Festival D’ete de Quebec – aka a festival with so much amazing music that it could not be covered in a single piece! So here is part 2 of my FEQ review:
Canada’s mercurial weather reared its ugly head, moving from sunny, warm and beautiful by day to cool, rainy and drab in the evening. But the rain didn’t stop us or the other music lovers from trudging towards les Plaines D’Abraham to enjoy another night of great live tunes, starting with Failure. I like to think of Failure as the Rush of the nineties – prog grunge if you will. It’s like grunge with a side of nerd, in the best way possible. Sci-fi inspired sound and visual effects combine with progressive music that you can just tell was born out of the nineties. The band played a few teaser tracks from their upcoming album Heart is a Monster, along with the classics that have earned their cult following, including their hit single “The Nurse who loved me”.
If you grew up loving Primus like I did, you may have been a little confused by the band’s newest incarnation Primus and the Chocolate Factory, as I was. That confusion soon turned to delight, as the whimsy of the set and the sheer ridiculousness of the band’s costuming washed over me, soon to make way for pure enjoyment. Inspired by singer Les Claypool’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory obsession, Primus recorded their own version of the film’s soundtrack, with eccentrically interesting results. It was that album that Claypool and company brought to life on the FEQ stage. Over the top theatricality and extreme pomp came together with pure talent and great musicianship and made what would be an excercise in insanity for anyone else, a complete success for this group of talented gentlemen. And would you expect anything less from Primus?
From over the top and cartoonish to dark, sweaty and raw, we made our way downtown to catch the rest of Run the Jewels set. My deep love and respect of Killer Mike made my attendance mandatory, and my efforts to cross the city on that rainy night were well worth it. The Imperial Bell Theatre was the perfect venue for this no frills, purely powerful set. The air was hot, heavy and humming with the energy in the room, everyone moving to the sick beat set by Trackstar, RTJ’s touring DJ (who was no slouch at throwing down rhymes himself). Intellectual lyrics combined with killer flow and pure enjoyment of what they do made RTJ a joy to watch. Killer Mike is incredible at what he does, and has none of the ego and false confidence that some his counterparts in music put out there. The chemistry between Mike and LP is also amazing to witness. The rappers vibe off of each other wonderfully, their rhymes colliding and aligning beautifully. If you haven’t seen RTJ live, or listened to their great tunes WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? These guys are too awesome not to know.
While it was only a short walk to the Petit Imperial next door, Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer was a huge departure from RTJ, making it the perfect comedown from that adrenaline pumping rap. The Vancouver duo have been on my radar since I first heard their single “Just don’t make em like they used to.” Singer Shawn “The Harpoonist” Hall’s voice was honey sweet with a touch of whiskey and smoke worn grit, the perfect voice with which to sing the blues. The band derives its name from Hall’s use of the mouth “harp” -he’s a whiz with a harmonica, and Matthew “the Axe Murderer” Rogers guitar playing abilities – this is murder in the best sense of the word, and I know you know what I mean. The sweet faces of Hall and Rogers belied the sometimes grisly and primal subject matter of their music – kind of like if you watched One Direction sing Tom Waits. As weird as that combination sounds, it works so very well for these band. The room was filled with music lovers listening in rapt attention to the beautiful yet dark music coming from the stage. It was hypnotic and addictive, and you need to listen to these guys.
Our final day at FEQ found us catching the tail end of Franklin Electric’s set at the Loto-Quebec Stage. A band that has been on my radar for most of the summer, I was glad to see them live and learn that the fuss was well warranted. Singer Jon Matte showed off his multi-instrumentalist skills, jumping from guitar to keys to trumpet all the while serenading the crowd and making more than a few ladies swoon. Orchestral sounds came together with folk stylings and an addictive element distinctly pop in nature – something that can only be born of Canadian creativity.
The departure of singer Jade Castrinos from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros made me a little less enthusiastic to see them live, but singer Alex Ebert’s charisma and gorgeous voice managed to win me over ever so slighlty. While we didn’t linger long, the couple of songs we caught, and the absolute adoration flowing from the crowd was a thing to behold. And the feeling was clearly mutual, evidenced by Ebert wading deep into the crowd to get close to his fans just a couple of songs into the set. Eclectic, engaging and unique, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are truly great, but nothing was great enough to keep us from out next destination.
Finally, the culmination of our FEQ attendance was upon us: The Rolling Stones were on stage. This was the only Canadian stop on the band’s 2015 tour, and people came out in droves to see them. The band played for two and a half hours, their energy never faltering as they played all the songs that every fan, no matter their level of dedication, wanted to hear. Keith Richards showcased some of his solo material, including “Happy”, his gritty voice a sweet contrast to the look of pure joy on his face. While his powerhouse vocals always stole the show, I was particularly delighted by Mick Jagger’s enthusiasm for fashion during their set. Every song opened with him donning a new over shirt or jacket, each one flashier and more flamboyant than the last, and always removed with the flourish that only a rocktar of his calibre can muster. The teal sparkly tuxedo jacket that he donned to close the show was my absolute favorite. But I digress, because THE MUSIC! Never have I ever been so affected by live music, and it was because of all the positive, happy energy around me – it was absolutely surreal. The moment the first strains of “Gimme Shelter” filled the air, I melted. Lisa Fischer’s rendition of Merry Clayton’s parts literally brought me to tears, she is an absolute goddess, and it was wonderful to see Jagger give her the stage to showcase her beautiful voice. From that moment on the set was supercharged, every song was artifully executed with extended guitar solos, the Stones letting their touring band members show off the skills that earned them their spots. “Sympathy for the Devil” driving the crowd wild, and “Brown Sugar” had them all singing along, while anxiously checking their watches and praying it wasn’t yet. And bless the staff at FEQ and the music lovers behind the noise bylaws who let the stones play a full 30 minutes past the festival sound curfew to give us that life changing encore. There was no better way to end that set than with “I can’t get no satisfication”; truly there is no such thing as too much Rolling Stones. To watch a group of humans who have been making music together for over fifty years enjoy it so much, and express it so visibly was nothing short of inspiring. THANK YOU FEQ for giving me that chance. It’s an experience I will never forget.
Check out photos from the amazing Rolling Stones night here!