By Glenn Alderson
QUEBEC CITY – Quebec City is celebrating 50 years of Festival d’été de Québec (FEQ) this year and with that comes one of their biggest and most legendary lineups to date. With acts like Metallica, Gorillaz, The Who, Kendrick Lamar and even the Backstreet Boys leading the charge, as always there is something for everyone gracing stages all throughout the city from July 6 to 16.
Each year throughout the course of ten days, the festival takes over the city with its main stage sprawled across the historic Plains of Abraham, a once legendary battleground where the English defeated the French in the Seven Year War of 1759. This year, the only battling will be between the sounds of James Hetfield’s fully cranked distortion and the earbuds of the expected 10,000+ people on the main site when Metallica takes the stage on Friday July 14.
With 135,000 passes sold each year at a reasonable price ($95/pass) so as not to leave anyone without an opportunity to participate, the festival just announced they are completely sold out of passes this year, which should be of no surprise to anyone, especially considering the tightly wound machine in the background running FEQ.
We caught up with communications director Luci Tremblay to talk about the inner working of FEQ and to find out what makes the festival one of North America’s biggest and longest running celebrations of music, culture and life.
BeatRoute: How long have you been working with Le Festival d’été de Quebec? What is your role?
Luci Tremblay: I’ve been the communication director of the FEQ for the past 8 years. It’s going to be my ninth festival. My team of ladies (there are only women in the communication team!) are in charge of all the festival marketing: publicity campaigns, press relations, social networks, event promotion etc. Everything that has to do with communications.
BeatRoute: Looking back on 50 years, how would you describe the legacy of Festival d’été de Quebec?
LT: The Festival certainly helped put Québec city on the map and define it as a cultural city as well as an important music market. Its citizens are music lovers and the FEQ certainly contributed to that.
It definitely helped local artists gain recognition from the industry. By bringing international artists here, the FEQ also drew tourists to the city. The economic and touristic benefits are very important to all levels of governments.
The relationship between the Festival and the people from Québec is kind of unique. Québec citizens have a strong feeling of belonging towards the FEQ and they’re proud of it. They’ve been coming for many years : with their parents when they were younger, and now their kids and even their grand kids are enjoying it!
BR: How has the festival evolved since its inception in 1968?
LT: Seven young artists, inspired by Expo 67, the Montreal universal exhibition, first had the idea of organising an art festival. A group of business owners gathered to raise funds to develop activities to animate the beautiful city throughout the summer season.
Over the years, it grew bigger as more international acts were added to the line-up. In the early 2000’s, the FEQ wanted to be more competitive, different from the other music festivals in the province of Québec. That’s when the organisation decided to invest more money in the infrastructures and the program by welcoming big international stars.
The bet of inviting worldwide headliners became a sure thing when the attendance as well as the notoriety increased and the FEQ really became an official stop-over for artists touring in North America. That change truly came together in the past 10 years, with combined efforts from all our work force to promote the event while keeping it affordable, welcoming and a must do activity.
BR: In your opinion, how does Le Festival d’été de Quebec help define the cultural and musical landscape in Quebec, specifically Quebec City?
LT: Even if the big headliners are often what most festivalgoers will look forward to when the line-up is announced, the FEQ has so much to offer that it would be silly not to take a look at the whole program and neglect the other stages. In order to have a taste of the Festival musical diversity, all the venues must be discovered. It comes naturally to us to promote local Québec artists and Canadian bands. We achieve this by offering to local bands the opportunity to open for the headliners. Also, having these bands that don’t tour often in Québec City is a unique chance to broaden the musical knowledge of the people of our city. And for those looking for their all-time favorite star at a fair price, the Festival d’été de Québec offers the chance to make their dream come true. This is what gives the FEQ its colorful flavor.
BR: What do you attribute the longstanding success that the festival has experienced over the years?
LT: To stay up to date, listen to our festivalgoers wishes and needs and respond to these appropriately. Investing in the program and the infrastructures has been a huge turn point too. At 95$ a pass for 11 days, the FEQ is the best deal on Earth! We focus on the beauty of the city, its French way of life and European taste, the security and of course, its fabulous line-up of international stars and upcoming artists. By presenting all music genres, the Festival can establish a strong character, which is diversity .
BR: How important is diversity in a festival such as Festival d’ete?
LT: We’re really all about diversity. From the Backstreet boys to Metallica and from Lady Antebellum to Kendrick Lamar with Francophone acts headlining one stage or another every single night. The way we build the grid is all about counter programming. Each stage has to present a different genre each night and we are also trying to avoid having two back to back similar nights on the same stage. All of it being equally important. Who else is doing this? I would think no one… but us! That’s how we stay relevant, in knowing who we are and what we’re good at. And it’s not only in terms of lineup. We are affordable, we are urban, we do not program any concert before 5pm even on weekends, on purpose, and the list goes on. All this combine makes us who we are and we stick to it.
BR: How important is it to have francophone culture represented in the festival?
LT: The FEQ taking place in a francophone city and a francophone province, it’s important for us to showcase our French culture. We have incredibly great artists in Québec and we’re proud to include them in the FEQ line-up.
In addition to that, I would say you can feel this French heritage everywhere you look and not only in our language: the architecture, the gastronomy, the signage and even the way of life. This is what’s great about the FEQ, it’s more than a music festival, it’s a destination.
BR: For people visiting Quebec City for the first time, what is one thing you would like them to know about the city before they arrive?
LT: Québec city has a charm and a European atmosphere that makes it a city that will mark you forever. French is spoken here, but don’t worry about not understanding the local people: we speak English too! It’s a walkable city, so are the FEQ’s venues, all located within the heart of the city. You’ll find amazing food here, make sure to book in advance in one of our many restaurants and enjoy local products. The city is bordered by the St-Lawrence River, make the most of it and take a cruise or the ferry to have the best look at the Château Frontenac: the most photographed hotel in the world. People are friendly and ready to help, don’t be shy to start the conversation!
Festival d’été de Québec runs July 6 to 16 throughout Quebec City. For more information about the lineup and how you can bare witness to the endless amount of entertainment that happens each summer, visit www.infofestival.comFestival d’été