The Marathon I Didn’t Know I Was Training For

Amber Long

What it’s like to dance in an electronic music marathon

In the age of social media, so many of us sit at home watching big marathon DJ sets happen, seemingly right in front of our eyes. Our FOMO is real, wishing teleportation was possible. Thank goodness for new live features that bring us there, real time, the next best thing. I’ve always been a voyeur to extended sets, rarely an active participant. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to be but since I quit drinking and stay away from chemicals, I’ve honestly never thought myself capable of lasting more than a few hours. But this weekend, I just completed the marathon I never knew I was training for as I witnessed Hernan Cattaneo and Guy J play b2b all day at Stereo Montreal.

And what a trip it was!

smhipstamaticphoto-503762315-181433First of all, Stereo is a legendary Canadian club, if not THE club. Known for its warm atmosphere, accepting dance floor and impeccable sound system, it’s no wonder people sport its logo, all over the world. I know that when I step into Stereo, what awaits is a whole adventure unto itself and I brace myself.

For the audiophiles, the first thing you’ll notice is how perfectly tuned the system is. Intrusive highs? Not a chance. Muddy bass? Nope. Wherever you walk, there’s a sweet spot. A Progressive House Lover’s Dream! Immediately I felt the waves of both the music and the energy of the people around me.

Granted, Hernan Cattaneo and Guy J fans are warm to begin with, I still felt a sense of ‘laisser faire, anything goes’ but in the most cordial way. People from all walks, dancing freely together. So many biceps getting their workout from fist pumping the air… I used to see people really cut it up on the dance floor, back in my raver days, but rarely see it anymore… I did at Stereo. The best of the best music filled our cells. Any crevice or crack made from stresses of the week was filled with warm progressive melodies to driving round techno.

smimg_0023We arrived at Stereo before sunrise, ready to spend our Sunday on the dance floor. Immediately, I hear familiar tracks and smile. This is what I came for. Hernan and Guy are in the booth grinning and dancing away, transitions are seamless. Hard to believe they’d just played a sold out 7hr set in Toronto the night before. Fresh and on the ball! We said our hellos and so began the glorious day.

For hours upon hours, the Progressive House and Techno flowed.

Our ears would get blanketed in melodic swells that only prepared us for the impending rise in intensity.. And just when we think we can’t dance anymore, or pound the air, or keep up with the beat, the two Masters lighten things up, inviting us to come down a notch, only until the next wave hit.

Familiar faces on the dance floor and back stage from all over the place, the day was equally a social as it was a dance off. Stereo is cool because there are different spots you can go to to switch up your night. You can dance, you can go upstairs or downstairs, you can step out for air… It’s a very chill environment, as long as you don’t take out your phone to take photos or videos. There’s a general ‘no camera’ policy. Granted, you’ll see many a shot out there, they just won’t come from me. They just don’t want everyone with their phone in the air or flashes everywhere. At one point, Hernan played Robert Mason’s – Soul Child and security allowed Robert get a video clip if he stood in a specific place. The staff and security at Stereo were wonderful and helpful with everything, which made the night even more enjoyable.

At times I felt tired, yes, but I think everyone did, whether they were sober or not. We were in this together, this Progressive Marathon, and we were going to see it through as a collective as long as we could. We loaded up on juice and vitamin water, enjoyed a really synthetic coffee beverage from a vending machine and kept on dancing.

smimg_0049Sobriety comes with its own special kind of trip. I’ve had times when since I’ve quit alcohol that I feel drunk on the dance floor. But it’s music drunk. Like a cat rubbing up against a scratching post, the right music just makes this big grin spread over my face, real life ecstasy, and my limbs become more fluid, although I trust them now more than when they hung out with vodka. And this is probably how I spent most of my day, smiling and dancing. The longer I danced, the more pumped I felt. The environment, the people, the music, it all came together into the perfect storm, allowing me to lose my inhibitions naturally and accept our self-constructed eco-system as home for the day. The hours flew by. Hypnotized by lasers and strobes and the ever present warm sound, we held onto the night as we danced the day away.

It was almost 3pm when we reluctantly decided to head out. We were fading fast and although the spirit was willing, the body was starving! Once we started daydreaming about how Stereo should have a coffee truck in the smoking section after 7am (hint, hint), we forged on through, planning to order delivery once we got home.

There was a sadness saying our goodbyes and see you soons to everyone when we left but we also fullsizerendercarried a sense of “Wow, what an incredible day!” Hernan and Guy were ON POINT. The vibe was on point. Our day was on point. My phone tracks my steps and the numbers were staggering. I’d danced almost 19km or over 26k steps. And I could have kept going.

The cold air hits my face and the fading sunshine has me all turned around because every time I’ve left Stereo before, it’s been morning but now it’s almost dinner time. The sound of the bass subsides as we walk away in silence. Was it all a dream? We grab a coffee nearby to go and head home. It WAS a dream.

Falling asleep sitting up was the result of losing myself in the music – waiting for every rise and drop, with enthusiasm – for 8 hours straight. To some, that’s a normal, every weekend experience. For me, it was a marathon. The best workout I’ve had in a long time and it felt like any musical deficiencies I may have had when I went in, were filled. All my outings beforehand had been subconsciously preparing me for this lengthy sober ride, without missing a beat. I didn’t miss the high, I had one. Euphoric is a good word to describe a few moments actually.

To Hernan and Guy, you amaze crowds every time you play but this, this was something really special. To those who danced the full 15 hours, I salute you. To Stereo and its staff, what an amazing party! Thank you. There’s a reason you’re a top Canadian club. No wait, many reasons.

And now the planning begins to start this yearly December pilgrimage to Stereo. After being a part of it all, I never want to watch it go down on social media from my couch ever again.

smimg_0036Photography by Eran Aviner

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