Plains Of Abraham (Festival d’été de Québec)
July 13, 2018
Remember that sad game you can play with basically every music festival’s lineup art? You know the one where, once you’ve eliminated all the male performers involved, you’re basically left with an empty poster and the sad realization that the patriarchy is still a huge weight crushing our society? I suppose it’s not fair to call it a game because the fact that we actually live in a society wrought with white male privilege is not fun at all and games are supposed to be fun.
Quebec City’s Festival d’été de Québec has been just as guilty as any other festival in the past of lacking that one magical word — diversity. However, that’s not to say it isn’t on the top of their minds while curating their infamous 11-day summer music festival. FEQ has actually done an exceptional job with their programming throughout the years, bringing obscenely huge acts to the city and music programmer Louis Bellavance is known for reaching out to the community and engaging in a dialogue with his peers and co-workers to ensure his bookings are firing on all cylinders. Gender equality is of course one of those cylinders and on the final weekend of Festival d’été de Québec, the city was on fire with the loud and proud all-female line up at the Plains of Abraham featuring the almighty Lorde, the fairy godmother of female empowerment in pop music Cyndi Lauper and openers Milk & Bones.
The best part about this bill though is that it didn’t read like a PSA. It didn’t come off like it was a bill just trying to pander to the masses. Instead it was just perfect and full of posi vibes that everyone could get behind. Hands down one of the strongest billings of the 2018 festival, Cyndi Lauper came out looking very much like, well, like Cyndi Lauper. Still radiating her ’80s she-bop glam aesthetic with a colourful designer suit covered with funky patterns and patches, her hair all teased and done up — just like you’d expect. She looked amazing and she sounded great. Taking the time to introduce each song in her thick Brooklyn accent, you could tell it was important for the performer to provide context to each of her songs for the sold out audience.
Lauper ran through her signature hits, starting her set off with “I Drove All Night” before segueing in to “She Bop.” She slowed things down with “Time After Time,” brought the energy back up with “Money Changes Everything,” and of course closed her set with “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” Each song was delivered with a youthful enthusiasm that I wasn’t entirely expecting.
There was a pleasant and peaceful dialogue that was being had this night around equality and inclusiveness and as I stood around watching the set with my eyes wide I couldn’t help but feel really excited by the fact that I was surrounded by six female colleagues who are, hands down, some of the most amazing, talented and empowered individuals in the music industry that I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking shit about the music industry with over some Poutineville poutine. I suppose now would be a great time to shout out Sacha Miller and Kaitlyn Davies with Work Late, a public relations and marketing company that is absolutely killing it; Lana Gay with Indie 88 in Toronto, Jessica Huddleston with the CBC, Celina Torrijos at MTV and Sarah Murphy from Exclaim!
By the time Lauper’s set drew to an end, the sun had set on the Plains of Abraham and the vibes were at the perfect level as she passed the torch to Lorde. It seemed as though both artists were equally excited to be sharing the bill with each other and I can’t think of a more complementary pairing.
Lorde is so special. She’s genuine and real in a way that not a lot of extremely famous musicians are. An incredible role model for the youth of today, she emits a new kind of message for the millennial generation that empowers them through a simple method of emotional honesty and transparency. Her songs, yes they’re catchy and simple, but they’re actually about real shit that happened to her in her life and it’s through this raw openness that an invisible barrier is lifted, allowing her fans to connect on a much deeper level.
Myself now three Coors Light deep into the night, Lorde kicks off her set, ironically, with “Sober.” She was wearing a really beautiful lace yellow outfit that flowed in the wind as she swayed her way in to the hearts of all her attentive fans.
A fairly basic set in terms of set up. She had some dancers joining her, clearly inspired by Solange’s tour last summer. They didn’t necessarily add anything to the set but helped fill up the stage. Lorde was just Lorde. She played all the fun songs and took some time to sit down on the edge of the stage and get real with the audience. “Homemade Dynamite” was a fun song to keep the energy high. With only two proper albums out, she was able hit on all of the standout touch points of her short career — “Tennis Courts,” “Royals,” and “Liability” being the standouts. She ended the night on a high note with “Green Light” and naturally left people wanting more. An excellent way to close out the last Saturday of another successful year for Festival d’été de Québec. Très bien to all of those involved in making this extremely well executed festival happen each year. Can’t wait to see what they do next — The future is female indeed.
• Glenn Alderson