As I finally arrive home and commence my recovery method of cleaning the grunge off my body and everything I brought with me, drinking ten times the amount of daily water intake to subside the dehydration I’ve put my body through and listen to some Joni Mitchell to detox my ears from the immense volume of the dozens of bands I heard this weekend, I reflect on how phenomenal Rockfest was, and always is. The small town of Montebello, Quebec has earned the festivals namesake of Montebello Rockfest, and was, as usual, infested by 200,000 people over the course of the three days, June 14th – 17th. The usually sleepy town is sent into overdrive, with the majority of residents presumably leaving the chaos of drunkards and hyped up concert-goers, for a relaxing getaway while their neighbours handle the money to be made coupled with the usual influx of insanity. This year, the festival consisted of three stages providing the usual mixture of punk, pop rock, rap, hip hop, funk, comedy stand-up and the expected dose of heavy ass metal. Thursday, the first night, allotted a cool variance of GBH, DJ Yella, Mustard Plug and Five Finger Death Punch on the Budweiser stage, with Comeback Kid and Propagandhi closing out the night on the Tony Sly stage
We arrived around 6:00pm that night and were frantically aiming to have our tent set up before the rain got any worse, so we regretfully missed DJ Yella at 7:15, however we made damn sure to close out the first night with Comeback Kid and Propagandhi. Comeback Kid put on a great show but I knew they were the lead up to something much larger. While I’ve never listened to either, the friends I went with stand by the fact that Propagandhi is one of the best punk bands in the world, (never mind just in Canada they say) so I took that bold statement, as I more than trust this friend’s opinion, and ran with it. With all the hype leading up to their set, seeing Propahandhi live was a must for me and I was ecstatic the moment they started. I should’ve expected such an intense crowd but I was less than prepared for what ensued on the floor, full elbow thrashing donkey kicks filled the area around my friend and I, where all we could do was make eye contact as I held her in place for a while before there was no choice but to fully get us out of the crowd. It was as if I was playing roller derby and I was a jammer who couldn’t be stopped, not receiving a single penalty for all my illegal elbow and knee hits. We made our way to the side of the stage where we could sit and watch from afar, (trying not to barf on all the men who took the easy way out and pissed through the fence) and enjoy the rest of the show. Having not listened to them before Thursday I was impressed at their heavier pop punk sound and their lyrics chocked full of relatable and relevant political and social issues. They finished off Thursday for us all and we dragged our feet back through the damp mud pooled stage area to the campsite for a decent tent and deflated mattress sleep.
Friday morning woke us up with the blazing sun drying out the majority of the muck, producing a phenomenal day ahead beginning with my choice, The Horny Bitches. I got my ass awake and ready to go see what this group was all about, their name having already grabbed my attention, unfortunately set times got moved around without my knowledge (lack of data to check up on current Rockfest news) so I missed them. Heading back to the campsite by noon, we did not intend to go see any groups until Sum 41 hit the Budweiser stage at 4:15. So we stayed at the campsite drinking our shit Pabst Blue Ribbon and occasional vodka mixed drink, telling stories to one another until we eventually stood up to head back to the main stages. Having never seen Sum 41 live and being a huge fan of their album “Chuck”, it was necessary for me to see what they had in store. They were a hell of a lot more energetic than I had expected from the aging group and they played a lot of music I hadn’t heard from them (having not delved into much else of their discography aside from “Chuck”) coupled with covers I had not expected like the intros to “Paranoid” and “Another Brick in the Wall”. I was pleasantly surprised to see them still kicking it with balls to the wall attitude gaining crowd interest and respect. We ended the day off with a trio of Henry Rollins, Stone Temple Pilots and Prophets of Rage. With Henry Rollins on the smaller Tony Sly stage at 9pm it was an awesome and intimate venue to see him in again. I’m a huge fan after seeing him in late 2016 in a seated show at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, he basically talked about everything in my wheelhouse, from his experiences meeting David Bowie and Rupaul to the impact the late great Lemmy Kilmister had on his career. This year’s set form him gave us in-depth stories about his career in Black Flag and how, as a roadie, he encountered some shady walk by stabbings and general debauchery. He then finished off his set with some stories I’ve heard before about intense European fans braving hours’ worth of frigid temperatures to meet him after the show and how one woman really struck a chord with him. She was alone and waited out most of the night alone outside of the venue to get him to sign posters to make her friends who didn’t make the journey jealous, then to relay a story about how she was sexually assaulted at school and had to face her tormentor on the daily. Henry made sure to give her his email address so she could keep in touch and talk with him whenever she wanted. It wasn’t only through this example did he prove he’s an amazing ally, he went further and delved into political matters with his support of the Me Too movement and his feelings towards Trump, going as far as to apologize to Canada for Trump’s mockery of our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I am more than likely biased but his set made me extremely happy and I will be seeing Rollins at every opportunity I can get.
In between making our way to the main stage for Prophets of Rage at midnight we stopped to see Stone Temple Pilots, a strange sight from what I expected. I saw STP years ago before Scott Weiland passed and experienced a high energy set with amazing vocals, Scott having costume changes and generally making that stage his bitch. Post Weiland, STP continues to tour with a new lead singer and the vibe was less than energetic, maybe because I started watching halfway through and maybe because I was already gassed from the full day of being in the sun, but I stopped watching and went to get food during the rest of their set, listening from afar. By the time we finished our tacos or whatever we ended up noshing on, we saw roadies on the main stage setting up for Prophets of Rage and we immediately got as close as we could. Being a huge fan of Rage Against the Machine I was stoked to hear some familiar songs and knowing this group consists of OG members of Rage Tom Morello, (who also tours with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band) bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk, B-Real from Cypress Hill, Chuck D and DJ Lord from Public Enemy, I was more than ready to see what they had to offer. They opened up with their name sake, a Public Enemy cover of “Prophets of Rage” and the crowd went absolutely bonkers from there on out. Next they peppered in some Rage Against the Machine covers like “Testify”, “Take the Power Back”, “Bombtrack” and “Guerilla Radio” amongst other Public Enemy covers. At this point the crowd was living for this mashup of wicked hip hop, funk and metal, and then the wicked bassline for “Bullet in the Head” creeped on and I went bezerk. They absolutely nailed one of my absolute favourite RATM songs and followed it up with a medley of a bunch of Cypress Hill tracks like “Insane in the Brain”, “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” and “Jump Around” slayed by B-Real. “Sleep Now in the Fire” came after that killer medley followed by the Prophets of Rage original track “Unfuck the World”. I was elated after seeing this set and they ended with four powerful tracks of “How I Could Just Kill a Man” (Cypress Hill) then three RATM covers of “Bulls on Parade”, “Freedom” and the classic we all expected, “Killing in the Name”. Such an amazing set, my life was complete after their performance and we went to sleep in our tents like we could die happy. If you’re a Rage Against the Machine/Cypress Hill/Public Enemy fan this show is pretty much a bucket list must.
I awoke Saturday morning still raving about Prophets of Rage to everyone in our tent circle who didn’t go and see them, (which was everyone except for my one friend I dragged along) and telling them they missed out hardcore nana-nana-boo-boo. The first show on our docket for that day was The Mighty Mighty Bosstones at 1:15pm and holy shit was that a treat. I’ve listened to their music before but have yet to see their full big band production live and I was ecstatic when they had saxophone and slide trombone solos throughout their groove-tacular setlist, which was such a perfect switch from the other genres of the weekend. It was absolutely scorching during their set and whether it was the band that requested it or Rockfest insisted on it, but someone had a giant firehose drenching the crowd which was more than welcomed. Due to the relentless sun we left just before they ended and went back to the campsite to swim and lower our internal body temperatures. Everyone at our campsite went back for Municipal Waste’s set at 5:30pm but I definitely needed more time to relax, (and drink more beer) but realized afterwards I should’ve gone because they all raved about it later. We randomly met up with a friend who took us back to her campsite and we were shocked at their lap of camping luxury. Their site had a full bathroom including sink, shower and a flush toilet so, needless to say after 2 days of only portapotty access we wanted to take advantage of flushing a toilet and washing our hands. Meeting up with this group was a blessing in disguise though because they were huge, if not bigger fans of Tenacious D than I am, which before I would’ve considered impossible. So we sat around at their site singing about kielbasa sausage, “Master Exploder” and “The Metal” until 9ish when we finally walked over to catch Tenacious D’s set. They opened with “Kielbasa” and it was immediate insanity from there on out. They played and sang in perfect harmony as they did in 1997 when their TV show first came out, releasing all the songs we know and love, although their second song on the set list “Kickapoo” is from The Pick of Destiny, another piece of cinematic ridiculous greatness if you have yet to watch that. “The Metal”, “Dio” and “Tribute” all rocked as hard as you’d hope but not necessarily expect from two middle aged dudes who have been singing these songs for 21 years now. However, if they never get tired of them neither will we. They did a smidgen of “Spirit of the Radio” by Rush during “Double Team”, (which is an amazing song from the TV show that never ceases to make me laugh thinking about their intro in that episode “Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Molly Hatchet could not be here tonight but they all had sex and are proud to announce the birth of their two headed baby, Tenacious D). Whether the Rush snippet was a nod to being in Canada or what, we’re not sure, but I’m still not over the fact that I heard this ridiculously perverted yet wicked track live. They ended with a track for the ladies, as Jack Black said, and it’s “Fuck Her Gently”, possibly the most uncomfortable song to hear from these two guys, even twenty years ago, but it’s one of the biggest earworm songs of them all and to stop yourself from singing it all day is pretty damn impossible.
We left that main stage basically floating still singing the ridiculousness about “Roadies” and “Low Hangin’ Fruit” to quickly catch The Toy Dolls on the Tony Sly stage before Weezer was on the main stage at midnight. I’ve only heard great things about The Toy Dolls and they did not disappoint, their gimmick of matching black suits with red ties and lapels coupled with the guitarist and bassist having matching flaming red hair was pretty on point. They originated out of 1979 England but they strayed away from the angst and volatile vocals associated with other bands of that location and era. Instead their songs are almost quirky and more than enjoyable, still being considered front runners of the Oi! movement. We stayed for a handful of their songs that I thoroughly enjoyed, they were so energetic and crowd was awesome but my friends wanted to ensure we were relatively close for Weezer so we left to get back to the main stage before they started. Rivers Cuomo came out in a full white suit with a giant white hat to match, which I thought was amazing, and they start their set off with “Buddy Holly” and “Beverly Hills” and from there on out it’s clear that this is going to be a show everyone can appreciate. Having heard these songs on the radio for the past 26 years, the crowd was going ballistic and much to my surprise crowd surfing was happening left, right and center to everything and anything, even when Rivers jumps into a cover of “Wonderwall”….gawddammit. All the hits are played from “My Name Is Jonas”, “Undone”, “El Scorcho” and a surprising yet slick cover of “Africa” by Toto. They finished off their set with “Island in the Sun” and walked off, where we all immediately begged for an encore, (I was mainly screaming “Say It Ain’t So” as that’s hands down my personal favourite). Low and behold Rivers came out alone and began an encore of yet another cover, “Today” by The Smashing Pumpkins, meh. Finally though, “Say It Ain’t So” happened, I was overjoyed and they called it a night and completely closed out Rockfest 2018.
So there is my subjective experience at Rockfest 2018 from top to bottom. I don’t know how this works, am I expected to say something prophetic about the times I’ve had there? It has always been a phenomenal musical experience seeing bands I’ve never heard of, (first year I went I had Primus injected into my life and I’ve been the better for it) or groups I would’ve never seen on my own, like Weezer. Either way I always leave Montebello exhausted, brimming with new memories, experiences and a never ending hatred for portapotties. I hope I never see one until next year in Montebello.