Festival D’été de Quebec – Part 2: Soundgarden & The Pretty Reckless

Catch up on Addicted’s adventure to Festival D’été, Part 1, with Nadia’s reviews and photos of Queens of the Stone Age, Blondie and The Kills here!

I love La belle province, and after eight years of not visiting, I had the fortune of breaking that dry spell with Festival D’été de Quebec. I’ve attended countless festivals since I was a tween, but FEQ was, without a doubt, the smoothest, best planned and organized festival I have ever had the pleasure of attending. From the general and media ticket pick-ups, to photo pits, media and general admission zones and set times, transitions and sound, the execution was flawless. I strongly suggest you plan to dedicate at least a few days to FEQ next summer – the québécois will show you an incredible time with world-class acts.

While I enjoyed every day of the festival, and had the pleasure of seeing the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Billy Joel, Cypress Hill and Blondie perform, the penultimate night (July 12, 2014) of the 11-day festival was the hot ticket for me: Soundgarden, preceded by recent favorites of mine, The Pretty Reckless.

The Pretty Reckless are a band that I’ve watch closely from their early days. When they released their very first single, “Make Me Wanna Die,” I reluctantly watched the video for it and immediately found myself addicted to the song. I saw them on their first club tour at Toronto’s intimate Bovine Sex Club, and another few times at increasingly larger venues. It’s been a treat to watch the band get tighter and tighter, and to see as lead vocalist Taylor Momsen harnessed her rock n’ roll persona beyond her angsty teen style, and learned to wield it like a true rock n’ roll front woman. The transition from that green 17-year old at the Bovine (you can see a clip I took of that here) was pretty clear at FEQ when Momsen, just shy of her 21st birthday, proved that she has been taking notes and studying well over the last four years of relentless touring and recording.

With a more subdued fashion sense, it’s safe to say the music is the greater focal point of TPR’s live show these days. Don’t get me wrong, there ain’t no shortage of sex appeal beneath Momsen’s platinum mermaid hair. She writhes and thrashes with her mic stand, belting out their catalogue with her signature raspy alto-meets-mezzo soprano range. Band members Ben Phillips, Jamie Perkins and Mark Damon are in top form with her, and although eyes are frequently trained on their lady leader, it’s plain to see that this band is a cohesive unit, and their chemistry and dedication is palpable. Good old rock n’ roll is alive and well, and these guys are doing more than their part to spread the good news.

And for the main course? FEQ marked the first of three Soundgarden shows this July with my partners in crime, and the anticipation was intense. Having gone through 14 months of live Soundgarden drought, hearts were a-racin’ and eyes were a-pricklin’ with the impending deluge of sweet, sonic relief. We are reasonable, rational and overly under-sensitive adult women, but seeing Soundgarden live is a next-level experience every time. While Nadia had her professional pants on in the photo pit to snap the lovely shots in the gallery below, I was let loose in the crowd to take in the show in, rabid fangirl styles.

As we approach Soundgarden concert vet status, we know it’s time to roll as soon as the first strains of “Searching With My Good Eye Closed” gradually fill the air. Never a band to disappoint, Soundgarden know what their deliverables are during a festival set. With a mixture of diehards, casual fans and newbies about to be saved, the band ripped through all of the major sing-along hits you’d expect, a token handful of tracks from their 2012 offering, King Animal, and a couple of tasty old school treats for those of us who love the band’s dirty, gritty, 80s-era offerings, including “Flower” and an epic closer in “Beyond the Wheel.”

Chris Cornell soared through the set, channeling that tooth-baring, mic stand-wielding, stage-pacing monster we all fell for in the early days of the grunge revolution. Maybe he’d had a bad day, or maybe the enormity and energy of the crowd he had to pause to photograph “for posterity” unleashed his inner rage beast. I don’t care why – it felt pretty close to that young, angry Cornell in the duct tape shorts I’d kill to have seen and heard perform just once.

While, sadly, drummer Matt Cameron isn’t participating in this tour due to his disdainful (to a true Soundgarden fan at least) obligation to Pearl Jam, stand-in Matt Chamberlain kept the pace and held his own, filling some serious shoes. Ben Shepherd, as always, was one sassy mo-fo and an absolute monster of a bass player. Kim Thayil is a rock n’ roll Santa Claus who never stops giving, and watching and listening as he shifted between what Nadia calls his two stances (Regular and Solo) brought tears of joy to my eyes.

Whatever magic brought these guys together some 30 years ago – thank you, and thank you FEQ for an absolutely wonderful concert experience. I can’t wait to go back next year (July 9-19, 2015) and bring some friends along for the ride.

*photos by Nadia Elkharadly

If you’re in QC and want a low key metal bar to unwind at over a selection of québécois craft beer, check out our favourite new joint, Bateau de nuit!

Soundgarden: http://soundgardenworld.com/
The Pretty Reckless: http://goingtohell.me/hell/
FEQ: http://www.infofestival.com/

Emy Stantcheva
Emy Stantcheva is a lifelong music junkie-turned-music biz dabbler, from music publicity and artist management to the not-for-profit sector. By day, she champions the indies at Canadian Independent Music Association and MusicOntario, and moonlights as Lifestyle Editor for Addicted and rep for southern rock n’ roller Basia Lyjak. A healthy living fan (yes, vodka is a plant), vegetarian of 20 years and lover of cooking, wine and craft beer, she’s always on the lookout for tasty and cruelty-free wares and fares. She’s also known for her hoarding of cats (she has four) and leggings (300 pairs and counting). With her feisty way with words, Stantcheva brings a fresh and intelligent perspective to Addicted’s Lifestyle section.
Emy Stantcheva