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Montebello Rockfest 2017: Review + Photos

Review by: Tony Rachtman / Photos by: Nessa EJ

The time of the year is late June, and in Eastern Canada, there is no better way to welcome the summer months ahead than with another edition of Montebello Rockfest, held annually in the small Québec town of Montebello, about 80km from Canada's capital city, Ottawa.

Since 2005, Montebello Rockfest has grown from a crowd of about 500 people and a lineup of local talent, to internationally recognized rock festival famous for rare appearances and big headliners on North American shores, complete with jam-packed crowds, measured in the tens of thousands. The brainchild of local music fan Alex Martel, the festival has grown year after year from its humble beginnings, gaining a reputation as being one of the premier destinations for rock music in North America.

This year's edition boasted a strong lineup, with a range of bands spanning a variety of genres. Punk, metal, ska, hardcore, alternative, and even a dash of hip-hop continued the legacy of offering something to the widest variety of fans possible. Rammstein, Megadeth, The Offspring, Queens of the Stone Age and Iggy Pop were just a few bands at the top of lineup worth mentioning, with an expansive list of musical guests numbering over 125 artists.

The party began on Thursday, when fans rolled into the small town by the thousands, arriving to (understandable) gridlock and claustrophobic chaos, as eager fans sought out the locations of their parking and campsites. The anxiety waned as more and more fans settled into their respective locations. Some fans opted for standard camping sites, while fans that chose VIP and Mega VIP were provided with increased accommodations and more optimal locations for their sites. Mega VIP Camping even included everything from the sleeping bags and pillows to the tent being set up upon arrival. As the drinking and partying started on Thursday night, and local bands started to break in the festival grounds, while heavy rains pummelled the tents and fairgrounds, giving most of the attendees a restless and rather damp start to the festivities.

The festival woke up on Friday to a bright sunrise that immediately began drying things up as the event began. Upon entering, you are immediately taken back by the sheer size of the festival as well as the number of artists playing at any given time. The wide-open grounds made finding your ideal place easy, with the three large stages dwarfing the small but fierce Tony Sly stages that boasted some of the most intense crowds of the weekend. The day kicked off with Montreal favorite Kataklysm, on the Jagermeister stage, and then Soulfly on the Budweiser stage. Aside from a bit of rain in the afternoon, the day carried on soaked with beer, funny smells, and a friendly group of festival goers who were a bit more mild-mannered than one would expect. The night was capped off with performances by The Offspring and of course Rammstein, who nearly lit the crowd on fire with their thundering volume and unmatched pyrotechnics. Seeing Rammstein live was truly worth the price of admission. Even as Friday's performances ended, the revelry carried on through the night, while a fired-up crowd drank, lit fireworks, and partied until the Saturday morning sun crept up through the horizon.

On the Saturday, the crowd was starting to show signs of weathering, but were still strong. The beer continued to flow freely, and a heavier afternoon featured bands like Ensiferum, Entombed A.D., Megadeth, Dee Snider, and Meshuggah, giving the festival a final injection of a needed level of heaviness. Once Queens of the Stone Age finished the final main stage set of the weekend, the now dwindling crowd made its way over to see a 70 year old Iggy Pop give the crowd a final shaking before the festival finished another successful year. Once the performance finished however, it was obvious to see that the hungry festival-goers were eager to meet new people, enjoy the freedom this festival brings, and savour the experience before they would depart the tiny town by the thousands the next day.

Montebello Rockfest is a true example of a liberating rock festival experience. The festival boasts a laissez-faire attitude towards partying, and as long as the fans respect the town and each other, one would be guaranteed an unforgettable weekend. Many of the attendees were multiple-year veterans, and after witnessing this festival first-hand, someone visiting this festival would no doubt leave happy and fulfilled, if not totally exhausted.

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