The sun painted the inside of our two-door coupe on our way down the highway, creating a sense of calm despite the growing excitement inside all of us. For myself, this would be one more yearly journey that I would make to Montebello, while it would be the first year my fellow photographer and journeyman would participate.
Last year, the 8th edition of Amnesia Rockfest was plagued with logistical problems from the get-go, including day-long ticket pick up lines, over-crowded camping zones, overflowing porta-potties, and a general lack of basic ammenities for festival goers. Despite the uproar on social media after the fest’s conclusion, however, Rockfest organizers estimated record-breaking ticket sales upwards of 200,000 for for the 2014 9th edition of the fest, which were confirmed to be sold out by Saturday night.
Through a new partnership with the Festival d’Ete de Quebec, Amnesia Rockfest 2014 was set to create a more organized, more enjoyable weekend experience for fest goers. I’m gunna put my foot down right here and admit it: The partnership made a world of difference! Wristbands were mailed out weeks prior to the event to avoid unnecessary lineups, a new, more spacious field was used for those who purchased general camping spots, and you know what? A stark difference from the eight portable toilets that were there last year, sixty porta-potties lines the far side of the camping terrain, keeping things clean and well, more pleasant-smelling from the previous year.
Friday morning, we rolled out of our tents and made the small trek from the camping terrain to the festival grounds. The streets were flooded on both sides (and sometimes in the middle) by mohawked, skinny jeaned, studded vested fest goers, and it was clear from the human traffic jams that the estimated number of ticket sales had skyrocketed.
Streetlight Manifesto opened the day, sending bass-y vibrations throughout the entire town. Playing “Watch It Crash” and “We Will Fall Together,” the New Jersey ska punk band was a perfectly light and summer-y way start to the weekend.
NOFX played a generic, but generally-liked set, pumping out fan favourites like “Bob,” “Linoleum,” and the one that always gets fans in Quebec going, “Champs Elysees.” Fat Mike donned a half-up, hot pink mohawk, all the while sipping from a straw on what looked to be some fruity drink. While we didn’t get the chance to speak with Fat Mike, I was lucky enough to have a laid back convo behind-the-scenes with Eric Melvin about baking, cooking, and posting food-y goodness on Instagram.
Heavy metal group Five Finger Death Punch controlled the stage and the crowd with “Burn Motherfucker, and holy hell, do these guys know how to put on a show. Finishing up the set with “The Bleeding,” the sweaty, pain-stricken, but adrenaline pumped faces from those leaving the moshpit said it all.
Maneuvering from stage to stage was a little more of a feat this year as there were now five stages, in comparison to the three of previous years. It seems as if every bit of grass on the marina grounds hosted groups of people sitting, relaxing, napping, and watching the sets from the big screen projectors that accompanied the side of the stage during each performance. The Loto-Quebec stage, or the main stage of the event if we’re looking at sheer size, housed Friday’s headliners including Megadeath, Weezer, and Blink 182, but being set to play on the main stage for some didn’t stop logistical issues.
Thrash metal band Megadeth was set to start on the Loto-Quebec stage for 8:30pm, which seemed fine until performances on the Jagermeister and Budweiser stages, which were located on either side of the main stage, created conflicts for Megadeath. Dave Mustaine stopped briefly to apologize to fans, saying that the fans “deserved better,” but I didn’t hear any fans complaining about it.
Heading to Rockfest this weekend, my friend Morgan had one request: interview Weezer. I was never a fan of the Californian rock band, but I was aware of their mainstream, radio hits. The band played “Hashpipe” early in the set, and the pop-rock sound surrounded the entire festival grounds, and most likely the entirety of the town. While we didn’t get to interview them as per Morgan’s request, the band finished up with an encore including “The Sweater Song” and “Buddy Holly,” completely stealing the show.
It’s always difficult at Rockfest to pick and choose which bands to see when every other band performing is rock-your-heart-out awesome. This became the predicament on Friday night, with Face to Face and the Misfits playing at roughly the same time as Weezer, Black Flag performing at the same time as Blink 182. While it’s a deal to pay $150 to see upwards of 150 bands, it’s a rarity to be able to catch every band.
Headliners of the night, Blink 182, performed an array of tunes from all of their albums, and from the first chord, the nostalgia set in. “What’s My Age Again” and “All The Small Things” from the Enema of the State album had the entire audience in harmonious sing-alongs, and an encore that included both “Carousel” and “Dammit” pleased the Blink fans that have been listening to them over the span of the band’s 20+ year musical career.
Last year, it took close to an hour to get out of the festival grounds because there was only one exit from the marina. This year, there were multiple entrances and exits, and we made it back to our little temporary home in Tent City in about twenty minutes. We bundled up for another cold night, despite the sweltering day-time heat, and fell asleep feeling more excited for Day 2 than a little kid on Christmas Eve.