Music

A Love Letter To Kaytranada’s 2011 Montreal Boiler Room Set

Seven years on, Kaytranada's Boiler Room set feels more important than ever.

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When I think back on 2020, I will think of Kaytranada.

Crouched over my laptop in my one-bedroom New York apartment, it was Kaytranada who drowned out the ambulance sirens, which rang out almost constantly through April and May, and the 24-hour whirr of low-flying helicopters that hovered over my neighbourhood through June, and into July.

When Spotify shared my 2020 Wrapped, I was initially surprised to see that I’d only listened to 9,000 minutes of music. Then, I remembered Kaytranada. More specifically, I remembered his 2011 Montreal Boiler Room set. I would pay good money to know how much of 2020 I spent listening to the 42-minute mix on YouTube, letting it play right through, then repeating immediately.

This wasn’t the first time I’d turned to this set in a time of crisis. It’s been my go-to deadline soundtrack, a we-weren’t-even-dating-but-wow-this-hurts breakup recovery anthem, and in March it became a balm to soothe the pain of having my tickets to Kaytranada’s upcoming Brooklyn show cancelled – among a million other painful things that happened in the months that followed.

As the world shut down, Boiler Room launched a fundraising lockdown series, Streaming From Isolation. I watched Peggy Gou, Disclosure, and Four Tet from my bedroom – but they were all alone, and so was I.

I didn’t just want to see someone behind decks or listen to music that made me feel something, I wanted to see a crowd, collectively bouncing and alive. I wanted to picture myself taking a break from a dancefloor to press myself into a sweaty line of people to buy an over-priced vodka soda. I wanted to imagine shouting into a friend’s ear that I was going to the bathroom so please stay in this spot and don’t move, okay. I wanted to be next to someone — anyone.

I watched Peggy Gou, Disclosure, and Four Tet from my bedroom – but they were all alone, and so was I.

Enter Kaytranada’s Boiler Room set, complete with not just the best music, but the best people and the best comment section, where over 13,000 have shared their thoughts.

“Imagine if this is the only proof of human existence,” a commenter named David wrote six months ago, perhaps without considering that for a large portion of 2020 – for me, at least — it was. With the exception of my 9.30am team Zoom, and video happy hours that slowly petered out as friends realised there are only so many ways to say “shit’s not good”, watching the crowd in this video was the closest I thing I had to a social life — a tiny microcosm of a reality I was beginning to forget.

The longer you watch this set, the more you notice. Tiny relationships play out, highs peak then fade, people dance front and centre then disappear, likely seeing out a glass of water (or a long conversation with a stranger). The video plays host to a number of key characters that have earned themselves nicknames — shoutout to Tall Girl — in the comment section which, even after seven years, is still one of the best on YouTube.

Despite recently saying that if he were to do the set again everything would “look and sound better and flyer”, Kaytranada is in fine form throughout the set. He politely deals with a bloke trying to steal the mic and seriously side-eyes a dude drinking way too close to the decks, but still manages to spent his 42 minutes in the bright Boiler Room lights doing what he does best.

It’s clear that in 2011 Kayatranda knew what he still knows today: That this set is magic.

It could almost go without saying that this set is one of best — if not the best — Boiler Room of all time. Opening with a mix of The Roots’ ‘Silent Treatment’, we hear Flume’s ‘Holding On’ at the four-minute mark — the ultimate reminder that we’re listening to a mix from 2013. A personal highlight — one I believe I share with anyone who was lucky enough to be there that night — is when Kaytranada drops a mix of Full Crate’s ‘L’Afrique’.

Being at a Boiler Room set, recorded dancing under lights that are bright enough to show every sweat stain, is my own kind of personal nightmare. And this is the kind of video that makes you realise you’ve definitely never looked as cool as you thought you might have while on the dancefloor. But it’s also the kind of video that makes you want to go and look uncool on a dancefloor immediately.

Seven years on, this set exists as a personal reminder that although some things change – and change a lot, in the case of life in 2020 – some things will always remain the same: People’s appreciation for a set that quite literally doesn’t miss a beat, my deep-seated desire to be on a sweaty dancefloor (global pandemic permitting), and the brilliance that is Kaytranada.