Today is Monday, June 26th, 2017, which means I’m in recovery mode from losing my festival virginity. That’s right! I paid a large sum of money, over-packed a truck with camping gear and close friends, and drove seven hours to be immersed in the crazy world of Montebello Rockfest. I consumed enough beer and hotdogs to kill an ox, and probably got some kind of permanent injury from all the head banging. But I also got to meet Josh Homme, George Pettit, Dallas Green, and a bunch of other incredible musicians. It was a wicked weekend to say the least.
Before I say anything else, I want to thank the residents of Montebello, Quebec for their hospitality and cooperation during this past weekend. You people make the festival truly special by embracing all the quirks and chaos that come with it. You ROCK!
As mentioned earlier, I’ve never been to a full-blown music festival before. Despite some complications with the weather, I now see why so many people are lining up for hours to partake every summer. If you plan accordingly and bring great people with you, you’re bound to have an incredible weekend. Here is my experience at Montebello Rockfest 2017: what I would do differently next year, and what we did right.
First thing to do differently next year: PACK LESS and PACK THE NIGHT BEFORE. On the morning of our departure, we thought it would be a brilliant idea to pack the truck up first thing in the morning and hit the road after that. Good idea in theory until it starts pouring rain, and you suddenly realize you packed way too much stuff (and none of it is waterproof). After a frantic garbage bag and bungee cord fight with the truck, we left about one hour behind schedule. This hour came back to haunt us when we arrived at the festival.
We arrived in Montebello around 7:00pm, and were stuck in festival congestion for over two hours. On the plus side, this gave us a great opportunity to stretch our legs, walk beside the truck as it dragged along. And thanks to Rockfest rules, we were able to enjoy some refreshments on the side of the road. Decent way to take in the sights at least!
Second thing to do differently next year: PREPARE FOR RAIN. The parking lot that was advertised as “walking distance” from the camp ground was in reality an hour walk up-hill. This forced us (and every other camper) to rely on the paid shuttle service. To make matters worse, it started POURING rain right after we got our tents set up. After we got all our gear, I slopped off my soaking wet clothes and crawled into our sad little cesspool of a tent. Fortunately, this was the worst it got; as soon as the sun came up the next day, I knew it was going to be a stellar weekend.
Third thing to do differently next year: GET A BIGGER TENT/EXTRA POLES. This one definitely should’ve been more obvious to me. I’m about 6’2” and shared the tent with my girlfriend. Needless to say, my 3.5 ft. tall tent was not the paradise I somehow expected. I would also suggest picking up some tent poles so you can prop up a tarp to form a makeshift shelter outside of your tent. Probably obvious to most, but to inexperienced campers like myself, it was not.
First thing done RIGHT: IMPROVISE. One of the more creative moments of the weekend happened when we discovered that we left all of our cooking accessories in the truck, and wanted a delicious home cooked breakfast. Luckily we managed to remember the four cases of beer we bought for the weekend. We emptied a few cans, cut them in half, threw our bacon and eggs in those bad boys, and were eating a tasty meal in no time. You absolutely have to be resourceful when you pay large sums of money to be homeless for the weekend.
Second thing done RIGHT: HYDRATE AND HAVE FUN. Drinking all-day and relaxing in the sunshine feels great until you almost miss the artists you drove so far to see because you forgot to drink water. There is no shame in trying to remain moderately healthy. This is why you need to choose whom you bring with you very wisely. Surround yourself with your closest friends and take everything with a grain of salt. Remember that you’re on vacation, but still need to get back to reality when it’s over. Being with people that are on the same page as you is EXTREMELY important to having a successful weekend.
Third thing done RIGHT: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES. Now obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I need to brag about my VIP experience. If you work in media, or even have good connections, chances are you can apply for a media pass on the festival’s website. This is where the real craziness came from this weekend for me. My application was accepted and I was given access to the media lounge, VIP area at the festival, and most importantly: backstage access.
I took a private shuttle boat to the backstage area with a French band that was playing on one of the side stages. What a way to travel in style! I really wanted to be immersed in the backstage lifestyle, and I wasn’t disappointed. The first band that I ran into was Queens of the Stone Age, and some members of Eagles of Death Metal. Josh Homme even took the time to shake my hand and take a picture with me. I later caught up with Jon Theodore and Michael Shuman of QOTSA and introduced myself. All of my interactions were brief, but somehow very meaningful, mostly because of how genuinely happy everyone seemed to be to meet me. It was like I was a guest in their home and they were happy to have me there. It was such a cool feeling.
Other artists I had the pleasure of meeting were George Pettit and Dallas Green from Alexisonfire, and Jennie Vee from EODM. Again, couldn’t have been nicer people. I was also given the opportunity to bring my microphone and camera into the festival grounds to capture the event properly. I’ll hopefully have a video and audiotape uploaded somewhere sometime soon.
In the end, I had an absolute blast at Montebello Rockfest. I enjoyed quality time with friends, ate some delicious food, and got to see and meet some of my favorite bands of all time. I highly recommend you get yourself to a festival this summer and experience it for yourself. You really don’t need the VIP experience to have a good time. Bring some good company, cheap beers, and enough water to drown a squid, and you’re set! Also, don’t forget to take a look at the forecast before you leave, and prepare for the worst. Happy festival hunting and rock on!
As the folks at Montebello like to say, yessir miller!