By: Scott Penner –
Every year, RockFest attracts an increasing number of people to the small riverside town of Montebello Quebec. With a population of just over one-thousand residents, Montebello has little to offer in terms of facilities to accommodate the exponential influx of festivalgoers for the weekend population. The few hotels are often booked a year in advance, and it takes hours to drive from one end of the small town to the other during RockFest weekend.
The collective minds behind Rockfest promised a better festival after the nightmare that wasRockfest 2013, and the 2014 edition showed signs of improvement in almost every way imaginable. Organizers cleaned festival grounds regularly, there were more Port-o-Potties, which were also cleaned routinely, additional entrances helped toreduce the time spent in lines, and organizers positioned the stages to ease the flow of traffic. Overall, the extra assistance that Quebec provided to the festival is a sure sign of continued growth for RockFest for coming years.
While there were 100s of bands that performed over the weekend, here are some highlights from day one.
NOFX have the ability to remain fresh and relevant after 30 years. Fat Mike’s childish insults and jokes would be annoying coming from any other band, but it is par-for-the-course of a NOFX show – from questioning the literal meaning of a “Five finger death punch”(the name of the heavy metal act that performed later that day), to open-ended insults like “It’s fun to be the second best band here” – NOFX showed no concern for what other bands may think of them. NOFX was one of the first bands of the weekend to poke fun at the audience members who paid extra money to get access to special viewing areas in front of the general admission ticket holders. Throughout the weekend, several main stage bands insulted the people who had paid for the “VIP” experience.
Despised Icon, a “death core” band from Montreal stood as one of the highlights of the festival lineup, as they marked their first tour since 2010. Surprisingly, guitarist Eric Jarrin seemed less-than-prepared as he fell flat on his back while attempting to kick-jump up in the air with the beat. He recovered gracefully and was playing again before most people noticed his misstep. While a little rough around the edges, the set was full of emotion and was one of the best performances of the weekend.
Megadeth are simply massive, and like many of the headlining acts this weekend, they have been producing music longer than most of the attendees of the festival have been alive. Given their veteran status, it was surprising that the band’s set ran late, and even more diminutive when front man Dave Mustaine complained about an adjacent stage starting and overlapping with his set. However, their tactless display of begrudging the festival for their errors tainted their perforamnce.
“A Tout le Monde” from their album Youthanasia was a crowd pleaser for the Quebec audiences, as it brought back powerful memories of the Dawson College shooting in 2006. Megadeth who use the song as a gift to those who are in the process of healing, have spoken on-the-record that the shooter who referenced the song is not worthy of being a Megadeth fan. The song’s chorus encouraged the biggest crowd sing-along of their set since it is sung in French: “à tout le monde, à tous mes amis, je vous aime, je dois partir”.
Mastodon’s one-hour set, was well rehearsed and sounded perfect. While Mastodon’s sonically complex metal style has a tendency to sound muddy or down right awful when played live on many stages, RockFest did an amazing job by providing the right gear and personnel to enable Mastodon’s full fury to cut through the evening air. While bassist Troy Sanders stood in front of the band, the band members evenly distributed the vocals, and each member has their own style of singing. This mix of styles blended wonderfully with the complex rhythms and the band were focused on playing as many songs as possible, with little interruptions between songs.
Mastodon are finishing their Spring tour, just days before they release their new album Once More ‘Round The Sun on June 22, 2014, and they treated the crowed to a couple of new tracks, “High Road” and “Chimes at Midnight”. The band’s drummer, Brann, promised the crowd that they would return with a new tour to support the new album this winter, as he threw some of his drum sticks into the crowd when he walked off stage.
Check out the rest of our day one photos here.