Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jul 14th 2012 1:30PM by Erik Leijon
Like the interchangeable Ottawa Bluesfest and Montreal Jazz Fest, this year's FEQ had no trouble enticing big names to Canada's oldest burgh and, thanks to the large mainstage on the historically significant Plains of Abraham, got some massive 100,000-plus crowds to boot. Over the festival's ten days, pretty much every type of music fan had at least one night to call their own.
Bon Jovi have become one of the biggest draws in the world largely through attrition and, much like the familiar poutine of famed Quebec fast food chain Ashton, on July 9 the group coasted on their legacy.
Even compared to the vastly superior show by Aerosmith later in the week, the Jersey boys' set bordered on unbearably cheesy. The opening keyboard riff on "Runaway" has aged about as well as you think and although Jon Bon Jovi still has a megawatt smile and a Stars and Stripes leather jacket/aviators combo he presumably pilfered from the Top Gun set, his one stilted manoeuvre of pointing his microphone towards guitarist Richie Sambora lost its lustre after the fifth or sixth solo.
The group rattled off their most well-known hits early in the set and lost considerable momentum by the end. That being said, the trio of businesswomen who observed the show to my right would likely disagree with my critique: they were having a ball drowning in Molson Dry and belting out the choruses phonetically. Clearly, enjoying Bon Jovi live requires proper lubrication and active participation -- it certainly worked for Our Lady Peace's set.
Later that week on Jul. 12, Aerosmith played the Plains to an equally rambunctious and diverse crowd topping 100,000 on precisely the day frontman Steven Tyler announced his departure from American Idol after two seasons. Nothing came of it during the show, although Tyler may have simply forgotten to mention it given he required a teleprompter for lyrics and had a few French phrases conveniently placed on the floor of the stage.
More likely, the bad boy blues rockers have been around for so long American Idol will probably go down as a mere minor blip on their collective radars. Pertaining to the set, MTV-heyday smashes "Crying" and "Crazy" were omitted, but fans were given a sampling of their upcoming album, Music from Another Dimension! and likely came away thinking they still rock out ferociously, even when the material is second-rate. As far as dining on their past successes though, Aerosmith and particularly Tyler remain high-energy caricatures (intended in the most complimentary of senses) and classics such as "Dream On" and "Walk This Way" were irresistibly rousing.
Might dubstep superstar Skrillex fall into the category of novelty legacy act in twenty years time? Sonny Moore is without a doubt one of the most divisive names in music today, equally anointed a saviour by twitchy youths and derided by the usual peanut gallery of electro-subgenre puritans.
On the day of his Jul. 11 headlining show, fellow pundits within earshot compared him to everything from Kurt Cobain-esque revolutionary to Nickleback-ian harbinger of mediocrity to a consummate showman a la Kiss.
Reduced to simply waving his arms as a result of his on-stage spaceship's restrictive cockpit, Skrillex had to let his light show and music do most of the selling. The performance was essentially catnip to his existing fans -- one of whom brought a sex doll with "fuck me Skrillex" scrawled on it -- and an illegible codex to everyone else, save for a bromidic sampling of Ini Kamoze's "World A Music" (best known these days via Damian Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock") sufficiently mangled through his inimitably frenetic filter.
His light-on-foreplay, drop-heavy set grew redundant over two hours, but sonically speaking every rhythmic shift and dissonant, robotic squelch came in crystal clear, and was as loud as humanely possible without ever becoming unbearable -- an impressive feat. Skrillex's headlining set was far louder than those of his many opening acts, so it's fair to say part of his success can be attributed to his dedication to sonic quality with his live performances. That and the spaceship and pyrotechnics.
As significant as the big names on the big field were, FEQ also had a few impressive acts on smaller stages. The show that probably elicited the most aggressive reaction from patrons was Hollerado's unexpectedly nostalgic set at small-sized indoor venue Le Cercle, where one 90's cover (Beastie Boys' "Sabotage") soon gave way to a litany of crowdsourced Big Shiny Tunes-era selections. Impressively, most of the young people who gleefully and violently moshed to Green Day and Weezer were probably born after those songs actually came out. In true rock'n'roll fashion, singer Menno Versteeg also suffered a nasty-looking foot injury after jumping into the crowd.
The week's lasting moment came after the Aerosmith set, when myself and a pair of journos trekked down the hill to a far less populated part of town to visit the recently birthed EXO Lounge for a non-FEQ affiliated show. Quebec shows seemingly don't go that late into the night, so by the time we arrived the bands were already packing their gear and only a dozen punk heads remained.
Sitting at the bar, playing Lita Ford from his laptop with a blood-stained white t-shirt and a profusely bleeding gash on his knee (which he had apparently no interest in attending to) was Yannick Cimon-Mattar, the establishment's energetic proprietor and local listings zine publisher.
They managed to get 150 kids out to see Vancouver punk rockers Living with Lions, a respectable number especially given the FEQ-related competition, and generally the mood was positive concerning the city's still nascent indie scene. "Quebec's like a white page," Cimon-Mattar said, indicating that like a downtrodden Montreal a decade ago, Quebec's real music story is about to be written.
As gratifying as it must be for the Fest to attract big international talent, being able to one day triumphantly feature a local headliner would truly separate FEQ from its festival brethren down river.
Watch Skrillex to Score Upcoming Movie 'Spring Breakers'