July 8, 2014

Festival Fantasy

The year was 2014. A resurgence of bands of this calibre and style from both 20 and 30 years ago had never been been anticipated as Punk Rock was deemed to be all but dead.  But these bands were not only back now, they were thriving. Hell, they were throbbing! And they were all coming to a quaint, quiet Quebec community on the summer solstice - ready to rrrrrock! Initially, I wasn't especially attracted to the Amnesia RockFest with headliners: PRIMUS, Weezer, Blink 182, Alice In Chains, and Motley Crue being announced. But then a month passed and additional support to the festival was announced. In the end, this 2 day festival scheduled about 150 bands to play on 5 stages for about 14 hours each day. Sets would range between 35 minutes and 70 minutes, but the value in ALL THESE AMAZING BANDS couldn't be resisted. So off I went.

The first day was actually "Arrival-from-a-week-of-partying-in-Montreal Day": set up the tent, investigate the town, buy beer and drink it. We were pretty organized - possibly the first 10% of the festival-goers (first 2000 people!) to arrive! Things were quiet, hot, sunny, clean, pretty…

                    "general camping"

                                                   "Quebec has Maple Trees"         

That night, I ended up in the VIP camp behind the church with my Brighton pals S & C. We drank and smoked and hid from the hot sun and met punks from around the globe and chilled then partied with Smoking French Punks & Metal Heads alike, ate kangaroo meat and drank PBR and Labatt Blue and PBR again. I remember dancing with French kids to So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes while realllllly wasted at 3:00 AM. We done good. By the end, I was happy to find myself awake in the morning in my rental vehicle with my hat, keys, wallet, and RockFest wristband sitting next to me. Ready to ROCK!
"Montebello, Quebec"

Festival Day #1 (the Summer Solstice)

The line-ups into the Amnesia RockFest grounds were long, were fine. Especially with a beer in the hand and another one in the cargo shorts. Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen…Streetlight Manifesto was taking the stage at High Noon! There wasn't much time to waste! 

I got into the grounds at my own pace, chilling with some real friendly Anglophone Montrealers while sipping my morning suds. Once in the gates, I stumbled onto some peeps I partied with that previous night. They were rolling a fat one. At 11:30. In the morning. Fun times.

Streetlight Manifesto took the Main Stage that backed onto the Riviere des Outaouais. The VIP side  limited us poor suckers the different perspectives of the stage as they were given their own special section Stage Right for about 50 metres. Nevertheless, it appeared to be a real good setup. And, really, I was just happy to be there!

Hmmmmm there's a lot more bands I want to encompass in this post, so really what more can I say: it was cool to see a 7 piece band take the stage first. I had never seen them before so that's kinda awesome too! But I needed to stay focused because…

                                B e l v e d e r e !

...was playing on the Tony Sly stage at 12:40! My hometown Alberta boys were here to give'r for the 1 day  only, as they had to move on to shows in Ontario with Curbside over the next few days! So I rocked out  pretty hard in a relatively small crowd, as people continued to flood in through the gates. I would find out later that a mutual facebook friend definitely didn't miss this great set, as she traveled all the way to this festival from Japan!  I had only seen Belvedere play in December 2012 with Pulley in Edmonton, and many times in addition to that as well! But there was just something so special to have this "warped tour-esque" stage setting (but in a million times better environment that Calgary's Race City Speedway). After Belvedere shut their stage down, I caught singer Steve Rawles just in the corner of the stage. I told him it's great they were able to play this festival, and that it's great that Belvedere are doing shows! They are actually scheduled for an "Albertan" punk/metal fest out of Valleyview at the end of the month, with about 8 other big bands, and 20 more small ones. Shit. 1:20. TIme for…New Found Glory down at the Main Stage. I wondered down there, watched a little. It was alright! I never followed them much since their  Warped Tour glory days, so after checking them out a while, I discovered the Merch Booth.  $30 T-shirts! Allllrighhhhhttttt…. Better get focused: 

Montreal's MUTE took the Budweiser (/French) stage at 2:05. I was blown away. I wasn't wasted. I was still pretty fresh. The superfast guitar riffs from old and new songs were amazing. The sound quality was perfect. The crowd was really into it! The craziest thing about this Budweiser (/French) stage was that most of the Quebec-based bands played here and between their mostly English songs, they spoke in French to their fans! I had to ask a few people what they were saying. I learned the band will recording a new albums soon, which is great, even though I am really enjoying their 2011 Thunderblast right now. The Tempest was amazing live. I scored a setlist.

Gob was scheduled to play at 2:25. Who cares. I watched all of Mute then moseyed on over to The Gaslight Anthem on the Main Stage. Although they've been through town before, I never had the recent mature appreciation for their music until having my heart broken a few more times. It would prove to be one of my greater regrets to leave their set 2/3rds of the way through the festival grounds towards the Guttermouth show. Sure, Mark Adkins was entertaining has he was expected to be, complete with: humping a tent post, climbing on the tent, jumping off the tent, crowd-surfing, bleeding, spitting, and singing a little too. The set seemed short - they played a number of their well-known songs, the musicians thrashed & drummed hard. It's tough. I am happy I saw them, but I think this 30 year old would have had more appreciation for seeing ALL of the Gaslight Anthem's performance. I was surprised how they actually did bring a tear to my eye when they played Handwritten. Dumb Mark didn't. 

                             "DUMB MARK"

"Classy Gaslight Anthem"

Immediately after Guttermouth finished, Fishbone played a set. I chilled a little and enjoyed these Ska heroes. They actually played Grant MacEwan's Kumoniwannalaya party back in 2002 with the Mad Bomber's Society - one of my first concert experiences, or so! It was great though, because between these adjacent stages, I was able to watch MXPX play their pop punk  performance after Fishbone.
Then my "bucketlist" band H2O was up right after that! Sahweeeet!  The singer Toby Morse is 44 years old. The band isn't a "screamer" hardcore band, but man can he sing and boy are their songs great. It's all so positive. Probably one of the most positive lyrics and messages from any band I know. It's especially rad since they've been leading this healthy lifestyle, attitude for DECADES now. Such an inspiration. Such a good live show! Oh, and did I mention Blink-182s drummer Travis Barker played for 1 (or 2?) of the songs! Prettttty awwwweeeesommmmeeeeee……..!
H2O has a song called Nothing To Prove. You wouldn't kow it with how much more amazing their performance was in comparison with the next set starting at 5:20. It would be silly to miss NOFX, right? I think it was probably MORE silly to miss 88 Fingers Louie and Brand New who were taking the stage a little bit after that.
The trouble with NOFX is that they casually embrace the idea that they suck live. They are one of those 20 year old bands that is "mailing it in" which is in stark contrast with 30 year old band H2O from only about 45 minutes earlier. They are nearly at the point where they need to rebrand themselves as a comedy routine, instead of a punk band. They opened their set with a song called 60% which opens with the line: "I'm not here to entertain you".  Wellllll, I was entertained. They did exactly what I thought they would - and that was (unfortunately) attest to their song "Medio-Core". The older songs were good to hear, even though the sound and performance lacked. Linoleum, Kill All The White Man, Murder the Government, and Pefect Government were highlights. Oh and Bob. Gotta love Bob. Perhaps the only more entertaining part of the NOFX performance was the NOFX fans. The predominantly French audience seemed to sing a long to NOFX's sing-a-longs, but only for the first 2 lines of each song! It was almost like they didn't know the words!!! The only exception to this was for a pretty fun round of Champs Elysees. The French kids sang that good. And Franco-Unamerican. And Dig. Shit. It sounds like I had more fun here than I care to admit!  See for yourself.

Time for a break. I was pretty lucky because my ex booked us a private campsite which was a lot closer to the festival grounds than VIP camping OR general camping. The spot was real sweet too - next to trees, nice & private… "Quiet". I thought it was smart to rest up a little. More concerts were yet to come! 
Although I missed Brand New and 88 Fingers Louie, I managed to get back for hardcore band STRIFE. I don't listen to loads of hardcore, but I had them playing in my car earlier in June to get stoked for this classic hardcore band. The singer was screaming in the middle of the pit, with kids jumping all over him.

He had blood dripping down the front of his face, and his eyebrows were furrowed. Intense. Great to see live.  Seeing STRIFE though meant that I would have to miss ex-Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine shred through his band MegaDeth's songs. No Big Deal. Because the minute STRIFE ended, I was right next to the stage where The Alkaline Trio was standing!  Like NOFX, they played a lot of good, classic, older songs like This Could Be Love, Every Thug Needs a Lady, and Stupid Kid. Pretty rad to see them again.I wandered away right near the end of their set back to that Budweiser (/French) stage to watch RESET (c/w original line-up). This was the band that transfigured into pop-punkers A Simple Plan. But the old FAST stuff from these Montrealers was pretty great to see! A big thanks to my buddy in South Africa who told me months in advance to be sure to not miss them! Another VERY strong stage presence, and HUGE fan-base at that Bud stage.

Perhaps it was because it was next to the Main Stage, but I think Montrealers
do know their fast skate punk and they knew not to miss Reset either! On the flip side, I did miss another hardcore set by Earth Crisis. Lucky for me I had my priorities, eh!

"The Alkaline Trio playing on the Mitch Lucker stage at dusk on the summer solstice"
  "the Reset show"

"the site at sunset"
Okay, it's dark-ish now. Darker than it would be in Edmonton on the solstice, because Montebello, Quebec is that much farther south! And when it's dark? That's when the headliners happen. Time for Weezer? Nope. Not quite. I've seen Weezer. And I've also seen Face To Face. Therefore, it was time to walk on over to the 10 o'clock Face To Face set. No Pork n' Beans for me tonight. And I'm glad I did!  Oh my, it's weird because Face To Face also shows their age on stage. Their maturity. Their excellency. Again, it's funny to see how much better a performance can be compared to a live NOFX performance! My favourite songs? I don't know. The end was good. I was getting pretty tired. And the smoking everywhere was starting to bother me! I actually sat down on the ground in front of the stage amongst the hoards of people for a minute during their set. A cute French girl made it known she was worried about me! That was nice. But by the end of the Face To Face set, I was dancing, so all is good! 
"Face To Face  rockin' it through dusk in Montebello, Quebec!"

"the half-pipe, where Mark Adkins was scheduled to sign autographs"

"jager girl ($11 JagerBombs)  and the cleanup crew"

It just didn't end. I had a little bit more energy in me: not much. I think the night of partying the night before plus the week of partying in Montreal before that was starting to catch up to me. Jerry Only's MISFITS started playing the minute Face To Face finished! No stopping, let's GO! So rad. 
I didn't get real close - I wasn't super-excited for this Misfits band. I had only seen t hem once before in the old New City Suburbs down town, and was mildly disappointed. Nevertheless, I endured and enjoyed. Oh, and I should catalogue here that this was the set where a couple thought this was the best time and place to give a free show as he pressed her up against the fence on the side of the stage. Hawwt.  Or gross. You be the judge.

Hardcore band JUDGE played. I don't know JUDGE. I've heard of them. More hardcore. I was able to mix in more hardcore with a band called Life On Trial too. I was starting to lose track! Life On Trial played, I think, before Ignite - but the next day.
"Judge, and Greybeard of Life On Trial"

It was late. Walking across the site to catch Mastodon was out of the question. But back on the French stage a metal group named Anonymous was doing a feature performance with Quebecois Folk Hero "Mononc Serge". I decided to wander from JUDGE, catch some of this -- after all metal is okay sometimes, right? Plus depending on how I was feeling, I could decide whether I wanted to catch Blink 182 or Black Flag or both. 

 Lots of people came out for Uncle Sergei with his heavy metal French companions "Anonymous"

It got to be 12:15. Blink was already 15 minutes late, so I decided to check out Black Flag. In some ways, I suppose it could be as good as a Black Flag Tribute band, since this is one of the 30 year old bands that I don't know outside of Rollins/Morris singers. It was neat to see Greg Ginn though. He's kind of an icon! But alas. I was destroyed. After 20 minutes of Black Flag, I decided I could listen to some of Blink 182 as I headed back to camp. To party? To crash? Well, we would see. The only big disappointment about this was having to miss the 1AM performance by Suicidal Tendencies. I just couldn't do it. I know that if I had been there with closer friends, I would have endured, so that much was kind of too bad..! But all in all, it was a good, good day.

"black flag before bedtime"

Back at camp? I can't really remember. I probably had a beer or 3. And talked to some people then crashed. Fun stuff. I think. I am just happy I didn't have too far to walk! And it wasn't RAINING! 

Festival Day #2 (the party continues)

Day 2 started much the same: grab a beer, work my way to the gates. I slept ok and I wasn't all that hungover so that much was positive! And the kids I got to talk to were all pretty great too! Old and Young, French and English, Drunk and Sober.

I was in with plenty of time. In fact, I was able to catch a Quebec band "Fifty Nutz" before Anti-Flag took the stage. The Budweiser girls were out tossing "Budweiser Amnesia RockFest" T's into the crowd. They were cute, that was nice! Love French Girls! But Anti-Flag was really rad. Their live performance - again - far exceeded NOFXs. Maybe not MUTE's, as MUTE was definitely a highlight on Day 1. Nevertheless, they played real good, and the drones flying overhead got some pretty good footage of the 2 circle pits: the VIP one, and the punkassmotherfucker one. A little bit of talking from their frontman, a little bit of anger despite their success -- it was a good formula. Anti-Flag finished their set by lifting the bulk of their  drum set into the crowd and their drummer playing it WITH the PEOPLE. Pretty poetic, pretty Anti-Flag. Check it

 Back to Bud Stage next door. UKKO was another Quebec band I was introduced to. Although, I didn't get really into them (compared to Fifty Nutz earlier), it was great to see more new music live. It didn't matter though, because I was really stoked for what was going to happen next. Members of 90s champion bands Pulley, Ten Foot Pole, Strung Out, and Voodoo Glow Skulls came together to form the IMPLANTS. Melodic skate punk at its finest. One of the other highlights of the festival without question. Me First & the Gimmee Gimmees were playing the Main Stage but I was more than happy to see this band play.


"the jiffy marker guy was a sight to be seen. met some good people at IMPLANTS though!"

In the end, I snapped a lot of great photos, met an Old Guy from Edmonton, scored a drumstick, and grabbed a beer to celebrate an amazing start to Day 2 right after. I missed Throwdown but saw some of Life On Trial, tucked into camp to drop off my drumstick and new Implants T-shirt and Ignite hat and to re-charge for the next one I would have to get to.

Henry Rollins. Who? I didn't even know what to expect one bit. Was he going to be singing? With a band? Speaking? I walked up midway through and he was talking about dolphins wearing garbage as hats. And the human impact on the planet. And opening for Ozzy.  And the NRA. And blah blah blah. In the end it was actually pretty entertaining. Only more self-absorbed people would write a blog and expect people to actually read it. Oh Henry...

I had to hurry though because after Henry Rollins, the Main Stage was playing host to Lagwagon! Up til 2012, I never gave them much notice. Maybe the library didn't have their CDs. Maybe they weren't angry enough for my liking. Maybe a combination of those and other things. As it turns out, they were at least as good as the live performance on Main Stage that I observed by Gaslight Anthem. Just a really good sound. Better than NOFX. Okay, I'll put that to rest already. It worked out good because I had planned to go to watch my first whole metal show when Lagwagon finished, and that was on the Jagermeister stage nearby!

All That Remains was pretty heavy. They had a girl playing an axe and the drummer was fast indeed. Jagermeister also had a bar set up where the VIPs punk rockers could watch performances on that stage from on top of the bar!  I wasn't. And metal got boring fast, so I left and chilled and met more quality people who also decided there weren't many Must-See bands to see right now. Plus I had to rest up. Because IGNITE was next.

I was at the stage early, so I got to watch hardcore band LifeRuiner. It was interesting. They were pretty impassioned - I kept my earplugs in til they were done though. IGNITE on the other hand got an intro by Random Dude, "Come On Everybody, We Have IGNITE About To Take The Stage --- WOOOOOOT!". People were indeed pretty excited. Just seeing singer Zoli, bassist Brett again for the first time in 8 years was pretty awesome. And to learn that they are recording a new record now for release in the Fall make me very happy indeed. I scored a setlist, but me and my Edmonton friend from the Implants show decided we should split it. The songs were great.  The new one too. Definitely a Top 5 performance -- so far…!

Winding down from that performance was pretty necessary. I just kind of wandered aimlessly around the area. I ended up sort of by the entrance to Back Stage. And who happens to walk on out? Strung Out's Jason Cruz. He was actually in the corner of the stage during Ignite's performance. That was pretty cool. The even cooler part was that he casually - cooly - walked alongside me down past the booths and the tents, where we chatted about Quebec and the tour and how Edmonton loves on Strung Out hard all the time. This is my second time having a 1-on-1 with this star as we BS'd a little bit back in 2011 outside the Starlite Room in Edmonton.

"Jason Cruz and Ryan at the Starlite Room, 2012"
"Jason  Cruz and Ryan, Montebello RockFest, 2014"

I let this all sink in while listening to Cigar, before Primus. I decided that Primus would be a good band to see in a stadium atmosphere. By this time, I determined the same thing about the other big headliner Alice In Chains. Seeing some of Primus was great though.

Amazing skill on bass, and just a really rad sound in general. But I had to depart from the Main Stage again so that I would catch BigWig! In 2005, BigWig headlined Frostbite Tour in Edmonton alongside Death By Stereo, Misconduct, Tsunami Bomb, and Belvedere. Up til now, that had been my greatest "multi-band" performance. BigWig was just 1 more band that was making this festival so incredible! Their songs and lyrics have more impact on so many people's lives, and that was noticed as the area surrounding the stage was just packed.
Loads  of people gave Joan Jett the swerve so that they could watch this.  I can't say enough about how much love felt for these guys from Montrealers. It was a very positive experience

BigWig was INTENSE!!!!


Reel Big Fish played. I made a lap around the main strip to find some 50 cent waters and soak in the slightly  messier town of Montebello. I had to be quick though because I didn't mind missing some of Reel Big Fish, but I didn't want to miss...

...The Vandals! They played New You - that's all I needed. That, and My Girlfriend's Dead. Fun stuff. The first time I've seen Vandals since 2003 or '04 at a Warped Tour. Great live performance for Old Guys.  I kinda wish I knew them a little better!

After the Vandals, I missed Venom and The Sainte Catherines because BANE was on deck on the adjacent stage again. I like Bane. I like them even more when I can stay safe from the hardcore dancers behind a steel fence dividing the 2 stages. I needed to stay on this side so I could get a good spot for the band I was going to miss Alice In Chains for a band I've seen about 10 times... In fact, one of the first times, I saw them, Bane was the opener. One of the first times was in Red's at West Edmonton Mall with Strung Out! And that's who was up next. Jason Cruz was already on the stage trying to get the sound guys to get the mics and amps set right, as Bane beat out their decently long set

I ended up next to a girl next to the rail. The girl made me think of another girl I used to know. I couldn't help but wish that she was there with me at this festival. There are, after all a number of people that are more passionate about Strung Out than I am. However, this:

Fat Mike was on stage for this set, drinking Budweiser next to his BDSM wife.  I was super-close and tried to get some good shots in the poor lighting and bouncy crowd. Jason Cruz was as much on top of and singing to the front five rows as usual. Rob Ramos was directly in front if me - for the second time today - as he changed up from the Implants' songs to the Strung Out songs. Chris & Jord did their job as good as ever too. My favourite part had to be the into to Savant, and the following up with their version of Tony Sly's Soulmate. I teared up - just a little bit. It was seriously intense. Closing it with Matchook was a safe and sweet thing to do. There's only one thing that could have made this set better, and she was in San Francisco.


Once again, I needed a minute to absorb the entire set once it was finished. Had I been more on the ball, I would have hurried down to the Main Stage to watch more Alice In Chains. I did that though, once I finally collected myself. I am grateful that I saw as much of A.I.C. as I did, actually! I was listening to their Unplugged album before I was listening to any punk music. They have been a bit of an influence in my life, and I hope that I get the opportuneity to see them, like Primus, in a stadium setting. A 90 or 100 minute show, ya know?!


 The second biggest stage though was the only other one I hardly spent any time at: Danzig & Doyle were playing the Jagermeister stage after Alice In Chains finished. Sacrificing Glassjaw to see another iconic punk figure? Okay. And I'm glad I did. I managed to get real close, just between the centre rail and the Stage Left mosh pit. Danzig came out and started pounding his solo tunes like only he can. Twist of Cain, How the Gods Kill, Am I Demon, and Mother: in some ways I like his solo stuff more than his MISFITS stuff.

But then, the MISFITS stuff with Doyle was really great to see too. Doyle came out in full hair and make-up after 6 songs and played 6 of our favourite MISFITS songs: Skulls, Astrozombies, Last Caress… He couldn't have thrashed any harder with a bigger scowl on his face. It was good. After "Mother", they marched away and a stage manager came out and tossed a half dozen guitar picks into the air. One actually landed in my hand, but there was a really drunk, old, bald guy that was searching the ground frantically for another one. If I was any more of a MISFITS/ DANZIG guy, I would have kept it, but handing it off to my buddy there made both our day. Although, he was so drunk, he may have lost it the same night. Oh well! 

With the choices I was making, I was doing OK. I missed Grimskunk, Vince Neil & Tommy Lee with Motley Crue. Glassjaw would have been neat - not as neat as Danzig though. Now it was getting to be the end.

The Dead Kennedys.

Wow. I didn't expect that one bit! They had a singer that wasn't Jello Biafra, although had some nasally qualities of Jello! This guy was lean, fit, young(er), and FILLEDWITHSOMUCHENERGYGAHHHH! He crowd surfed and sang to the crowd and gave it HELL for a solid 10 Favourite DK songs which included Too Drunk To Fuck, Kill The Poor, Police Truck, Holiday In Cambodia…! Wild! Here's the whole thing with pretty good quality. It was cool to see the 3 other original members too! 

Tired. June 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. We had a long day of travel all the way back to Edmonchuck on 22.  I was getting run pretty haggard. But a band from Britain called Cock Sparrer still had to play! 

Hmm Cock Sparrer. More old guys I only found out about a few days beforehand. Reading on Wikipedia, I learn that these guys "are considered one of the most influential street punk bands of the era by groups over the coming decades, helping pave the way for the late 1970s punk scene and the Oi! subgenre"!
It was a great way to finish up. There was a No Use For A Name tribute back on the Budweiser stage, but I thought that after 2 days, 36 sets, I might head back to camp, hang out with some people there for a while. 

I did okay. 

Top 5 for Amnesia RockFest 2014:

5) Mute (just technically tight, with amazing sound, song, and ambience)
4) Implants (classy old guys keeping skate punk what it needs to be!)
2) Danzig + Doyle (one hell-raising performance)
1) Ignite (one of the best singers in music, with the most important songs ever written)

Honourable Mentions: Gaslight Anthem, Lagwagon, Dead Kennedys, BigWig, Strung Out. In the end, I caught 19 sets on one day and 17 sets on the other. That's a lot of music. Missing Suicidal Tendencies, and choosing to opt out of Alice In Chains were the decisions I made. I think that if I had someone else to do these shows with, then I might have had help making better decisions for some of it. But in the end, it was one heck of a party. I don't think it could ever possibly be beat.

I'm 3 from the left at The Implants show, and a new friend of mine happens to be 3 from the right!