By: Scott Penner (@ScottPenner) –
The eighth annual Amnesia Rockfest, which annually takes place in the small village (1,000 people) of Montebello, Quebec, hosted over 30,000 fans over the weekend and despite being hard to beat if you’re looking for big name bands at the lowest possible price, many issues plagued the two-day festival. With an advertised price of $0.53 per band, there is simply no other festival that brought such big names like Rancid, Lamb of God, Marilyn Manson, Deftones and Killswitch Engage at such a ridiculously low-ticket price. However, the questionable policy of charging local bands to pay to play left a dark shadow over the entire festival, and the impact of cost cutting became even more apparent as time went on. If clean washrooms, a well thought out stage layout and fair prices for food were a must have for your festival experience, then you’d probably be better off shelling out some more cash to attend one of the bigger well established festivals.
While wait times at any festival are annoying as people filter through checkpoints, it was frustrating to find that poor logistics forced festival goers to make their way through numerous bottle necks to walk between stages. The single tiny entrance was not adequate – and festivals with similar crowd sizes usually have two to three times the size of entrance. Access to alcohol, however, was made a priority, with shooter girls stationed throughout the grounds, as well as various beer tents. Access to food and washrooms was a different story; when the urinals overflowed at 4:00pm on the first day, the entire area became a urine pond which only got bigger as the two day festival went on. Other options were to leave the festival for another washroom, or the more popular solution of peeing on a tree or in a corner. Also, the frustration ofpaying $3 for a bottle of warm water from the vendors was felt by many festivalgoers. But those who were brave enough to wait in a ridiculously long line, Pizza Pizza rewarded them with bottles of cold water for a lower price.
This lack of organization and effort to keep the festival clean and well stocked meant that organizers spent money on bringing the big bands, and boy did they ever deliver on that part. This festival easily had one of the best lineups of the summer.
Montreal-based Slaves on Dope were one of the first bands on the MusiquePlus stage, which allowed the Loto-Quebec (main) stage to prepare for Less Than Jake. Slaves on Dope spoke to the crowd in English, while they introduced themselves to be from Montreal. They did still swear in French, which felt right as French seemed to be the preferred language of the festival. The crowd seemed to enjoy them as they presented a humorous set including a song about masturbation. It was their cover of Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” that really got the crowd moving.
Polar Bear Club opened the Mitch Lucker stage, which organizers named after the late lead singer of Riverside, California-based metal quintet Suicide Silence, which was paired with the Tony Sly stage for continuous music. Polar Bear Club and their fans barely noticed their early 1:00pm set time and played with the energy that one would expect to see far later in the evening. While many bands took time to encourage further screaming with a typical “I Can’t hear you..” vocalist Jimmy Stadt gave a very humbling tribute and request for attention and applause to the audio technicians and support staff who worked tirelessly to make the show happen, with Stadt pausing and asking the crowd several times to cheer louder to recognize the effort and ridiculously long hours they put into producing shows of this caliber. Polar Bear Club attracted various styles of “moshing” between the normal pushing and shoving, to jumping to a circle pit, to the stylized sort of interpretative dancing with the swinging of fists in the air for a more of a traditional “hardcore” band.
Gainsville, Florida-based ska punk quintet Less Than Jake, who described their hometown as “where old people from Toronto go to die,” played over at the main stage at 1:20pm. They played a mix of newer songs and some older ska, which were the crowd favourites. Less Than Jake were very engaging with the crowd – when they saw a fan with a beer bong in the shape of a skull, they asked him to come on stage and show the crowd how to party. The lucky fan then decided to stage dive back into the crowd at the suggestion of the band. They finished their set with their popular song “Plastic Cup Politics” from their 2003 album Anthem.
Millencolin was next on the main stage; they told the crowd that they had waited to play this festival almost half of their lives. They had arrived only a couple of hours before their set with absolutely no gear due to cancelled flights. Luckily they borrowed Rancid’s gear to complete their set. A personal favourite, “Mr. Clean”, from their 1994 album Same Old Tunes, drew a fair bit of attention as many fans seeking shade at the back could be seen singing along.
Killswitch Engage, who re-united with their original frontman Jesse Leach just over a year ago, tore up the main stage at 4:00pm. Their powerful stage presence and confidence playing as a complete band showed no signs that they had parted ways for 10 years. Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz provided an entertaining and often comedic banter, which was fun when juxtaposed with the heavy image their the music provides. Dutkiewicz often made vulgar comments between songs such as “I want to pee all over your girlfriends butthole” or “Canada it’s so nice to be inside of you again”. The band played an array of songs from both old and new albums with a special shout out for the song “My Curse”, which went out to “your mom’s tits”.
Boston-based Celtic punks Dropkick Murphys, were next on the main stage. With the current NHL playoffs series between Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks and knowing that the band are huge hockey fanatics, fans expected to hear some hockey banter, and they weren’t disappointed. The band opened with a cover of “For Boston” and proceeded to play a number of crowd favourites, including “The Boys Are Back”, and “Going Out In Style”, which left thousands of fans singing. Towards the end of their set, they reminded fans that they were donating the profits of their single “Rose Tattoo” to the victims of the Boston marathon bombing, before performing the slower paced tune.
Rancid, easily drawing the biggest crowd of the day, began at 6:50pm and performed a solid one-hour set. They reminded all in attendance that they had been a band for “21 fucking years” and had no intention of ever stopping. Various moshpits broke out at both the front and back of the massive crowd during the punk quartet’s most popular songs including “Ruby Soho” and “Time Bomb”. The muddy grounds of the festival prevented the dust clouds that normally would have ensued from such aggressive moshing, but at the same time provided fresh mud for throwing. A close call, but luckily the mud throwing didn’t reached Woodstock level and didn’t catch on for a full-on mud fight.
After Rancid had finished, many attendees headed back to their campsite or hotel. However, the lackluster planning forced attendees to navigate through numerous bottlenecks to exit the festival through only one available exit. Obviously this was simply not an acceptable option for some people, who chose instead to knock down the fences and make their way through the private back yards of residents to access the street. It was then up to the homeowners to “police” their own yards and provide a safe route through their yards to the street. Normally we would expect to see paid security watching the fences not only to prevent people from illegally entering, but to watch for a situation such as this where a mob of people jumped over and knocked down fencing, which isn’t exactly safe.
Social Distortion played a sunset set, which seemed very formal and their interactions with the crowd were on autopilot during their performance. Lead singer Mike Ness offered few emotionless comments to the crowd, like “Thanks for letting Social Distortion play your festival”. They did, however, partially redeem themselves by playing a cover of Johnny Cash’s classic song “Ring of Fire”.
Montreal-based metal band Kataklysm spoke almost entirely in French to the crowd of energetic fans as they played during the changeover between Social Distortion and Deftones. They played a ferocious set including songs like “As I Slither” and “Iron Will”, which incited the most violent pits of the day as the smaller stages where previous death metal bands had played simply did not have enough space to allow the pits to grow as large. Frontman Maurizio Lacono told the crowd that the name of the festival should be changed from Rockfest to Metalfest, and for their brief 35-minute set, everyone completely agreed.
Deftones, who began their set at 10:00pm was the highlight of the evening. They played a wide selection of old songs like “Engine no. 9″ and “My Own Summer”, along with newer tracks like “Diamond Eyes” and “Tempest” during their hour-long set. They dedicated their performance of “Change (In The House of Flies)” to former bass player Chi Cheng who passed away in May.
While the new tracks seemed to be generally accepted by the crowd, it was the heavier and faster older songs that really got the sold out festival moving. They reserved “Seven Words”, from their debut album Adrenaline for their last track, which provided a suitable climax to the show with the entire crowd going berzerk.
Day two of the festival introduced an entirely new set of issues on top of those already present from the previous day.
The festival grounds had yet to be cleaned and were still littered with cans, bottles and plastic beer cups. At noon, the main (Loto-Quebec) stage still appeared to be preparing for the first performance, and showed no signs that Lagwagon was going to play on time; in the end, no one played the main stage until 3:30pm, which left Lagwagon and Mighty Mighty Bosstones without a stage to play on. There was no official announcement or any information provided to guests about what was going on or why the bands weren’t playing as scheduled. Mighty Mighty Bosstones were re-scheduled to play on the MusiquePlus stage and Lagwagon was going to appear on the Tony Sly stage, but we only learned this from band who were playing on the other stages. Organizers said that one of the headliners had decided that they needed extra stage lighting, which took extra time to assemble, which could have been used for playing music.
A Perfect Murder was the first band to play on the MusiquePlus stage. Being the first band of the day for most of the fans that choose to stay near or simply could not find the other stages coupled with the fact that it was now hours after the gates opened, this band had an incredibly large crowd.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones performed on the MusiquePlus stage just before 3:00 pm, which was long before any band had played the main stage. The Boston-based ska-core octet were very vocal about the problems the festival was having with scheduling. At first, vocalist Dicky Barrett referred to the festival as a “clusterfuck”, then a “shit show”, then a “shit-fuck”, welcoming everybody to the “Canadian shit-fuck.” Insults and complaining aside, a huge crowd greeted them as they opened their short 35-minute set with “The Old School Off The Bright”, which they followed up with a slew of tracks that spanned their decades-long career including “All Things Considered”, and “The Impression That I Get”.
The Transplants finally took the main stage at 3:30pm, already half an hour past their scheduled start time. They opened their set with their new single, “In a Warzone,” from their album of the same name, out June 25th, via Epitaph. Co-lead singer and guitarist Tim Armstrong and co-lead singer Skinhead Rob also had some complaining to do about the festival, first apologizing for the “delay of game” and then referencing that “somebody” wanted “a bunch of stupid lights” suggesting that it was an artist who decided to change the schedule on a whim just before everybody was about to play.
Pennywise took the stage at 5:00pm, an hour behind schedule. When fans realized the band was ready to start, a huge wave of people rushed to the stage. After playing the first song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” from their 1991 self-titled album, Pennywise had comments of their own about their problems with the festival, however they mostly talked about their dislike for the barriers and how they found the barrier between front of house and the stage ”atrocious”. Pennywise was very interactive with the massive crowd who seemed to almost forget about the delay. Lead singer Jim Lindberg asked the crowd if they preferred a Nirvana cover or Ramones cover, to which the crowd responded with a far louder cheer for Nirvana, which prompted the punk quartet to play a fantastic version of “Territorial Pissings” from the album Nevermind. At the end of their set, their friends in the band Lagwagon joined them to play “Bro Hymn”.
Anthrax arrived on the main stage 75-minute late, at 6:30pm. They produced a fantastic, entertaining show with some of their best songs, opening with “Caught in a Mosh” from their 1987 album Among the Living. For their track “Efilnikufesin”, vocalist Joey Belladonna performed the chorus a capella, which excited the fans who knew the lyrics, and taught the lyrics to everyone else.
Mat Smashers of the band Planet Smashers had a solo acoustic set on the MusicPlus stage while the organizers prepared the main stage for Lamb of God. Smashers explained how he intended to have the Planet Smashers perform but was only allowed to do a solo project. However, after a couple of songs, the rest of the Planet Smashers appeared on stage and they joined Smashers for the rest of the band’s 35-minute set.
Lamb of God began their hour-long set about 75 minutes late. This performance was notable for being apart of their first tour since lead singer Randy Blythe was found not guilty in a case in Czech Republic involving the death of a fan at one of their shows. Blythe briefly mentioned this event and asked all the fans to watch out for each other.
The band opened with “Desolation,” from their 2012 album Resolution. It was, however, the final song “Black label,” from their self-titled album Burn the Priest (which was their name before changing to Lamb of God) that had the biggest reaction from the crowd. This song has been their final song for every show for many years and fans have grown accustomed to this “procedure”. Blythe announced that it would be dedicated to “Daniel” referring to Daniel Nosek, the 19-year-old fan who died after being pushed off the stage at one of their shows. He also warned the crowd, “if you do not know what is about to happen, then watch the fuck out”. What followed was the infamous “wall of death,” where fans separate just before the song starts, creating a space in front of the stage, and then run at each other as if running into a wall. The mosh pit during this song spanned from the front of the stage almost to front of house – probably the largest of the entire weekend. Throughout their set, Blythe regularly referred to the crowd as “Quebec” instead of Montebello or Canada, which other bands preferred. “Black Label,” was also notable for being extended so that their Canadian guitar technician Jeramy Donais – aka HooGie – who wore a Canadian flag on his back, could play bass for the last verse before the band left the stage.
Marilyn Manson began his show behind a giant sheet covering the entire stage, which dropped just as the band began playing “Angel With The Scabbed Wings” from Manson’s 1996 album Antichrist Superstar. Manson enjoyed a hugely elaborate stage show, a staple of any Manson show, with a new stage prop for every song, including a microphone with a knife on one end, stilts, and a giant chair on which he perched for a song. Manson played a couple of covers during his hour-long set including, “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics and “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode. Manson seemed to mumble the lyrics to the softer parts of the songs, seeming almost disinterested in the lyrics themselves, but his screamed lyrics seemed were full of energy that one would expect to see. Manson finished his set with his hit single “The Beautiful People”, which ended with a giant explosion of white Confetti.
Montreal-based technical death metal band, Cryptopsy, which recently reunited with their original vocalist Lord Worm, performed during the change-over between Manson and Alice Cooper. Cryptopsy benefited from the awful management of the festival as they were the only band playing on any of the five stages, as they were playing over an hour late.
Alice Cooper played a bunch of well-known singles from his decades-long career, including “Billion Dollar Babies”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and “Welcome to my Nightmare.” During the song “Poison”, he followed talented lead guitarist Orianthi Panagaris, suggesting that she was in fact poison. Cooper finished his set with a quasi-traditional duet with Marilyn Manson of the song “I’m Eighteen”.
Despite the many issues that plagued this year’s Amnesia Rockfest, a bright spot came when organizers announced this week that they decided to compensate the local bands who they forced to pay to perform at this year’s event.
If you had a less-than-pleasant experience at this year’s Amnesia Rockfest, sign this petition to help improve conditions for festivalgoers for next year’s festival.