Friday morning began with a tour of the main stage on the Plains of Abraham to check out the production technologies that went into making the sometimes 100,000-strong crowds feel like they were right in the centre of the entertainment storm, so to speak. When Skrillex shows up baffled by the size of your onstage video wall, you’ve done something right…
My first “musical” interview of the day was with the lovely (and just-named Polaris Prize shortlist artist) Kathleen Edwards. Despite being caught off-guard for an on-camera interview, Kathleen was quite engaging and more-than-polite. As I was leaving, my new-found pals from TFO’s BRBR, a French music-focused program, were on their way in. Following the interview and my sit-down with Sarah McLachlan, we all sat together in the lobby at the Hilton over a drink and discussed the festival and some of our other experiences and opinions (many of them mutual) on the industry here in Canada.
It was Mel Kaye of Melanie Kaye PR that first invited me out for FEW last year and, ultimately, brought me back this year, along with plenty other journalists from outlets from coast-to-coast – Fast Forward, Shave Magazine, ThePunkSite.com… A bunch of us gathered on the top floor of the Hilton for some drinks in what kind of felt like a reverse snowglobe – floating and surrounded by beautiful but seemingly microscopic structures, including the landmark Chateau Frontenac.
Our first taste of music came courtesy of Kathleen Edwards on the main stage at 7 pm. Bobby Gorman of ThePunkSite accompanied me for the entire set, after which we set off to the secondary Loto-Quebec stage to see The Barr Brothers and Beirut. A chance meeting with fellow Polaris juror and Al Tuck admirer Vish Khanna in the VIP tent was a nice treat, the two of us trading opinions on all things Canadian music while nursing sweaty cans of Export and eying sweaty concertgoers cramming closer and closer to the stage for the headliners.
Slightly comic: the founder of a reputable punk webzine declaring near the end of Beirut’s set: “Wanna go catch the end of Sarah McLachlan?”As we approached the stage, a stripped-down take of “Adia” started to great us like the distant-but-distinct smell of second-hand smoke when exiting an airport. “Sweet Surrender” and “Angel” both followed, as did a few other cuts that I didn’t recognize. Nonetheless, McLachlan’s set – with large thanks to her stunning harmonies with Melissa McLelland – was worth the trek, and after at, we set off on a Lord Of The Rings-style quest to Le Cercle to meet with some compatriots. And much like The Return of the King, it ended in a quick flash – one song by the band onstage before heading back toward to hotel to sleep off a great night and get set to jet set the next morning.
If I haven’t made it apparent, the Festival d’ete de Quebec is an unbelievable experience – not only for me as a journalist, but clearly for the music fans and citizens of QC, who for $60 were able to take in everything from Bon Jovi and Aerosmith to LMFAO and Skrillex to Canucks like Our Lady Peace, Sarah McLachlan, City & Colour, Metric, and more. Beautiful city, terrific food and drink, and perhaps most notably, great people. No matter how tattered my French may have been, I was never faulted and always encouraged for trying.