LIVE: Performance, Poutine, Pride: Festival D’été De Québec 2014, Day 2
By Sarah Chavey on July 10, 2014
Festival d’été de Québec might not be the most well-known on the crowded and competitive summer music festival calendar, but considering it’s been around for forty-six years, sees more than a million visitors each year, and is home to the biggest outdoor stage in North America—take that, Coachella!—it’s clearly doing something right. We went straight to the source to find out why. The prospect of poutine didn’t hurt either.
July 3–13, 2014
Quebec City, Quebec
Upper or Lower, it’s all Quebec to me.
Waking up to a much less foreboding sky, day two was dedicated to more sights and sounds. Quebec is divided into an “upper” and “lower” town, the lower being outside the city wall fortifications along the Saint Lawrence River and the upper further inland, inside fortifications. Having mostly explored the upper town on my first day as that was where the hotel and the festival’s outdoor stages are, I ventured downhill to check out a section of the lower city called Quartier Petit Champlain. This was easily the most touristy of all the neighborhoods I explored on the trip. While the cobblestone streets, steep hills, and beautiful Quebecois buildings along the river are picturesque and romantic, the man pandering for tips in full costume and feathered hat is, well, not. Most of the street-front real estate is taken up by stores selling stone statues of polar bears, Inuit totem figurines, and all fur everything. That said, the morning did introduce me to what might be is the best chocolate-covered ice cream in all of existence.
The Eats (and Drinks)
Quebec’s quest to send this journalist into a sugar coma: The dessert edition
Chocolats Favoris does not just cover your ice cream cone in chocolate—they coat it in thick layers of high-quality, insanely rich, fudgy flavors like caramel fleur de sel or orange éclatant. Appetite wet, I headed over to catch lunch at Le Bureau de Poste, a feel-good local haunt of the hipster Saint-Roch neighborhood next door to some of Quebec’s best year-round concert venues L’Impérial and Le Cercle. The food was fresh and light, a welcome change from my diet of poutine and ice cream, and the friendly staff and extensive microbrew selection makes it a no-brainer for dinner before a show. We sampled Okanagan’s Spring Pale Ale, a summery St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale, and a citrusy, hoppy Boréal IPA. As for food, we tried the grilled shrimp, quinoa salad (very LA, yes, I know), and were even treated to some delicious little doughnut holes with a maple syrup reduction dipping sauce on the house—told you the staff was friendly! It was here, also, that I learned some interesting info about the local not-so-micro brews: Labatt Blue and Molson Canadian. The blue Labatt can is a nod to Quebec’s flag and cans distributed in the city have a logo featuring a fleur-de-lis, proudly boasting the beers French Canadian origin. In comparison, Molson Canadian cans are red, a la the Canadian flag and feature a maple leaf. These discrepancies have made Labatt the brew of choice for Quebecois separatists.
Art Raves and Puking Pigs: a Study of Lady Gaga
Noah Gundersen was playing at Le Cercle next door and gets the award for best discovery of the weekend. A Seattle-based singer-songwriter, Gunderson’s emotive and soulful vocals were made only sweeter by his sister’s soaring violin accompaniment. The tiny venue and coffee-house vibe was a perfect fit for the show. I then trekked over to the main stage to catch Calgary sister duo Tegan and Sara, who seemed in awe of the massive crowd and deemed the night a career highlight.
Continuing in the poppy theme, Tegan and Sara were followed by the one and only Lady Gaga, whose hype was too much to ignore. With an attendance of over 80,000, this was the biggest show Gaga ever played (she said so herself), and she did her best to mark the accomplishment with all the expected over-the-top theatrics and never-ending costume changes. The show closed with her now-fabled performance of “Swine” during which there seems always to be someone puking up paint onstage. In this case, it was her dancers, disguised as pigs and hurling neon colored paint spray out of their oversized pig masks. One thing is for sure: Gaga fans are Gaga fans, no matter where they live. The field, which just the night before housed a smattering of picnic blankets, camping chairs and an average age of fifty, was jam-packed with French-Canadian teens dressed to the nines in their best Gaga impersonation. Whatever your opinion on the popstar, you’ve got to give it to her: she knows how to work a crowd. Gaga peppered her set with French exclamations‑“Quebec, je t’aime!”—which never failed to whip the crowd into a frenzy.