Amnesia Rockfest 2016

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Day 1 – Friday, June 24th 2016

The 11th edition of the largest rock music festival in Canada has just came to an end! If you were part of the lucky people present in Montebello over the weekend, you already know how insane this weekend was! For the others, let me tell you about my experience…


It was my second time making it to the small town of Montebello, located in the south of Quebec. Did you know that during the year, this town barely has about a thousand residents but that this number goes up to 200,000 when Amnesia Rockfest is happening? YESSIR MILLER! Over the weekend the town turns into a giant commerce, providing spaces to festival goers to plant their tents, and letting inhabitants sell food and diverse beverages, and all of that to the sound of your favourite bands. Rock on!


After being blocked by the traffic on this sunny Friday morning for about an hour, I successfully made my way to the VIP camping of the site, installed my tent as fast as I could and got on the way to my first show of the day, the Detroit hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. It was actually their first time coming to Canada in the past 16 years! The creepy masks did not scare the crowd, as many fans were in front of the stage, ready to enjoy their St-Jean weekend!


I decided to walk around a bit, listening to them as background music. For those who don’t know, there is a lot to do inside the Rockfest site itself! Know how to ride a skateboard? Well, bring your skateboard and use the ramp as you please! Hungry or thirsty? Over 40 booth and food concessions are present on site, from La poutinerie, Pizza Pizza, Mustache Burger, to Budweiser, Red Bull, Jagermeister (and their famous Jager ladies giving you shots!), and much more!. Hope you brought your wallet and loads of cash if you wanted to last all weekend, especially with the heat we had!


I also decided to check out the Swedish band Venerea on one of the Tony Sly stages early in the afternoon. I didn’t know the band before seeing them, and it was a really good surprise! The bassist is on fire on pretty much every single track, and I would advise you to listen to the great “Shake Your Booty” song that got me sold! I am definitely checking out more of their songs as soon as I have some time on my hands.


The Casualties were next for quite a punk rock performance! After 26 years of activity, you might think those guys may be tired and have no energy to perform, wouldn’t you? Well, if you do think this way, you’re so wrong! Singer Jorge Herrera put on an incredible show, for the eyes and ears! He even met with a few fans right after the show, joined by Guitarist Jake Kolatis.


I was already sweating and dying from the heat after their set was done, and decided to check out the Merch tent! For a few dozen dollars, you could get a new wardrobe composed of your favourite bands shirts, hoodies and caps! The most popular sizes got sold out pretty quickly unfortunately, but I decided to for a pretty cool A Day To Remember shirt! Right next to the merch tent was what I would consider my savior for the whole weekend: THE ONE AND ONLY spraying water tent! Too hot? Get under it and enjoy the cold water being sprayed all over your body, the best way to relax after moshing during a whole set!


After taking a look at the schedule for the rest of the afternoon, I thought I would be better off staying around the Tony Sly stages, as two of my favourite bands were playing in a few minutes: Hawthorne Heights, and Silverstein. I already had the opportunity to see both bands twice in the past in Montreal, and was more than happy to witness another one of their shows at Amnesia Rockfest! Hawthorne Heights played some of their classics, such as “Saying Sorry”, “Niki FM”, and “Ohio Is For Lovers”. Singer JT Woodruff always impresses me with his vocal skills and the calm he keeps on stage, it was really entertaining! On top of that, I got lucky enough to run into him the next day as we both were on stage watching the Stick To Your Guns performance.


Silverstein was up next, and their show was one of the highlights of my weekend. As I was enjoying the show from the barricade, it wasn’t hard to see that the crowd was on fire and that the moshpit was going crazy during every single song they performed. From “My Heroine”, to “Smile In Your Sleep”, “Massachusetts” or “Smashed Into Pieces”, the band’s energy, along with the crowd’s, remained as high as it could’ve been throughout their whole performance, and it was the most wonderful feeling ever. There was such a synergy between the band and their fans, it was priceless.


After this exhausting set, it was time to take a break, and enjoy NOFX while sitting on the grass and eating a hot dog. Between a few jokes involving Rapper Ice Cube and needing him for their Ice tea, the band played (part of) their famous album “Punk in Drublic”, including tracks such as “Linoleum” and “Don’t Call Me White”. They actually played most songs of the album without following the order, before calling it “boring” and playing a few other songs. Typical NOFX!


The best band of the day (in my opinion) was next on the Budweiser Stage. Canadian rock band Sum 41 made their way on stage for a throwback set that blew me away! I didn’t know what to expect from their performance as I knew that Singer Deryck Whibley was recovering from his addiction to alcohol that almost took his life away. However, along with original members of the band Bassist Jason “Cone” McCaslin and Dave “Brownsound” Baksh, Whibley put on one of the most memorable shows of the weekend!


The setlist included hits such as “Fat Lip”, “The Hell Song”, “Underclass Hero”, “We’re All To Blame”, “Motivation”, “Makes No Difference” and obviously the song that led them to their international fame in the 00’s “In Too Deep”. I felt like I was back to the 2000’s in middle school, and I must say, the fanboy in me was enjoying this moment so much more than I would’ve expected!


Twisted Sister took over the Jagermeister stage right after that, with their hair flinging anthems, including the classic “I Wanna Rock” that all of us know too well! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of their performance as I was waiting for Billy Talent on the Budweiser stage. It is always a burden to have to make compromise during festivals between the bands you really really want to see, the spot you’ll have in the crowd and the other bands you don’t want to see as much but have a one time opportunity to see them! I decided to stay at the Budweiser stage all evening to enjoy performances by Billy Talent, Korn and Blink 182! However, I know Twister Sister played other hit songs such as “Stay Hungry”, “Burn in Hell” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.


Canadian rock band Billy Talent is used to coming to Quebec, as I’ve already seen them five times in the five years I’ve been here! Singer Benjamin Kowalewicz has so much energy to share with his fans, and he does it wonderfully. The band played their top hits such as “Fallen Leaves”, “Red Flag”, “Surrender”, “Rusted From The Rain” or even “Devil On My Shoulder”. Once again, an impressive performance that comforts their status as one of the best Canadian rock bands around.


Puscifer played right after them. The band, created by Maynard James Keenan, known for Tool and A Perfect Circle, gave the crowd a one hour performance on the Jagermeister stage. I wasn’t fortunate enough to really hear much, but from listening to some fans talking afterwards, it was quite a show!


I was standing in front of the Budweiser stage, with thousands of other fans to witness Korn’s performance. Singer Jonathan Davis wasn’t wearing his famous Adidas sweatpants like the last time I saw him, but I still felt like I was back in my teenage years when the band played songs such as “Falling Away From Me”, “Coming Undone”, “Blind” and “Freak On A Leash”. It only took me a few seconds to start singing along and get jumping! Bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu was a monster on the bass! He’s one of the most talented live bassists I’ve ever seen! If you have the opportunity to see them live, go for it, you won’t regret any second of it!


American rock band Jane’s Addiction was the final band on the Jagermeister stage on the first day. I wish I could say I’ve seen their set because the band is one of the most classic bands of the end of the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s era with their albums Nothing’s Shocking (1988) and Ritual de lo habitual (1990), and from what I’ve seen on live videos, Singer Perry Farrell and Guitarist Dave Navarro are impressive performers. The band played a 9 song setlist, including “Stop”, “Ain’t No Right”, “Just Because” and “Jane Says”, among others.


The final band of my first day at Rockfest was the most famous Pop Punk band ever, the one and only Blink 182! As a few of you may already know, their lineup changed a few months ago when Tom Delonge left the band (or has been kicked out, it’s still so confusing for me) to work on his own projects that include Angels & Airwaves, Macbeth Footwear, the design company Modlife, a novel, but also investigating UFOs… No wonder why he doesn’t have much time for Blink! Anyway, this good fellow got replaced by Matt Skiba, known for being guitarist and vocalist for Alkaline Trio. I actually saw Blink 182 two years ago at that same festival, when Tom was still part of the band and I had the time of my life! I was really anxious about the performance, and I have the feeling I was quite right about it.


It felt odd to me to have them singing all the old Blink songs and having Skiba’s voice on it. It didn’t quite match the style and overall feeling the songs had with Delonge’s touch to it. Furthermore, the band members didn’t seem to have that same chemistry together: no immature sex jokes in between songs, just them going from one song to another, and that was it. Sure, their performance was good, but it didn’t blow me away like it did two years ago. I may sound harsh but it really is how I felt about it. The positive thing though came from their new songs, like “Bored To Death” and “No Future” that didn’t have their Delonge touch at first and that as a result felt like they belonged to the actual line up of the band. Don’t get me wrong, having them play “What’s My Age Again”, “All The Small Things”, “I Miss You”, “First Date” and “Family Reunion” was great, but not as amazing as it could have been. Even if I was a bit disappointed by their performance, I will definitely go see them again when they’ll be coming to Montreal next August!


Here was my first day at Rockfest! Sun, sweat, mosh and rock’n’roll! It was time to go back to the tent and try to enjoy a couple hours of sleep before starting it all over again the next day!

Day 2 – Saturday, June 25th 2016

Another day on the planet Rockfest! Thousands of people bonding all together with the great gift that the gods gave us: Music! Along with many beers, and other substances that I would not recommend. If seeing dozens of people drinking beer at 8am doesn’t surprise you, this place is for you! After a few hours chilling around the tent and enjoying the common space of the VIP camping, I checked out American ska punk band Streetlight Manifesto on the Budweiser stage!


Who doesn’t love ska? (me – Ed) It’s such a happy, cheery music to listen to. It was the perfect soundtrack to my lunch, along with a fresh drink, before getting ready for the rest of the day. During that day, I spent a little bit more time walking around, going backstage to try to meet bands (in vain) and enjoying the festival behind the scenes. I was a a bit disappointed we didn’t actually get the opportunity to have a few hours meeting bands and interviewing bands like we’ve been told we would before getting to the festival, but I still had an enjoyable time, seeing festival creator Alex Martel driving his golf cart around backstage and even Comedian Mike Ward.


At 1:30pm, I walked towards the Quebec stage, to listen to Montreal/Ottawa based band Obey The Brave. This band, reuniting ex-members of Despised Icon and Blind Witness is a major hardcore/metalcore band on the Quebec Scene. Their song “Raise Your Voice” will give you a good idea of what they have to offer. Their set was energetic, powerful, heavy and full of mosh pits and circle pits!


Another stage, a different music genre with Korpiklaani, a folk metal band coming straight from Finland! Fun fact, their name means “Forest Clan” in Finnish! Throughout its existence (since 1993), the lineup changed countless number of times, with only Jonne Jarvela being a member of the original line up. The band delighted us with a fun, energetic, and party-hearted set. They have a nice variety of songs that won’t leave you indifferent.


Brazilian Death Metal band Sepultura and American Thrash Metal Anthrax were next on my list! The first band, which has been around since 1984  and has thirteen studio albums under its belt, offered their fans a classic, angry, passionate and aggressive set. Frontman Derrick Green, Max Cavalera’s replacement after the latter left the band in 1996,  has a really intense and theatrical style that I really enjoyed witnessing. Their music style isn’t the one I fancy the most (if you’ve read some of my reviews in the past, you may already know that I’m much more into Pop Punk and Hardcore than anything else), but discovering them live was a great experience, and a memory that I’ll keep with me for a long time.


The same thing could be said about Anthrax’s performance. After 35 years of existence, you may think that those guys wouldn’t have the will to perform at festivals as big as Rockfest, but they do with success despite all members being in their 50’s. Those who can easily be considered as one of the leaders of the thrash metal scene during the 1980’s played an aggressive and head pounding set, full of power chords and pedal points that kept their fans going throughout the entire 45 minutes set.


One of my favourite bands was next on the Budweiser stage. Hoping to meet them, I made my way backstage and to my greatest surprise, vocalist Jeremy McKinnon was standing right in front of me, along with band members Kevin Skaff and Neil Westfall. They were actually talking to fans who drove all over the country just to see them. After taking a picture with those fans, I tried my luck but could only get a picture with Jeremy McKinnon, as the rest of the band was getting ready to get on stage for their set. It was my second time seeing them live, and the first time was quite a disaster, not because of the band’s performance but because I got stuck in a crazy moshpit (at Rockfest a couple years go already!) and couldn’t enjoy any of it as I was trying to make my way out of it for the whole set! I must say that this time it was much more enjoyable! With songs from previous albums such as “All I Want”, “Have Faith In Me”, “The Downfall of Us All” or more recent songs like “Bad Vibrations” or “Paranoia”, A Day To Remember was another highlight of my weekend. Their set was purely flawless as I couldn’t help singing along and jumping  around during the whole set. I was actually disappointed when it had to stop, but I ran backstage to get faster to the next show I wanted to check out on the Tony Sly Stage, Stick To Your Guns! One last thing about A Day To Remember, they will be coming to Montreal in August, opening with All Time Low for Blink 182, don’t miss it, it will most likely be amazing!


Stick To Your Guns offered quite the show themselves too! I enjoyed it from the side of the stage, a few meters away from Jesse Barnett and his bandmates. I was actually right behind JT Woodruff, Hawthorne Heights’ singer! The American hardcore band, coming straight from California prepared a heavy set for their fans, with tracks such as “Nobody”, “Amber”, “Against Them All”, or even “Such Pain” and “We Still Believe”. Being in the crowd would’ve probably been more fun, but I enjoyed every second of that set! Singer Jesse Barnett told his fans that the band would be back in Montreal in the fall, a show that I won’t miss!

For the rest of the evening, I decided to stay between the two main stages, the Budweiser and Jagermeister stages to enjoy performances by Lamb Of God, Ice Cube, Limp Bizkit, Bring Me The Horizon and Rise Against.


Lamb Of God and Ice Cube, despite being extremely different, both offered their public an impressive performance, with energy, full of their greatest hits, and getting the crowd to rap along (for Ice Cube) or headbang like crazy. (for Lamb Of God… or Ice Cube fans could try it out too, why not?). I actually try to go see Ice Cube backstage but we were over 50 people waiting for him, and he was hiding in a tent reserved for the artists, and as soon as he made his way out of it, he was surrounded by his crew, composed of a few people including a really tall and muscular bodyguard everybody was too scared to approach! Nonetheless, his set was really fun and quite different compared to all the other shows I saw that day and it was a good way to take a break from metal and intense music.


Next up was Limp Bizkit! The American Nu-metal band kept us “Rollin’” during their whole set and brought me back to the 00’s within a few seconds. I was only disappointed vocalist Fred Durst preferred a bucket hat over his red cap we can see in many of their videoclips. It was definitely him telling us “I’m a do things my way”. Their set was a wonderful throwback and even if the band isn’t really appreciated by the majority of people who know about them, I must say they were really entertaining, especially covering a few songs such as “Walk” by Panthera, “Faith” by George Michael or having songs playing from tapes like “Turn Down For What” and “Stayin’ Alive”.


Were they better at putting on a show than Bring Me The Horizon? The answer is: No! It was for me another fail at meeting a band and talking to them since their security didn’t want anybody approaching them, but on stage they shared their energy and musical skills with all their fans. Their setlist included recent hits like “Happy Song”, “Throne”, “Follow You, “Avalanche”, “Shadow Moses”, “Drown” and “Can You Feel My Heart”, and they outperformed  by far most bands that played during the festival, not only by their music but also by the visual effects during the show. The only regret I have is that the band really stopped playing songs from previous albums, with a more metalcore sound, like “Blessed With A Curse”, “Chelsea Smiles” or “Diamonds Aren’t Forever” that they used to play a lot in the past.


Last but not least was American Rock band Rise Against! I was disappointed not seeing vocalists Tim McIlrath backstage as I heard he was walking around a lot, and even going within the crowd and taking pictures with his fans! I actually enjoyed their set from the top of the Montebello Auberge, with an amazing view of the whole Rockfest site. The band opened their 19 song set with “Survive”, followed by “Like The Angel” and the great “Re-Education (Through Labor). My favourite songs from this set were definitely the ones I used to listen to growing up, “Help Is on The Way”, “Ready To Fall”, “I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore”, “Make It Stop”, or even “Savior”. Rise Against did not only play their own songs, but also performed a couple covers, including “For Fiona” (by No Use for a Name) and Blind (Face to Face cover). “Swing Life Away” brought back so many good memories from my childhood and made me realize how lucky I was to finally get to see this band live after so many years listening to them. Rise Against closed their set with the unique and engaged “Prayer of the Refugee”, that has probably one of the most intense and catchy punk rock chorus the band ever played.


After their performance, it was time for me to make my way back to the tent and enjoy a few hours of sleep. My whole body was in pain from walking around, standing, moshing, sleeping on the floor, but it was SO worth it. Amnesia Rockfest is the best festival around if you’re a fan of punk/rock/metal/hardcore music (along with Heavy Montreal, and Vans Warped Tour (for the pop punk fans, when it decides to show up around Quebec obviously)) and I truly advise you to experience it at least once in your life. It was my second year enjoying this festival, and I doubt it will be my last. The headline, the site itself, the ambiance and the crazy place Montebello turns into over this weekend will create some of the best memories of your life.

Time to use the sticker I got from some people on the street: “I survived Rockfest 2016!”.


Review – Maxime Le Huidoux
Photos – Kieron Yates

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