Santa Teresa – Day 3
The fact that I had to park so far was a sign that today’s festivities would be well attended, even in the afternoon.
As I entered the Main Stage area, the JanSport golf cart just finished handing out free pizza slices (about 20 boxes) to the crowd, one of 3 munchie interventions we would have today.
I was surprised at the number of people, quite a contrast with Saturday’s turnout.
Dead Obies had a party on their hands. This “franglais” band has been making quite a bit of noise, on and off the stage, having just won the Prix Iris for their Chien de Garde work.
The crowd participation was infectious and complete with occasional smoke shows from the vapers in the audience. I’m sure the people surrounding vapers just love having a steam locomotive blowing in their faces.
It was evident that this band could have played a much later time slot by the crowd’s response.
The afternoon and early evening would cater to the Hip Hop culture, next with Ghostemane. Thundering bass and angry shouting was the order of the day. The crowd soaked it up. At one point, a member of the audience threw on stage one of the many plastic pink flamingos people took off the lawn and kept as a weird souvenir. This was not appreciated by the artist, and he was vocal about it.
Such was the vibe he created, a mixture of celebration and anger…definitely not the vibe I was looking for. Just a few minutes was enough for me. I went in search of a slice, after missing out on golf cart offering.
The streets of Sainte Thérese were packed with people, young and old basking in the sun and enjoying the day. Every terrasse seat occupied, it was a boom for these restaurants to be in proximity to the event.
I returned to the main area in time for Loud, another hip-hop artist from Quebec. Although people sang along with him and danced, it was much less than the two acts that preceded him. In fact, between songs, instead of cheers and clapping, it was an eerie silence.
The Quebec hip-hop generation, born out of Law 101… forced to learn French in school, is interesting. I sense their attachment to Social Media, phones in the air recording for posts that will ease their FOMO disease…temporarily.
Kids have a lot to be angry about. The majestic church within view, the center of many small Quebec villages, has nothing to give to them. The planet is dying. They no longer believe in political promises. So here they are, trying to fit in and make sense of the world that surrounds them.
They imitated their heroes in dress, a modern counter-culture. Some were trying to pull off the ironic look, and I’m thinking of one guy with a Space Jam 2 crop top sweatshirt, bike chain around his neck, belly sticking out awkwardly.
They are left to believe that boatloads of money will bring them happiness, something that will elude the majority of them. For the few that make it to the top, they find it’s a lonely place up there. Fake friends, fake entourage that are there when you have cash, and disappear as soon as you lose it.
But, I was young once, naïve about the ways of the world and the path to happiness. I just hope they don’t believe the hype for too long.
Once Loud left the stage, a mass exodus happened, clearing the dance floor like a DJ playing a Polka song in the middle of heated dance set.
Oh Wonder was to follow, a complete 180 musically. Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West, from London UK, are quite lively and entertaining on stage. With only a quarter of the previously dense space, those that stayed sang along, most likely influenced by their frequent visits to our part of the world to tour.
I ventured out of the main area to catch a glimpse of Ragers playing the Redbull Stage. This hip-hop seemed more complex, with live musicians, electronics and of course singing. The crowd seemed to be enjoying them as well, as they slowly approached and filled the street in front of the Red Bull bus.
A bathroom break at Le Montecristo ended up being a happy coincidence as I got to catch a two-song sound check from Brooklyn based Charly Bliss. This was a band high on my priority list, bringing back the 90s indie rock like Liz Phair (coming soon to Montreal), Letters to Cleo, Julianna Hatfield and many others.
Eva’s brother Sam Hendricks (drums) told me they just arrived from Toronto to end their tour tonight.
Le Montecristo was empty, but I promised Spencer Fox (guitar) that it will fill up, right before the show. It turned out to be an empty promise.
Even with a sparse crowd, Charly Bliss brought their A game and it was a personal highlight of the 3-day festival for me, along with Wolf Parade… both shows in this intimate venue.
Guppy, released in 2017 made just about every top album lists of the year.
They started with Westermarck, based on a psychological idea that people are not attracted to people they spend the first few years of their life with. Seems that didn’t stop Eva’s boyfriend from falling for a second cousin, breaking her heart.
They played all songs from Guppy with the exception of “Totalizer”. We were also treated to two new songs “Camera” and “Punkie”.
Eva’s adorable voice matches with the catchy riffs to create a head-bopping good time.
She mentioned that the band enjoyed being here and that they had a Poutine: “Mission accomplished.”
Sadly, out of cash, I was not able to buy their 7” vinyl but returned later only to find their merch packed away. Save me one… next time you are in town, I will definitely be in the audience again.
Liz Uzi Vert was scheduled to perform at 9:30 PM, so we headed over to the main stage to the sound of Funk music over the P.A.. With an 11:00 PM curfew for the main stage, it seemed that if Liz Uzi Vert actually showed up, he would only have a very short set, just like Nick Murphy the night before.
It seemed like it wasn’t going to happen, so we headed over to the Church again to see the closing show by Klô Pelgag. Her Bandcamp describes her as creating landscapes through music for the blind. Intriguing.
I’m not a big fan of French music, apart from a handful of bands. OK… I just counted and I would need two hands, but that isn’t much, considering my heritage is 50% French Canadian. Maybe it’s the entrepreneur in me that asks… why would you restrict yourself to such a small market? I should know better. Great music is about being true to yourself and your identity, and I was reminded of that tonight with the performance I was about to experience.
Backed by a full orchestra that featured a violin, cello, piano, horns and even a Thérémin, this would be an experience, not just a concert.
After a procession-like entrance, an opening sermon would ask: Who will save music?
The response was dramatic, intense and beautiful.
Chloé’s voice, enhanced by the acoustics and a great band of musicians drifted throughout the vaulted ceiling space with power and emotion. So much so, that one super fan could not hold back from dancing, in whatever place the security would forcibly move him to. Although they did have to use a little force to subdue his distracting performance in front of me, they showed great restraint as he returned over and over again to finally take his micro performance next to one of the columns jetting toward the ceiling.
It was a beautiful performance, fittingly in French, to prove once again that the North Shore can bring a crowd to a multi-day festival.
Unfortunately, some of that crowd, unhappy that Liz Uzi Vert didn’t make it past the border to perform, took it upon themselves to decorate the main street with empty cans and garbage from every single trash and recycling container. Gladly, I only witnessed the aftermath.
RIOT UPDATE: Apparently at around 11h30PM, unhappy fans went on stage and damaged audio equipment and toppled over speakers before taking to the streets and overturned over every trash bin within eyesight. It was said that they even toppled over some Porta-Potties.
It was a mistake to wait until 11h30, 30 minutes after the sound curfew to announce that Liz Uzi Vert was not able to cross the border and that the show was cancelled. Better communication might have diffused the situation.
At first, I thought the cleaning crew had started sweeping all the trash into a pile until I noticed, as I walked down the Main Street, that the piles were everywhere!
Amid the trash on the street, a calm was present in the streets at 12h30 AM as plenty of security was there to ensure everyone was safe over the course of three days.
“It only takes 10 in a crowd of 5,000 to ruin it for everyone else”, said one peace officer. “It could have been worse”, he said with relief.
It It Anita
I wandered back to my car, not before checking out La Protestante for what would be the more bizarre and interesting use of a space yet. It It Anita from Belgium filled the room with thunderous drums, loud distortion guitars and extended their stage into the audience.
For one song, the guitarist gave his guitar to a girl right in front of me to continue strumming. Perplexed, she complied, occasionally looking back at her friend with a mixture of fear and confusion saying unconsciously: “What do I do now?”
She braved on till he took it back, threw it to the ground and proceeded to move the drum kit from the front of the room to the back of the room, facing the stage. The little drummer boy followed his kit, like a cat to catnip and continued playing while standing up. A few minutes later, they moved it again, to stage right between the backstage door and the large stack of speakers, barely with any room at all. By then, the guitar and bass were producing their own distortion by being placed on top of the sound monitors, and the last drums beats resonated…his band having left him behind…he wound down the beat. With that, he merely moved back 6 inches to disappear, like his band, ending the set.
As I reflect back on the three days, I can see that Julian really took this to the next level. It wasn’t perfect, the rain put a big dent in the middle of the festival, but it did attract a large audience, apparently mostly from the North Shore.
Lessons will be learned and I’m sure next year will be even better because through hardship comes improvement. Diamonds are formed under extreme pressure and I’m sure organizing such a festival, with so many moving parts, elements out of your control, and the non-cooperating weather is just about the most pressure an event organizer can face.
I’m left after three days, appreciating French music, discovering a few hidden gems from the smaller stages and happy that, at the clock of midnight when I hit the mid-century milestone in my life, I’m not a teenager in today’s mixed-up world trying to be distinct, while dressing like everyone else around me. That is pressure as well, and I hope a few diamonds come out of that on the other side.
Till next year Santa Teresa, we will miss you and look forward to doing this all over again.
Review – Randal Wark
Photos – Arianne Bergeron
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