Festival d’été de Québec (FEQ) came back fully this year after two years off because of the pandemic. The 12-day festival happens in Quebec City every July. It draws more than a million fans to see their favorite live music acts.
FEQ has a different theme of music each night to satisfy any music lover’s appetite to see their favorite bands no matter what the genre. There are acts that represent Country, Pop, EDM, Rock, Latin, Heavy Metal, and a night dedicated to local Canadian acts.
This was my fifth year covering the festival as a press photographer and it is always a joy to spend a week in Quebec City. The city itself is safe and walkable to food and all the entertainment stages.
FEQ is also not the same as American music festivals that take place for three to four days over weekends where music plays all day and night with performances. The festival in Canada mainly takes place in the evenings.
Tuesday July 12, 2022: LOUD, Claudia Bouvette, Tai Verdes + More
I arrived in Quebec City after traveling from Cincinnati last Tuesday. I checked into the Le Concorde Hotel and was just steps away from the festival stages. It is conveniently located on the Grande Allée where there are tons of food options including a Quebec City favorite, poutine. The hotel has one of the best river views of the city as well.
Soon after arrival, I went out to shoot the first bands. Tuesday always has some of the best up-and-coming Canadian acts on display so I started my night with Claudia Bouvette. Bouvette gave me early years Britney Spears vibes as she sang her pop hits on the Loto-Quebec stage. Just a few songs into her set the rain started and then the sky opened with rain and thunder sending the crowd running to the exits as the festival evacuated.
I took shelter in a tent onsite and members of Magdalena Bay were also there waiting and hoping that the rain would let up so they could play their set. They got their wish as the rain lifted just in time for them to go on stage. Haiku Hands was unfortunately not able to play on schedule.
I was also able to photograph Tai Verdes again as he has made the festival rounds all summer with his high-energy show as fans danced to all his hits.
At each festival throughout the year, I always discover new music and artists that I love that I wasn’t familiar with before the start of each event. At FEQ that artist was LOUD, the Canadian rapper who closed out the Bell stage on Tuesday night.
My driver from the airport had introduced me to his music and convinced me to check him out so I am glad the rain let up so I could see him perform live.
Wednesday, July 13, 2022: Marshmello, Oliver Heldens, Snakehips + More
Wednesday at the fest was EDM night. EDM isn’t my favorite personal music but I do love to photograph the drama of stage shows with smoke and fire. I also always get the best fan photos at EDM shows.
The weather was perfect for the show and the crowd filled in the entire Plains of Abraham.
The night kicked off with Millimetrik and Snakehips to get the crowd warmed up. Dutch music producer Oliver Heldens was the third performer for the evening. Heldens song “Melody” was just named one of the top 200 dance songs of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
Marshmello capped off the night of electronic dance music with a massive production of fireworks and smoke. The Bell stage never seemed as massive as when Marshmello played his set.
Marshmello had art flashing on the three screens that spanned the crowd. At one point the screen said “Cause the world is slowly ending.” I think it hit home for everyone as we are all probably ready for a celebration and fun after all the stress of the past few years.
Thursday, July 14, 2022: Becky G, Luis Fonsi, Alex Sensation + More
Latin music took over the festival stage on Thursday night. Alex Sensation, the Colombian-born, DJ and producer kicked off the evening.
Becky G took the stage at 8 PM in an all-red ensemble with a cast of male and female dancers who brought the party for the Thursday night crowd. Becky G super fans took over the front row and sang almost every word back to her of hits like “Booty” and “MAMII.”
I would make the argument that Becky G should have had the headlining spot but there is some bias there because I love seeing her live.
Unfortunately, toward the end of Becky G’s high-energy set, the rain started to fall but I was hopeful this small rain storm would pass without incident but was proven wrong with the city’s unpredictable weather.
Right before Luis Fonsi was going to perform the sky opened up and thunder and lightning struck very close to the festival so there was an immediate evacuation. We waited for about 30 minutes but the storms did not let up so the festival had to make the tough decision to cancel the headlining performances on all stages for the evening.
As I walked out in the rain back to the hotel I could see die-hard fans grasping the rail crying and screaming for Fonsi to step out on stage because they weren’t able to see their favorite artists they waited hours to see.
A few minutes later I received an alert that Luis Fonsi was going to make a surprise cameo appearance. The festival hosts these late night shows inside the Armoury on the festival grounds. I headed down to cover the show and saw thousands of fans in line outside the show. Only 800 lucky fans got inside the small venue. I am hopeful some of those front-row fans at the Bell stage got to see Luis that night.
After an hour-long DJ dance party set from Alex Sensation to warm up, the crowd Puerto Rican native Fonsi joined Alex onstage. Fonsi was wearing a home team Quebec Nordiques hockey jersey when he came out and performed two songs including his hit “Despacito” featuring Daddy Yankee.
Friday, July 15, 2022: Alanis Morisette, Garbage, Sum 41 + More
Friday was girl’s night on the main stage at FEQ. Toronto-based, The Beaches took the stage first with their color-block coordinated outfits and performed a set that exuded girls who rock.
Garbage took the stage next with lead vocalist the legendary Shirley Manson in her signature look of orange punk rock hair, checkered leggings and a black jumper. It is always amazing to be in the pit and see these legends on stage performing one of my all-time favorites, “Stupid Girl.”
Before the main stage finale, I made a run for it and was also able to catch Canada’s Sum 41 on the second stage. The crowd waiting to enter the Loto/Sirius stage area on Friday evening looked just as big as the one waiting to enter the Bell Main Stage. Canadians love rock and they love Sum 41.
Frontman Deryck Whibley still commands the stage with a giant skull backdrop for the band’s stage set. Their performance was nostalgic and reminiscent of Warped Tour days. That’s the last time I saw the band with another crazy photo pit with crowd surfers coming over the wall and loving every minute of it.
Alanis Morisette closed out the main stage with all her hits playing the cult classic “Jagged Little Pill” album in its entirety. I have seen Alanis live many times and hearing these songs from the 90s never gets old and always brings back amazing memories.
One of the reasons that I love this festival is that I can stay and watch the headlining acts without the worry of traffic leaving the venue since I can walk back to my hotel. During the set, I had tears as she played “Ironic” and “ You Oughta Know” Alanis closed out the show with a fitting version of “Thank U.”
Saturday, July 16, 2022: Rage Against the Machine, Alexisonfire + More
Saturday was the day I came for and waited anxiously for all week. I was going to get to see and photograph “Rage Against the Machine” for the first time, one of my all-time favorite bands. I love rock music and I love this band for their music and their activism.
Rage is in the middle of their “Public Service Announcement” tour. On the second night of the tour at the Chicago show, frontman Zack de la Rocha hurt his leg and had to continue the show. I was scared that this would affect the tour and I would once miss them.
I still have big regrets about not traveling to the last show Rage Against the Machine took the stage together on July 30, 2011, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
But after a safety briefing, I was front and center in the pit for one of the best shows of my life. De la Rocha was carried on stage by two men and placed on a black equipment case where he didn’t let the injury stop the frenetic energy as he performed a full set of 16 songs including the classics “Killing in the Name of” and “Bulls on Parade”
Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Bard Wilk jumped and performed around de la Rocha for the set as fans went crazy in the crowd. Colored flares and smoke bombs were set off in the crowd as the set built up to its finale.
It was a night I won’t ever forget.
Rage Against the Machine is known for its activism and the band’s music is needed right now more than ever.
This week the band took to social media on Thursday, July 21st to announce they’ll be making a $75,000 donation to several nonprofits in Canada.
According to their respective websites, Roots of Justice holds antiracism workshops and other training for people of all colors, while Indigenous Climate Action focuses on “uplifting Indigenous voices, sovereignty, and stewardship of the lands and waters for future generations.”
In June, Rage also announced a pledge of nearly half a million dollars to abortion rights organizations in Wisconsin and Illinois. This announcement followed the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
The Rage Against the Machine tour is continuing through North America over the next month and all I can say is if they are coming to an arena near you. Just GO!
FEQ will be back July 6-16, 2023 so make your plans to visit Quebec City to enjoy all the food and music the city has to offer.