“Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé,” chanted the crowd of Gen Zs and Millennials at Freddie Gibbs’ set in Québec City for the Festival d’été de Québec. A common sports anthem, the crowd’s reaction wasn’t to Gibbs set but rather to the torrential downpour that had descended upon Parc de la Francophonie soaking everyone in the crowd. If there’s one thing about Québec, it’s that the party will go on no matter what and everyone was eager to hear more until an automated voice blasted through the speakers announcing the rest of the evening was canceled due to unforeseen weather conditions. As lighting crackled in the sky, thousands of people came rushing onto the streets trying to find cover or transportation. I made a dash for the Hilton across the street, my home for the next 2 days, in my plastic FEQ rain poncho thinking about how it was a fitting end to a hectic day.
The day began with a different type of waterworks, me shedding false tears when I landed in Québec aka the land of the sacred french pastries. Growing up in Montréal, I took for granted the access I had to buttery and flakey croissants and the hard on the outside but perfectly chewy inside baguettes. That is until I moved to Toronto and realized just how good I had it. Besides the proper pronunciation of the beloved names (I’ll scream if I hear one more person call it a crah-scent), Québec is the closest thing to the food and joie de vivre that is abundant overseas. Naturally, my Creative Director (Emily Rosati) and I had to roam the streets of Old Québec in search of said cuisine before heading to the festival to catch the night’s hip-hop and Latin lineup. Montréal’s Osheaga has become one of the popular music festivals in Canada, partly due to the allure of culture and partying in Montréal, but I’m about to make a strong case for the FEQ experience.Our driver from the airport, Steve, gave us some great recommendations, Café Les Cousins and Paillard for our french pastry fix, Bistro Hortus for organic “Farm to Table” or “Ferme à la Table” eats, and Café du Monde for Parisian-inspired vibes including scenic river views and seafood. We walked down the cobblestone streets of Rue Saint-Jean (which was closed off for pedestrians, a rare occurrence in Toronto) and ended up at Bistro Hortus. It lived up to Steve’s praises, full of fresh vegetables and lots of cheese, and the scenery was unmatched. We made it back to Parc de la Francophonie in time to catch Young M.A’s set, and when her DJ started telling the crowd to “open this bitch up” for mosh pits I knew what song was coming. Once an open circle was secured, the beat started playing and Young M.A’s deep voice boomed from the speakers rapping “Yeah, they hate but they broke though”. Mosh pits activated, “And when it’s time to pop they a no-show / Yeah, I’m pretty but I’m loco,” she continued over pulsing 808s you could feel vibrating through your body. It was everything 2017 me wanted to hear.
[caption id="attachment_56670" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Young M.A performing at Parc de la Francophonie.[/caption]
Unlike some other festivals, FEQ is separated into three stages with separate entry points for each. You can roam the streets, drink stations, and activations surrounding each stage even if you don’t have a ticket for the festival. Good for the vibes but you have to consider walking distance and lineups when stage hopping. We made it to the main stage, Scène Bell at the historic Plains of Abraham park, for Becky G’s performance full of choreography, Spanish lyrics, and dance vibes before doubling back to Scène Sirius XM for Freddie Gibbs’ set.
[caption id="attachment_56674" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Roaming the festival grounds.[/caption]
Prior to the aforementioned rain, Gibbs put on quite the show energetically rapping bars at a pace I can only achieve after consuming six espresso shots. A sea of hands could be seen bopping to hits from his 2014 album, Piñata, like “Thuggin’”, “Deeper”, and “Harold’s”. He also blessed the crowd with an intermission and an excerpt from his campaign speech: Rappers Agaisn’t TikTok Music. “I don’t know how the youths TikTok,” he said pausing for dramatic effect, “and I don’t give a fuck. I know how to rap, that’s all I know how to do. I could do some funny shit on TikTok but fuck all that, I don’t make songs for that,” he told the crowd entirely made up of TikTok’s target demographic. Gibbs does, in fact, have a TikTok (lol) but he will not be making TikTok music and his speech was against the viral songs made with the platform in mind.Day 2 commenced by taking a stroll down Rue Saint-Jean—yes, again because stick to what you know—with destination Paillard in mind. I instantly felt at home amongst the displays of pastries, cakes, baguette sandwiches, and the smell of café au lait. An embarrassing amount of carbs consumed later—Emily had to talk me down from six pastries to three—we walked around the quaint neighborhood taking in the European ambiance filled with colorful houses and shops. It was a far cry from the skyscrapers and condo buildings that dominate the streets of Toronto. While getting ready to see the 2000s legend that is Alanis Morissette, I peeked outside the hotel window and saw a line of thousands eagerly waiting to get into the FEQ grounds. As Canada’s largest outdoor music event, the three stages combined have a capacity of around 138,000 giving Coachella’s 125,000 capacity a run for its money.
[caption id="attachment_56677" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] The lineup outside the FEQ grounds.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_56678" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Getting ready for night 2.[/caption]
We had some time before Alanis’ set and opted to go to Chez Tao for some cocktails and Asian street eats. The star of Chez Tao was a whale, yes a whale, used as a cup for a drink called “Mon Ami Willy”. We became fast friends with Willy, uninfluenced by the alcohol he was carrying of course. The majority of Chez Tao’s drinks came in Thai-influenced tiki cups and the plates of pad thai, bao buns, and spring rolls made for the perfect pre-festival dinner.
[caption id="attachment_56679" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Mon Ami Willy at Chez Tao.[/caption]
We made it to Scène Bell a few minutes before Alanis’ headlining set began and looked around floored at the 90,000-person crowd covering the festival’s largest stage. A montage of clips from the ‘90s and 2000s began highlighting Alanis’ influence on pop culture and the industry at large. The queen herself comes on stage and the screams were deafening. Did we scream along to “Ironic”? Absolutely. Did we scream even louder for “You Oughta Know”? Yup. To see a legend like her perform live with no vocal track was one of the best moments of the trip solidifying the power of live music, experience, and talent. As the crowd poured into the streets after the show in search of late-night food, we made our way to a pizza spot discovered the night before. Attaboy, located on Rue Saint-Jean (again) serves gooey cheese slices until 4am, another perk of Québec where food after 11pm isn’t confined to the likes of McDonald’s and A&W. The next morning we said goodbye to the croissants and cobblestones already looking forward to the 2023 FEQ.