Amnesia Rockfest 2013, Quebec – an organizational mess: Festival review and photos

June 21, 2013

Pennywise at Amnesia Rockfest 2013 - photo by Jackie Hong, Music Vice Magazine  Pennywise at Amnesia Rockfest – photo by Jackie Hong, Music Vice Magazine

What: Amnesia Rockfest
Where: Montebello, Quebec
When: 14 to 15 June, 2013
One Word: Problems

The Offspring’s guitarist Noodles described Amnesia Rockfest 2013 best during the band’s set at the eighth annual edition of the slightly disorganized outdoor festival.

“I thought punk rock died back in 1994, but it came back to life again today!”

Held in small town of Montebello, QC, this year’s Rockfest on June 14 and 15 boasted a lineup of 150 acts on five stages, including big names like Rancid, Pennywise, 7 Seconds, The Adolescents and Dropkick Murphys, Canadian favourites like Comeback Kid and Grimskunk, and local hardcore bands. Also featured were heavier acts like Lamb of God, Anthrax and Marilyn Manson.

With a weekend pass costing $79 before taxes and reasonably-priced alcohol and food ($5 for a cup of beer), Rockfest 2013 was one of the most affordable festivals of the concert season. There were also multiple campsites available, where the majority of the over 100,000 attendees stayed.

Easily one of the best performances was Alice Cooper’s on the second night. The legendary shock-rocker blew away the audience with his signature theatrics that included a giant puppet wandering on stage during “Feed my Frankenstein,” getting beheaded with a massive guillotine and Marilyn Manson joining him for his encore song, “I’m Eighteen.”

Other highlights included Québécois ska-punk group Arseniq33 (famous for performing in bright yellow body suits), and Rise Against singer Tim McIlwrath’s acoustic tribute to No Use For a Name’s front man Tony Sly, who died in 2012.

Although the acts were top-notch, Rockfest was plagued with technical difficulties – on the first night, Social Distortion had just started playing their opening song, “Reach For the Sky,” when they hit sound problems. They played an instrumental version for a few minutes as a stage hand frantically adjusted cables and had to cut their set short as a result. More technical issues on the second day pushed the schedule back by over an hour. There were also small glitches throughout, like microphones and amps cutting out for a few seconds.

Another common complaint was that the portable toilets at the campgrounds and festival were not emptied frequently enough – a friend reported on the middle of the first day that the one he entered was already filled to the brim. As well, the lines at the will-call ticket pickup booths were ridiculously long; someone told me he had waited over three hours.

To the delight of attendees, security was lax at both the festival and in town. There were no pat downs and the “no bags” rule wasn’t enforced (someone was carrying a backpack and a two-person tent during Rancid’s set). The same went for the ban on glass containers at campsites and drinking in the streets – empty beer bottles and cans were everywhere. Campgrounds were a free-for-all, with people setting up tents and parking cars wherever they pleased. No one checked who had actually paid for camping.

The biggest and most entertaining security failure was festival goers tearing down the fence that separated festival grounds from private property after realizing it was a shortcut out to the streets. I saw the fence pushed down four times alone, and it wasn’t until the middle of the second day that security actually started guarding it.

Despite the organizational mess, the atmosphere and bands made Amnesia Rockfest 2013 worth it. It’s rare to find so many big, even legendary, acts all on one bill, and even rarer to find local acts in the mix. The weekend was a punk-rocker’s dream come true, and the organizers have apologized for the “logistical issues.” If they fix the problems and keep the lineup and prices as appealing as they were this year, I’ll be back for Rockfest 2014.

© Jackie Hong, Music Vice

Photos by Jackie Hong:

Internet links:
Amnesia Rockfest

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One Response to Amnesia Rockfest 2013, Quebec – an organizational mess: Festival review and photos

  1. Jack on June 23, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    They charged local bands to play too…

    Amnesia is a sham of a music festival.

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