing).” Vincenzo D’Alto / Montreal Gazette files

Misstress Barbara is the first to admit she may be mellowing with age.

Exhibit A: On New Year’s Eve, she stayed in, at least until 1 a.m., then wandered over to her neighbourhood watering hole, Brasserie Harricana, for a drink with her friends who own the place.

It’s not that the internationally renowned Montreal techno DJ couldn’t find a gig for the biggest party night of the year. She couldn’t be bothered.

“I got a lot of invitations on the 31st,” she said last week, “but when I don’t play, the last thing I want is to be out in a crowd.”

When she does play, the bigger the crowd, the better. Which is why she’s always up for Igloofest. Our city’s ice-cold outdoor dance party draws thousands of bundled-up revellers to Jacques Cartier Pier in the Old Port, where the frigid winds off the St. Lawrence River add intensity to the proceedings.

The 12th edition of Igloofest runs from Thursday, Jan. 18 through Saturday, Feb. 3, with Misstress Barbara checking in for a 10:30 p.m. headline slot on Saturday, Jan. 27.

It only feels like an annual residency; Misstress Barbara plays the event every other year, give or take. Her last performance was at the 10th–anniversary edition in 2016.

“I’ve played one, two, three, four — this is my fifth time,” she said. “For one of them, I replaced (Welsh DJ superstar) Sasha, so it’s officially my fourth time. I’m really happy to play again. I love the festival.

“Honestly, I love Montreal. I love playing here. The crowd is awesome, the people who throw these events are an awesome organization. They’re very respectful. I have a good relationship with them. I always put them first.”

Igloofest draws thousands of bundled-up revellers to the Old Port every winter. (Photo: Vincenzo D’Alto / Montreal Gazette files)

Which brings us back to New Year’s Eve. Misstress Barbara had a few offers for the big night and for other local dates in December, but she made sure to check with the Igloofest team before responding.

“I kind of give them priority,” she said. “They treat me so well.”

Igloofest is run by the same people who throw Montreal’s summer-long, open-air weekend shindig Piknic Électronik, where Misstress Barbara does actually have a reserved slot, the Sunday of Labour Day weekend. She has played all but two of the event’s 15 editions, one of her dates being cancelled due to rain.

“The loyalty goes both ways,” she noted. “Last year they told me they could have (German techno legend) Sven Väth on the Sunday I usually play. They emailed me and said, ‘We have a question: we could have Sven Väth on the Sunday; would you be OK playing on Monday?’

“I just replied, ‘Hahaha.’ They answered back, ‘That’s what we thought. All good.’ They let go of Sven Väth because of our date.”

This year, Misstress Barbara relinquished her annual January migration to Australia (where the diehard tennis fan performs at Piknic Électronik in Melbourne and follows her hero Roger Federer at the Australian Open, when she’s not riding motorcycles around with her close friend Carl Cox) in order to play Igloofest. Well, not exactly, but that’s how it turned out. Truth be told, Misstress Barbara is hunkering down to work on a new album.

“It’s a big commitment to myself,” she said. “I didn’t choose the proper winter, with this -55 stuff, but that’s the decision I made.”

Asked if this year’s arctic winds have her nervous about Igloofest, she explained that the DJs have it easy.

“They have heaters,” she admitted, adding, “I wonder how it is for the people (dancing). Eventually I get so hot, because I move so much, that I take my coat off. But two years ago, when I played the 10th anniversary, it was -35. I took my coat off and I really shouldn’t have. Even though there are heaters, it doesn’t mean the wind isn’t cold. I was leaving for Australia two days later and I was so sick when I arrived.”

Igloofest-goers, take note: “If you take your coat off like a dumb-ass, you get sick.”


Misstress Barbara performs Saturday, Jan. 27 at 10:30 p.m. at Igloofest on Jacques Cartier Pier in the Old Port. Igloofest takes place Thursdays to Saturdays from Jan. 18 to Feb. 3. For tickets and more information, visit igloofest.ca.