By Elise French
Now, those of you who know me know that I seldom use the word “love.” It’s reserved first and foremost for my beloved pet, then for my bff, then for someone whose name I shall not mention, then for designer purses, and then…for the Festival d’ete de Quebec (yup, it’s a short list). Although I have a great time at other music festivals all over the country, none of them will ever hold as special a place in my heart as the Festival.
Those of you who’ve been reading Pulse for years are already familiar with the Festival since I gush about it every year ~ but for our new readers, here’s a little background on what I consider the absolute highlight of the summer.
Because Pulse has a reputation as one of the best regional entertainment publications out there, we were graciously invited in 2009 to attend the event as press (and we were in good company, as the Festival hosted over thirty different notable media from outside Québec including Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and Paris Match, just to name a few, and articles and photos of the Festival reached as far as Bangkok and Malaysia) and were guided through the application process by the lovely and fantastically helpful Melissa Brisson, the Coordinator of Tourism, Promotion, & International Media Relations for the Festival (I can’t go on without first saying how incredibly welcoming, friendly, and accommodating everyone ~ not only those directly in charge of the Festival ~ in Quebec have been to us from the very start ~ the locals, the PR contacts, the entire city, it seems, genuinely look forward to meeting and hosting the people who descend upon their beautiful city; they’ve always gone out of their way to make sure everything runs smoothly ~ and yes, in case you were worried, everyone speaks English, so there is no language barrier at all!).
Application accepted, I and Frank Poulin, our Pulse special events photographer, were off to Old Quebec City for what turned out to be a spectacular adventure. We were lucky enough to see (and photograph) Sting ~ who performed on a huge outdoor stage in front of an enraptured crowd of over 100,000 people with the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs opening ~ as well as Brian Setzer Orchestra, Chevelle, KISS, Seether, and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. I also was honored to interview ~ by phone before his Festival performance ~ the one and only Placido Domingo (As you can see from the range of musical genres, there truly are performances ~ not to mention street shows, games, and other entertainment ~ suitable for all ages and tastes ~ and that’s one of the best parts of the Festival, seeing everyone from families to young teens to couples in their 70s out having the time of their lives!).
Past performers have included Jeff Beck, Ice Cube, Bela Fleck, Buckwheat Zydeco, Gym Class Heroes, Hatebreed, Hollywood Undead, Styx, Wyclef Jean, Van Halen, Stone Temple Pilots, Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, The New York Dolls, ZZ Top, Reel Big Fish, Live, Wilco, Twisted Sister, Rush, Linkin Park, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Iron Maiden, Jimmy Cliff, Rammstein, John Mayall and literally hundreds more of big name talents that are household names here in the US, plus a whole host of international acts and local Canadian acts.
Fair warning, get ready to do a lot of walking because there is so much to see in and around Old Quebec City that just when you think you’ve explored every bit of every neighborhood possible, you find a whole section of the city you missed packed with galleries, shoppes, museums, restaurants, historic buildings, waterfront cafes and some gorgeous spots to sit and look out at the harbor, pubs and more ~ so comfortable shoes and a sense of adventure are a must! When we weren’t walking from music performance to music performance (and another cool feature of the festival is that at nearly every venue ~ indoor and out ~ the CDs of all the performers are available for purchase ~ no searching necessary!), we were marveling at the buildings (Parliament ~ a spectacular, castle-like building with beautiful grounds and a color-changing fountain ~ was the view from our room at the Hilton Hotel [www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/YQBHIHH-Hilton-Quebec-Quebec/index.do], which is located smack dab in the middle of exactly where you want to be for easy on-foot access to the shows, “downtown” OQC’s European-style cobblestone streets, the tiny, quaint hotels sandwiched in between cafes and residences, the horse-drawn carriages, and the endless people-watching opportunities. During Festival time, there’s a wonderful sense that everyone has converged upon Old Quebec simply to enjoy the city and all that it has to offer ~ there are a lot of people of all ages and walks of life, but there seems to be one common goal: enjoy life!
Obviously, we had the time of our lives (please…don’t cue the song!) and vowed that the Festival would become an annual event for us…and it has. In subsequent years, we’ve seen Iron Maiden, Social Distortion, , Black Eyed Peas, Dream Theater, Billy Talent, Santana, Metallica, Joe Satriani, Sir Elton John, Avenged Sevenfold, Simple Plan, Cage the Elephant, Buddy Guy, Dropkick Murphys (very cool to see our local boys up there!), Coheed and Cambria, Death From Above 1979, Aaron Neville, and The Sheepdogs.
So who’s on deck this year for the Festival’s July 5 – 15 run for its 45th year? Bon Jovi, LMFAO, Skrillex, Big Boi, Aerosmith, Mastadon, Lional Richie, TAB the band (which features Aerosmith’s Joe Perry’s sons), The Offspring, Galactic featuring Corey Glover, Dashboard Confessional, Johnny Hallyday, The Wailers, Our Lady Peace, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Alkaline Trio, Sarah McLachlan, and a full line-up of musicians from all over the world. And that’s just the concerts ~ there’s a long list of family entertainment and street performances for all ages ~ just head to www.infofestival.com/Artists/?s=arts-de-la-rue to read up on everything there is to see!
The shows and other entertainment run all day and well into the night ~ but when there was some downtime in between the shows we had decided were must-sees, we headed to some of the clubs and cafes right near the outdoor performance venues. Rain or shine, the clubs were always full (but a good full, not a no-room-to-breathe full) of locals and Festival-goers and whether you preferred techno, live bands, or just a flat screen or two, you could find it. Most of the clubs have outdoor bars as well, so on nice nights it was great just sitting out and relaxing. The restaurants all do an incredible business during the Festival, but the longest we had to wait to be seated for a post-show meal was about 5 minutes ~ which is amazing given the number of people who converged on the city!
Speaking of food and drink ~ just a practical note here: even though the Festival is in the middle of a beautiful old European-style city and there are historical buildings and neighborhoods all around, it’s still a huge music festival with all that entails. Yes, there are beer vendors (once again Molson Dry is a sponsor) inside the outdoor venue gates (and even servers who wind their way through the crowds and bring the beer-for-purchase to you, saving you a trip to the beer stands), and there are a lot of finger-food stands lining the streets, but still ~ be smart and remember that if you’re going to be at a concert/in line to get into a concert all day in the inescapable heat (the weather during the Festival is basically what it is here at home, if not hotter and more humid), bring lots of water, something to snack on, and be prepared to stand in line for the Porta-potties. All that is YOUR responsibility, and you’ll have a much better time if you’re hydrated and not passing out from starvation.
OK, now that that public service announcement is out of the way, back to the fun stuff. I really can’t stress enough that the Festival d’ete de Quebec (which this year has again put plans in motion to become the greenest event possible ~ kudos!) is a one-of-a-kind experience that combines a wonderful variety of culture, nightlife, music, architecture, performance art, food, people from around the world, unique entertainment, and more into one fantastic event that you HAVE to plan on attended at LEAST once (and my guess is that once you’ve been to it once, you’ll want to go back again and again ~ alone, with friends, even with family!). Keep checking www.infofestival.com for comprehensive and up-to-date information on the Festival, hotel packages, contests, transportation, prizes, and maps (plus you can join its Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr communities, see what the bloggers have to say, and check out some cool interviews from years past), mark your calendars, make your hotel reservations, buy your passes, and then head up to Old Quebec City in July for an amazing time! And we’ll be sure to bring back lots of pix from the Festival for those of you who can’t make it this year!
Very special thanks to Melissa Brisson, Michelle Revuelta, Luci Tremblay, and the Hilton Hotel of Old Quebec City.
Photos by Frank Poulin, www.flashwounds.com
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