- The mingling of electronic music with the mainstream over the past decade has come with a number of expected but frustrating side effects. Festivals have multiplied across Europe, with the inevitable consequence of becoming somewhat formulaic. Massive crowds, interchangeable lineups, endless queues and expensive drinks have become common features of the festival experience. But events like Monticule show those pitfalls can be avoided, ensuring their attendees get a serene and welcoming environment.
Monticule is set in a green, sun-drenched corner of southwestern France named the Lot. More specifically, it takes place within the Domaine De Gayfié, a private property on a hilltop with a panoramic view of the surrounding valley. This cosy scenery, together with the small crowd (only 600 tickets are sold), meant that, even with headliners like Ben UFO, Helena Hauff and Philip Lauer, Monticule felt like a family affair.
The festival had 44 acts spread across three days and three stages: the main stage, the pool bar and the barn. Its strongest asset lay in the fact that the music was far from the only entertainment at hand. The grounds were open 24 hours a day, allowing punters to enjoy ping pong, pétanque, astronomy lessons and painting seminars between sets. The artist Ray Moore provided a number of psychedelic pieces spread across the park, while scenographers from the Pfandfinderei crew built a totemic set for the main stage. The pool bar and the main stage ran from 10 AM to the early morning hours, and you could hear their Funktion-Ones from anywhere on the festival grounds.
On Thursday night, the main stage welcomed the likes of Candy Pollard, Ben UFO and Pearson Sound. The Hessle Audio DJs were the night's headliners, but it was Pollard who stole the show, skillfully walking the line between Detroit-leaning techno and rolling UK grooves. Friday afternoon saw a host of German DJs take the decks on the pool bar, with warm and funky selections providing relief from the previous night's pounding techno. Tracks such as Lette Mbulu's "Nomalizo" or Marcos Valle's "Estrelar" were blissful to hear between dips in the water. It seemed the pool bar's relaxed atmosphere inspired artists to play tunes that they wouldn't play anywhere else. On Thursday, Lauer played Vangelis and Kraftwerk, while the next day Konstantin Sibold mixed in R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)."
Munich's Ilian Tape label took over the main stage on Friday night as a massive thunderstorm rumbled a dozen miles away from the festival grounds. Watching Andrea's slick and captivating live set in this apocalyptic setting was inspiring. Later that night, Helena Hauff delivered one of the weekend's most appreciated performances in the barn. On Saturday, the main stage was handed over to Malka Tuti, a new label from Tel Aviv whose artists performed exotic house, relying heavily on organic drum patterns. This psychedelic brand of dance music set the stage for Gilb'R's closing set, which was a masterclass in energetic and trippy house music. With its clever curation, strong ethics and insistence on the festival experience rather than just the music, Monticule made for a brilliant weekend.
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