George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Stephen Harper, Pierre Trudeau and Barack Obama all have something in common beyond being among the world’s most powerful leaders. They’ve all been to a small village in Quebec with a population of just 986 people.
The Château Montebello is a historical site that has hosted dozens of world leaders and international events. A world-reknown structure of the 17th century, it’s been the namesake of the small town for hundreds of years.
In 2005, all of that began to change. The small village became part of something more sinister, something louder, something more -- Rock and Roll.
In 2014 over One Hundred Thousand people will descend upon the quiet, quaint village to experience Rock Fest. Yeah, we’re not a big fan of the name either, but like the event, there’s no bullshit. Rock Fest gets right to the point - to be the biggest, craziest, wildest music festival in the world.
Before we take part in the pilgrimage to Rock, Metal and Punk music, we decided to spend a little time uncovering Rock Fest’s past to see how it became such a monumental success.
Rock Fest’s spokesperson, Mathieu Marcotte, has been there from the very beginning. A Montebello native, we sat down and talked about the little festival that could.
“We built a stage on a baseball field and 500 people showed up, it was considered a huge success,” recalls Marcotte. I asked how the festival grew to such epic proportions so quickly. “Every year Alex pushed harder and harder to get bigger and bigger bands. When he decided to turn it into a two-day event, I thought he was crazy.”
Alex Martel is a name you will hear often when people speak about Rock Fest -- he’s become somewhat of a legend. So, who is he? He founded the event when he was 17 years old. He had a vision back then: “The contrast of having a really loud show in a really quiet town. It’s peaceful and quiet, then we put on a metal, punk, hardcore show.”
The festival has grown year after year. In 2013, Rock Fest had its most successful year ever, but it was a huge PR disaster. Over 100 000 people flooded into the event, and the organizers were ill prepared. Long lines for tickets, flooded toilets, lack of security and a general lack of organization made the event chaotic at times. Yet, it was part of the event’s charm. There were a few complaints, and a lot of bad media coverage, but that hasn’t slowed down its growth.
Mathieu didn’t shy away from the issues in 2013. “Some of the criticism we received was fair, some was overblown. We took it all to heart and have overhauled logistics of the 2014 event.” Sweeping changes are being made to make the event more comfortable for fans. Logistics will be handled by one of Canada’s largest event organizers, Festival d’été de Québec. I came away from the discussion confident that the changes being made will deliver on the promise of a better experience for fans.
Finally, we talked about what Rock Fest is all about, the music. The line-up of over 150 bands is, quite frankly, stunning. “It’s really important for us to bring different crowds together. There is music for everyone here, and when you see a metal head dancing to a ska band, that is when we know we did something right. People come from around the world because of our lineup.”
The genres may not be the soup du jour, but they have a massive, passionate and dedicated following. “Rock music has always been rebellious, it’s always been ‘Us Against the World’. And, we’d rather be part of ‘Us’.”
Lex will be providing unique coverage of the event in a way that only we can. Band interviews, fan interactions, we’ll be in the middle of it all, getting to the core, Uncovering the journey to Montebello and beyond. Stay tuned.