D-Tox Rockfest With Lamb of God, Hatebreed, NOFX — Live Review
Montebello, Quebec, is a small place with a country feel. About an hour away from Ottawa, Ontario, its population is slightly over 1,000. From what I saw, many of those "slightly over 1,000" were themselves slightly over 60. In short, Montebello's got a cottage town feel; the coffee houses all have homemade jam for sale and the people who live there are wont to sit on their front porches and, well, sit on their front porches.
It is not, in any way, the kind of place where most people would think to situate a two-day music festival featuring some of the biggest and best names in punk rock, hardcore and metal. Yet that's exactly what happened there last weekend (June 17-18). Though its scheduling overlapped somewhat with the juggernaut that is Toronto's NXNE, D-Tox Rockfest was, by all measurements, a rousing success.
Headlined by Richmond, Virginia heavyweights Lamb of God (who were making their only 2011 appearance and, judging by their set, wanted everyone to be aware of it) as well as pioneers NOFX, the festival attracted some of the biggest names in the business. Scene stalwarts like Pennywise, the Bouncing Souls, Hatebreed, A Wilhelm Scream, Cancer Bats and Underoath were complimented by reunited legends like Hot Water Music and the Descendents. Hell, even CJ Ramone played a set.
The fest was heavy on quality CanCon as well, boasting the likes of the Flatliners, the Sainte Catherines, Slaves on Dope and Montreal psychobilly stalwarts the Brains (in addition to the aforementioned Cancer Bats).
"It's been awesome," said organizer Alex Martel of his festival a few hours before it came to a close. "I'm crazy tired and I've slept about two hours in the past two weeks -- in the end, it's worth it. There's tons of people and it's really been a success."
Asked about the atypical location for his festival, Martel explained that as a local, it was something that he'd been thinking about for years before starting Rockfest in 2005.
"I am from Montebello, so I went to the University of Ottawa and [traveled] pretty much all over the place, but I always came back here and [to] this idea to have this big fest in this particular venue. I just thought that the site was awesome, [and] that it'd be pretty cool to have more of a rock-oriented festival in this tiny place in the middle of nowhere."
For the purposes of the Rockfest, the venue -- an open area halfway between the Auberge Montebello resort and the waterfront/marina -- was turned into a little city. There were food and drink kiosks as well as miniature markets that supplemented the various bands' merch booths. The two main stages featured alternating performances which rarely interfered with the third stage, which featured younger, up-and-coming bands (including an act featuring one of the more fear-inducing female vocalists you're apt to run across).
At various locations nearby, festival-goers were permitted to camp out. Many patrons took full advantage of this; the area directly adjacent to the venue dubbed "tent city." Some of the campfires burned all night.
While there were a few alcohol-related dust-ups, the main focus for the weekend was almost always where it should have been: on the music. That said, the Auberge, which housed most of the musicians, was an interesting home base, featuring a rooftop sauna and hot tub which, word has it, has been the site of some debauchery in years past. The hotel also offered a trampoline, which proved to be irresistable for Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe, who was seen happily bouncing around, smoking a cigarette while tooling around on his phone.
Unfortunately, Blythe was far less interested in doing press interviews. Fortunately, this wasn't really a major concern since the majority of us journalists were far more interested in the naked man in the Hatebreed pit and another in a wheelchair who insisted on crowd-surfing, tilting, falling out of his chair, getting put back into his chair, and getting back where he wanted to be -- only to be mocked, good-naturedly by NOFX's Fat Mike.
Additional highlights of the festival: the unicyclist in a mosh pit, countless flashed breasts, kids so amped up on energy drinks they talked like auctioneers, various witnessed "I don't speak French" mishaps, some truly terrible French-Canadian accents (mine, most prominently), some truly excellent poutine, and children who may or may not have been conceived in or around the hot tub.
Occasionally, we even talked to and watched bands.
The unofficial festival standouts included Lamb of God, the Descendents and the Sainte Catherines, who earned high praise from everyone who saw them. Despite being long in the tooth, the Descendents were riveting from start to finish, with frontman Milo Aukerman seemingly unaware he was covered in Mayflies, which were gross and absolutely everywhere. He rambled and thrashed through his set like he was a man twenty years younger.
NOFX were entertaining as always. Fat Mike earned a lot of laughs when explaining towards the end of the band's set that they couldn't go over their allotted time because Alcoholica, the famous Metallica cover band, were closing the show. Mike was his usual acerbic and sarcastic self; the highlight of his weekend was apparently the round of golf he snuck in before the show.
When asked about the festival moving forward, Alex Martel was succinct. "I have a good idea of what I want to do next year," he said. "I want to get bigger bands and try to expand the festival."
Truer and more anti-climactic words were never spoken, but if Martel and Co. can top Rockfest 2011, it'll be a sight to see.
Watch Cancer Bats Perform at D-Tox Rockfest 2011