There are moments in life when you feel all the stars are aligned and everything turns out the be as perfect as it can be. I can say with confidence that I felt such an epiphany moment regarding Hernan Cattaneo recent performance at STEREO Montreal on March 19 th . I must give you some key information about the context surrounding that night before going into details of the actual event. You will then surely understand my state of mind, the level of anticipation and excitement that was bursting inside me.
In September 2021, a big group of friends and myself decided to buy tickets for SXM Festival and book a villa on the island of Saint-Martin. Everything was booked in advance before we even had any clues of STEREO re-opening after the pandemic lockdowns. We booked a flight from March 5th to March 19th once again without having any information of the upcoming STEREO gigs. I must admit I was a little disappointed to see that Hernan Cattaneo wouldn’t be performing at the SXM festival as he did in the previous edition that took place in March 2020. And then, the magic started to happen one moment at a time; I had some exclusive scoop back in December 2021 that Hernan was booked for March 19th 2022. You can imagine how incredibly happy I was that his booking wasn’t in the middle of my SXM trip. On top of that, I would have the chance to complete my vacations in the most perfect way possible with my absolute favourite DJ playing at STEREO. We also had a new lockdown in the end of December 2021, which made me worry if we would be able to have Hernan Cattaneo play as scheduled for March 19th . Once again, the positive aura around that night made it that dancing was re-allowed in the province of Quebec only a week before March 19th , which confirmed us that we would be privileged to see the Maestro play for us at STEREO. How incredible, when you think that Hernan Cattaneo was my first show cancelled when COVID-19 started to hit in March 2020. Two years later, it was finally happening for real, and we couldn’t be more thankful and pleased about the news.
I need to highlight that fact once again; there is no doubt in my mind that Hernan Cattaneo has become over time and years my #1 DJ in the world. I first saw him in February 2014 th at STEREO and I instantly fell in love with his style of music. I saw him several times per year since then in a lot of different setting such as STEREO, Piknik, Burning Man, Miami Boat Cruise, Tulum and few other festivals all around the world. It’s only in the recent years and especially since Burning Man that I found the courage to come talk to him and I’m so glad I did. I discovered that behind the Maestro and the highly talented DJ, there’s also a fantastic and humble human being. Hernan has this ability to make you feel comfortable around him and welcomed in his world. We instantly bounded and since then, his gigs have become extra special since a personal connection is building up every-time I get to see and chat with him. Funny fact : when I think of Hernan, I now instantly link it to the Hummus tradition. This all started in the 2019 for the now legendary 24-hour marathon that him and Guy J did at STEREO. That was also the last time he played at STEREO and that I saw him live. You can revisit that night in another review I wrote on Husa Sounds available here
Tommy Piscardeli – the owner of STEREO – sent me a message few days before the marathon back in December 2019 telling me that both DJs requested hummus in the food for the night. Tommy immediately thought of my homemade hummus – that has built a certain reputation over the course of time – instead of buying them regular grocery hummus. So, I brought the hummus during the marathon and it really had a big success – for both Hernan and Guy J – but also for the attendees who visited the booth and had the chance to taste it. You could smell the garlic in the hummus all over STEREO that night – which was a pretty good smell if you ask me! So you can imagine that my first thought when we had the confirmation of the booking of March 19 th 2022 was to make my homemade hummus and bring it to Hernan Cattaneo. That time around, it was pretty challenging because I was actually at SXM the 2 weeks prior to the event and I was only landing at 6pm the day of the event. And you know me – there was absolutely no chance that I wouldn’t be present for the very first track until the very end. Also, I couldn’t find the right ingredients before leaving for my trip, so I had to message several friends that helped me look out for the right ingredients while I was out of town. So I finally made it home around 8pm that night – only 4 hours before the doors would open at STEREO. Before even making myself dinner or opening my suitcase, I ran into the kitchen to start the hummus, so it would have enough time to sit for it to have the perfect texture and taste around midnight. I managed to complete the task in less than an hour and so we had it! The hummus was ready to be delivered in the STEREO booth. I was so overly excited that there was no way I would find it in me to do a nap before the night. I made my way to STEREO around 11pm and I managed to get the first spot in the lineup. I have to give a shoutout to Mathieu Lafleur on that one for saving me the first stop in the lineup and also saving the situation by finding pita for the hummus in the last moments before we were about to head to STEREO!
As soon as I arrived in the lineup, I saw my really good friend Kim Laporte Phaneuf – which shared my outstanding level of happiness and excitement on the moment. I was incredibly proud and happy for her, because she was asked by Dr. Kaz himself to take over his role to assure the wellness journey of Hernan Cattaneo during his extended set. If you remember correctly, Dr. Kaz is often the one that will take care of DJs for marathon set, like he did during the 24- hour journey of Hernan Cattaneo and Guy J and most recently with Danny Tenaglia 18 hour set at STEREO in December 2021. What an honour of being asked to takeover such an important task and ultimately what helped Hernan Cattaneo play such a long set on March 19th . I was confident that he would be taken care perfectly. There was several bags of food and liquids and a massage gun to relieve stiffness throughout the night. It takes real dedication to accept this role because you would have to come regularly to the booth to make sure everything is in place – and I have to say Kim found the perfect balance as I saw her on the dancefloor enjoying her night for most of the time. I was happy to be able to contribute to this wellness journey with my little touch of hummus made with love! In the end, there was more food and fruits that was needed – so we got to eat a little bit throughout the night – which was necessary for all of us during such an intense marathon set.
The doors finally opened at midnight, and I was the first to get through those doors. It’s crazy how I’m still able to feel the power of the room every time I walk those stairs up. I made my way to the dancefloor and the very first thing I did was to get in the booth to give the hummus to Hernan Cattaneo. What I like about arriving for opening is that it gives a moment to prepare and immerse yourself slowly into the journey that’s awaiting you. I got to talk to Hernan for few minutes and he was so very happy about the hummus! He told me that with all that food, there’s no doubt that he will be able to play for a very long time; and that’s all I needed to hear! After that, I left the booth until the very last track – once the music starts, the only place I truly belong in on the dancefloor where I can feel completely the music and the vibe of the crowd. The first thing I noticed were some upgrades that were made the lightshow. I was confident that we would get another top performance from Luc L’Heureux, the light guy that has been operating STEREO visuals remarkably for years now. I was right – the light performance was nothing less than flawless during the whole 14 hours and 20 minutes of the marathon set. I’m always amazed on how Luc can feel the energy of a track and synchronize the visuals to follow the buildup of the track. You really have a full experience once you get to the peak of a track, in term of sound but also visually with the light show.
Now let’s talk about what went down in term of music. The first hour was a mix of low tempo and melodic tracks that were warming us up slowly. With the experience I’ve gained over the years, I now recognize and am able to analyze how fast the night is building up to have an idea of how long a DJ plans to play. It was clear to me that the build up was going to be a very progressive one, which meant the journey Hernan Cattaneo was taking us into was an extended marathon set. Playing such a long set takes another type of skill and understanding of your crowd. You can’t go too hard too fast – you need to pace your crowd so they will be able to follow your journey until the very end. The number of familiar faces and friends present on the dancefloor was impressive. At some point, I could easily say that close to half of the crowd were people I knew somehow. That’s another point that makes Hernan Cattaneo nights so special; it really feels like a huge family gathering that only happens occasionally. The progression of the music kept building up as the night went on. I was in awe in front of the fact that I barely knew any tracks that were played, despite following religiously Hernan Cattaneo on Soundcloud and knowing his online sets pretty much by heart. I’ve often said that’s the one huge distinction where you recognize incredibly talented DJs. It’s one thing to be able to make a crowd dance with classics and tracks that everyone knows and can sing along. But the real challenge resides in making them dance and go crazy, while making them discover new or unreleased tracks. There was no doubt that Hernan Cattaneo was controlling the room so perfectly and making us dance to his beats with mostly unreleased tracks which we were hearing for the first time. We also had several STEREO virgins attending the venue for the very first track. I was so happy that they get to experience this room with the Maestro himself being on top of his game. We still all remember our first time at STEREO and I’m sure they will remember that night for the rest of their life. After such a moment, they finally understand why we speak so highly of this venue – that Hernan Cattaneo often referred as his favourite club in the world to play to. And I can simply say that a magnetic phenomenon happens when you combine your favourite club with your favourite DJ. Around 4AM, we entered in a different part of the journey that I like to call the ‘’Rabbit hole’’. The tracks became much darker and were hitting the spot perfectly. I remember having shivers multiple times; the tracks had in them the right amount of techno kick, while keeping the proggy melodic vibe at moments. There’s absolutely nothing to me that feels better than dancing to those dark progressive bombs; the feeling is quite different than dancing to a dark techno songs. The melodies that are still present in the tracks that were played just grabbed your soul and made you travel in the journey that we were all living together. One of the tracks that was played around the 6AM mark was ‘’Damien Spencer – Back to Earth (Eric Lune Remix)’’
Of course, you have to keep in mind that hearing it outside of STEREO really doesn’t do justice to the moment, but gives you a feeling of what was being played at that moment. At this point, Hernan Cattaneo was really pushing the sound system to its limit as we were offered a sound experience like few other DJ are able to pull off. You could see with how much ease he was controlling the room and making that sound system sound so crisp and aligned with the track that was played. Few DJs can mix with 4 CDjs with such flawless execution, while making it look effortless. At several moments during the night, I was caught just watching Hernan Cattaneo mix and admiring how fast and precise he was doing so. Often, you could hear samples of 3 tracks being played together, while mashing it up in such a smooth way that it sounded like one new track. That’s also a reason why most of the time, if you tried to shazam a track, it didn’t work; you had the chance to hear a track in such a unique format that it can’t be found anywhere else than at STEREO at this precise moment. When you think about it, what a privilege and how lucky we are to witness such a blissful experience! Some sounds in those tracks were out of this world and left me having goosebumps all over my body. After playing numerous strong and intense tracks, Hernan would drop the energy down so we would have some time to catch our breath. At those occasion, you would hear the crowd cheering and applauding him – so in the end, the level of energy in the room kept its high intensity. After a small break, the inferno of bangers would unveil on our souls in the most exquisite manner. You really had another strong indicator that Hernan Cattaneo was going to play beyond 12 hours just by the fact that we stayed into the rabbit hole for several hours into the night and morning. I looked at my watch during such an intense track and was surprised that it was already 9AM. Nonetheless, I was totally here for it and it was clear in my mind that I wasn’t leaving until the very last track. I was also sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of people that were present throughout the night. The night was a sold-out show – tickets were gone after only several minutes. But the main difference with other sold-out nights is that the crowd kept dancing and didn’t want to leave the dancefloor for the majority of the marathon. The dancefloor was still so packed around 9AM that I took a break and went to dance upstairs next to the bar where there was lot more space to dance freely. It gave me an occasion to catch my breath too and cool off a bit.
People were also arriving at every hours of the night – I had some friends that arrived as late as 8AM. So, it really had an effect of giving a second wave of energy to the whole crowd and boosted those that were holding strong since the beginning like myself. To me, the real turning point of the night was around 10AM when he played ‘’Stephan Bodzin – Earth (Mind Against Remix)’’.
I remember entering the dancefloor and feeling a new energy. It was the first time that the dancefloor started to clear somehow and gave us the opportunity to move around and dance with more intensity. Also, that’s when Hernan Cattaneo started releasing some pure magic into those speakers. From 10AM and forward, the tracks were so satisfactory – combining emotionally charged melodies and vocal moments. I was so happy that I kept my perseverance during the peak of the night where it was super crowded and hot. It was like we were about to be rewarded for making it through and those last 4 hours were definitely my favourite of the whole night. Also, that’s about the time when Hernan Cattaneo ate the hummus and most of the food that was available. During the peak of the night, he only drank juices and liquids – that’s how focused and into the zone he was. But later in the morning, he ate some hummus and several friends came to see me to tell me how incredible it was to eat hummus with Hernan. I lost my mind when he played ‘’Fabri Lopez – Hite’’ late in the morning hours. I still remember how much I was smiling and dancing to that track, and many other songs between 10AM and 2pm.
The musical journey kept getting better and better as we were passing the 12-hour mark. At this point, Stereobar was open for the After8 and you had the opportunity to go enjoy a drink and cool yourself downstairs if you felt like it. I saw lots of friends do so and comeback to the STEREO dancefloor after a finishing their drink. Even if that seemed tempting, I was so caught in the moment that I didn’t want to miss a single minute of the Maestro’s set. It was that breathtaking that several times, I wanted to go to the bathroom or refill my bottle of water and had to wait multiple tracks before finally finding a moment to go run as fast as I can. This is how good and consistent the night was throughout the whole 14 hours and 20 minutes that he played. We were passing the 1PM mark and I could finally feel that we were on the last stretch of the marathon; with the selection of tracks, but also with the great work of Luc L’Heureux that was hinting us the end of the set. The progression of that night was made with such masterclass precision that it all made total sense and you had a good amount of time to prepare yourself mentally to end your journey on the dancefloor of STEREO. There’s nothing worse than a night stopping too abruptly or when the energy of the crowd is still peaking. With Hernan Cattaneo, we were guided throughout the night, he gave us moments of high intensity, but also several moments where we could catch our breath and just look at one each other with the biggest smile possible. The 2 closing tracks were just the epitome of greatness, and I couldn’t have thought of a better way to close that surreal journey. He played ‘’Arodes & Moojo – Reborn’’
around 2PM – which made us all feel the purity of the moment. There are nights where you feel a bit sad knowing the night is about to end – like if you didn’t have enough and want a little bit more. This time around – I was so happy at that moment – I still couldn’t believe how incredible everything surrounding the night turned out to be – against all the odds. I kept hugging all my friends that were still on the dancefloor and made it throughout the whole journey with me. I honestly thought that was his closing tracks and was ready to applause, when we had an unexpected encore with ‘’Röyksopp – This Time, This Place…’’ ft. Beki Mari. I have shivers just thinking back on that moment.
Those vocals, those melodies! I have to give it to Hernan Cattaneo ; he always find the perfect track to close his STEREO sets with. And those tracks stick in my mind forever afterwards and are linked to the sweet memories I felt closing a Hernan Cattaneo STEREO set. The crowd kept cheering and applauding when the music finally stopped. Wow, I could finally catch my breath and seize the moment. I quickly went to the booth to speak to Hernan and congratulate him on his night. He told me how much he loved the hummus and that it disappeared so fast! It’s all those little moments and those connections that make that event extra special in my eyes. We laughed that the hummus will now become a new STEREO tradition whenever he comes in town; if it can help the Maestro play some more extended sets, I’m all here for it!
In the end, after more than a 2-year hiatus, after having his show cancelled on March 2020 th by a pandemic that nobody was ready for; Hernan Cattaneo came back to STEREO to conquer and share with us more than 2 years worth of tracks and new material that he was gearing for us. He really made a sensational impression on everyone that was present. The general feeling of the vast majority of the people I spoke to in the aftermath was that this night will go down as one of the best that we all lived together in the temple of sound. Music is subjective, but it’s always pleasing to share the same opinion than most of the other attendees. Even if this type of progressive music isn’t your favorite, you could still admire the talent and the hard work behind this 14 hours and 20 minutes of a set. Nights like the one we lived at STEREO on March 19 th are what still makes me love that scene and the beauty and universality of music. After all these years, I am still able to feel and live those intense emotions when a moment like this one happen. I will forever cherish the journey that we were taken into; I still have shivers and can feel all the emotions of the night while I was writing this review several days after. I want to deeply thank Hernan Cattaneo for his craft, his music, his generosity in playing such a long set and for being such an humble and incredible human being. It’s crazy to think that even after all these times seeing him play, he keeps surprising me and making me feel emotions I’ve never felt in the previous nights. I also want to take a moment to thank the STEREO staff for their entire dedication on giving us the most perfect experience. A big thank you to Tommy and Mike for keeping STEREO opened after the storm that they had to go through during the pandemic and the 2 lockdowns. A huge round of applause to Luc L’Heureux once again – our experience wouldn’t be as complete without your extraordinary work with visuals behind the light booth. And most importantly, to everyone of the attendees that dance their hearth out on the dancefloor. You really created such a vibe and had the energy of the night at the highest level for the whole duration of the marathon. I am glad to see that my passion and love for this music is shared by many other souls.
Music is the answer, with love,