Amnesia Rockfest: From Dream to Giant

April 15th, 2016 by  |  Published in Features, Show Announcements  |  1 Comment

Amnesia Rockfest

To some, summer simply means nice weather, afternoons by the pool, and maybe a road-trip. To others, it means something far more awesome: festival season. There are seemingly endless options between your Coachellas and Osheagas, but on the weekend of June 23-26, you’re definitely going to want to be in Montebello, Quebec for Canada’s largest music festival—Amnesia Rockfest.

When I first heard of Rockfest, it seemed like a new festival that had popped up out of nowhere. Some friends were planning to drive up, and with a bill full of bands I grew up on like the Offspring, Rancid, and Bad Brains playing (as well as bands I’d more recently been getting into, such as the Flatliners and Fucked Up), I was definitely tempted to join. It sounded like the perfect weekend of punk, booze and camping—things I am always down for.

Instead, I ended up spending the weekend working at my shitty gas station job and drinking at the same old bars that I always did. Before the weekend was even finished, music blogs and websites started flooding the internet with horror stories about the festival. Most articles painted the picture of Rockfest as one of filth, disorganization, confusion, limited access to water or bathrooms, and a cramped campground arrangement.

When my friends returned from the festival, I asked one of them about it. He looked at me with the confused gape of a dog that has startled itself by farting.

“What? No! I didn’t have any problems like that at all,” he said. “I got to see Rancid and make out with a hot chick with a Mohawk in my tent. It was the best weekend of my life!”

When it comes down to it, you’re going to get different critiques of a festival depending on what each person went there looking for. Sure, nobody likes to be denied the facilities or privileged access that they specifically paid for, but for some, the main priority is just to get drunk and dirty while listening to loud music—and maybe make out with a cool punk girl.

Since then, I haven’t heard any of the complaints that I did that one year. Rockfest has taken notes and made the necessary logistical tweaks to quiet the angry bloggers and critics. If anything, the festival has gotten more popular in the last couple of years, bolstering its impressive roster of legendary, as well as up and coming, punk, metal, and rock acts.

Let’s look back a bit though, because despite what I initially thought about the festival back in 2013, it really wasn’t that new at all.

In 2005, Alex Martel, a 17-year-old living in Montebello, decided that he was tired of traveling to bigger cities all the time to see good concerts. Montebello is a pretty small place with a population of just over 1,000, so it wasn’t much of a magnet for big bands. Alex wanted to bring the music to him, rather than go to it. This train of thought led to the conception of Rockfest.

The first incarnation of the festival was modest in comparison to what it would eventually become. It was a single, short-day event involving three bands: Deadly Apples (Alex’s band at the time), UKKO (local punk band), and Montreal’s GrimSkunk. There were 500 attendees, which is a pretty successful first attempt at organizing a festival—especially for a 17-year-old punk kid.

Alex took a break in 2006, but brought the event back in 2007, following a similar format as the initial year. In 2008, it expanded from a short day to a full day. That year involved a large percentage of the Quebec punk/rock scene and managed to bring in attendance from outside Montebello, as well as a fair amount of press coverage.

After that, the snowball has kept rolling. By 2010, the fest had evolved into two days and boasted acts like the Misfits and Alexisonfire. The next year upped the ante again, bringing in NOFX, Pennywise and Lamb of God’s sole performance of 2011.

Since then, the big names just keep coming in year after year, establishing Amnesia Rockfest as one of the key festival events of the summer, as well as being the largest rock festival in Canada. The weekend generally brings around 200,000 festival goers, rocking the sleepy little Quebec town, and this year’s lineup features tons of big-name acts that are sure to bring in a huge crowd, such as Blink-182 (and a solo Travis Barker set), Against Me!, NOFX (including a Fat Mike/Cokie the Clown set), Leftover Crack, At the Drive-in, the Dead Kennedys, the Adicts, and countless other amazing bands.

Despite the polarizing reviews I heard from friends and critics alike in 2013, it seems like any of the negative aspects of that year’s event were just a small case of the hiccups in the grand scheme of the festival’s trajectory. It certainly didn’t slow down at all, in fact, it seems to have picked up steam ever since.

My opinion of Rockfest has definitely changed since I first heard of it, when I thought it was just another festival riding the coattails of summertime staples like Coachella. I see now that it is a giant in its own right. Don’t take my word for it, check out the website for ticket/camping details, general information, and a full list of bands and events:


  1. Bonsai Tree Gardener says:

    April 20th, 2016at 7:33 pm(#)

    Magnificent site. Plenty of useful information here. I am sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thanks for your sweat!|