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DJ Mark Anthony: tripping down Black & Blue's memory lane

Mark Anthony's name has been synonymous with Black & Blue since the party's humble beginnings in 1991. It was in that inaugural year that the house music pioneer first played for the festival, spinning before several hundred people in the basement of an old bank on St-Laurent. Does he remember that first edition? “Absolutely!” he says. “It was a fun crowd. A lot of Americans, and people from all across Canada. You could see it was the beginning of the party as we know it.”

The party as we know it has grown over the last 20 years to become the largest of its kind in the world, annually attracting upwards of 75,000 revelers to its week-long festivities. And Mark has played a key role in helping it grow over the years, headlining 14 of the 20 main events.

“It’s evolved a lot, especially musically,” says Mark, who can still remember what he played in 1991. “It was more of a deep house sound, still vocal… stuff like CeCe Peniston’s Finally. That was a long time ago." He also remembers how quickly the event blew up in the mid-nineties. “The scene was really starting to take hold – the house scene was getting stronger, the after-hours movement was happening… All of these elements were converging and that’s when it really hit its stride.”

Among his many memories, one of the most memorable took place in 1999 during his first-ever closing set at the Olympic Stadium. “I remember looking up at the end to a sea of people clapping. It was crazy. Finishing at noon with 15,000 people still in front of you.”

Mark even recalls an outrageous edition in 1996 when the event’s artistic director wanted to fly a spaceship from the DJ booth to the stadium’s stage. “And he did it! On a wire! And there was this drag performer, Girlina, who popped out of the spaceship and did a performance to a remix that Alain [Vinet] and I had done for the event. It was phenomenal to see the look on people’s faces!”

Any hints of what’s in store for this year’s edition? Mark promises “a little bit of nostalgia, but a whole lot of energy.”

Black & Blue Festival, 20th edition | October 6 to 12
October 10th | Main event with Mark Anthony, Chus + Ceballos, Manny Lehman and more
Palais des Congrès | 201, Viger O. | bbcm.org