By Bobby Gorman on March 2nd, 2015 at Email
The 10th edition of Amnesia Rockfest is set to take over Montebello, Quebect this summer from June 18th to 21st. The massive festival completely overtakes the 900 person town as bands as diverse as Snoop Dog, Gogol Bordello, System Of A Down, Tenacious D, Refused, Randy, Real McKenzies, Coheed & Cambria, The Melvins, Buzzcocks, Ten Foot Pole, Buzzcocks, No Fun At All, Bouncing Souls Bigwig and Planet Smashers. Not to mention Rancid doing … And Out Come The Wolves, Offspring performing Americana and The Deftones doing Around The Fur.
Suffice to say, the festival is going to be pretty damn epic.
We caught up with Rockfest found Alex Martel to discuss this year’s lineup, the festival’s growth and their famed logistical problems of having 200,000 people in a town of 900.
So 2015 is the tenth version of Amnesia Rockfest – how does it feel knowing that something you created while still in high school has had such a lasting effect?
It feels great, it’s been a wild ride. I’m really proud that I started everything from scratch and got the fest to where it is now, it makes a very unique story. I’m also very proud of the lineup this year, which is our best and most diverse by far. It’s been the best fan reaction and best press reaction as well as the strongest sales yet, so we’re very happy.
Can you give a brief rundown of how the festival has grown over the last decade?
I started the fest when I was 17. We had 3 bands and 500 festival-goers the first year. It evolved slowly but surely. In 2008, we added a second stage. Then 3 stages and 2 days in 2010. I’d say that 2011 was the first real big edition, with NOFX and Lamb of God headlining. In 2013, it totally blew up and became gigantic. And 2015 will be the biggest yet.
Last year sold out with over 200,000 tickets and, with the help from the organizers of Festival D’Ete, you added more stages. Any plans to expand this year?
We’re keeping the number of stages and the site layout very similar to 2014, but we’re expanding the camping and parking areas. We’ll have a new VIP camping area, as well as a camping for RV’s. Those additions will be announced and on sale in the next couple weeks.
This year is shaping up to be pretty massive, who are you most excited to see that you booked this year?
System of a Down, which was by far the most requested band by the festival-goers. Deftones playing one of my favorite albums ever. Ministry and Skinny Puppy playing together for the first time since 1988. Tenacious D for their first Quebec show ever. Pixies, Refused, Rancid… I could go on forever!
There’s a few recently reunited band on the bill, like Satanic Surfers and Refused, but you also convinced From Autumn To Ashes and Thrice to reunite, can you tell us how that came to be?
Reuniting bands is definitely one of my specialties. It’s always a challenge, but probably the most exciting part of booking the festival. It’s very cool that I was the one able to reunite these bands. With Satanic Surfers, for instance, I had been pushing Rodrigo to do it for a long time and he slowly became more open to it, until it finally worked.
On top of From Autumn to Ashes and Thrice, you also got a lot of Quebec bands back together: Banlieue Rouge, Groovy Aardvark, Subb, MAP, Penelope, Blind Witness, Bald Vulture, Overbass, Les Ékorchés and Capitaine Révolte. Are there any bands that you tried to get back together for the show that didn’t come through?
I’m really proud of all these reunions as well, especially Banlieue Rouge, which had vowed to never perform again ever. It will be their first and last reunion show, so that will be very special. There’s always bands that end up not working, but I usually get them in the following years. I had been trying for years to get Banlieue Rouge before I was able to make it happen.
Lately a lot of festivals are bringing back bands for one-of things. Refused reunited a few years ago for the festival circuit, Replacements got together for Riot Fest, The Fest got Latterman and Knapsack a few years ago. Why is that becoming such a trend?
I think people have seen most of the bands they like many times, so reuniting bands that no longer exist is new and exciting to them.
Is there a fear of focusing too much on the past and missing out on some of the best up and coming bands by putting so much effort to reunite old bands?
I don’t think so, as we still bring in many younger acts. They get to play to a large crowd thanks to these reunions and all the bigger bands.
Rockfest still has a focus on local acts, with a bunch of smaller bands playing the main stage. How did you decide which local acts got that honour? How important is it to you to foster and support those bands on this tour?
Rockfest started with local bands, that’s our roots so it’s important for me to keep having them at the fest. We usually look out for bands that have a good buzz and that are working hard.
You have Deftones doing Around The Fur, Offspring performing Americana and Rancid doing …And Out Comes The Wolves. Did you ask the bands to do those albums or did they pick them? Why those albums?
I specifically asked for these albums. Around The Fur is my favorite Deftones album and one of my favorite albums of all time. It’s definitely one of their classics. For Rancid, it’s also definitely their classic album and it’s the 20th anniversary of the album this year. As for The Offspring, they’ve already done Smash and Ignition the past couple years, but many fans such as myself discovered them through Americana, which is also a great album. It’s actually the first CD I purchased when I first got a CD player.
Linkin Park just had to cancel a bunch of tour dates due to Chester Bennington sustaining an injury – any fears that that will affect their appearance at the Festival?
Not at all, they’re still playing a bunch of shows and festivals starting in May.
You also had Tim Armstrong of Rancid and Fat Mike of NOFX help curate this year’s schedule. What role did they play in getting it all together? What made you approach those two to help curate the festival?
I became friends with them over the years, they’re big supporters of Rockfest. So it happened very naturally. We mainly exchanged band ideas, talked about the lineup, that sort of thing.
With Fat Mike, it was mainly for the Tony Sly Stage. Tony Sly played his last show with No Use For A Name at Rockfest 2012 before he passed away, so Mike was very touched by the fact that we named a stage in Tony’s honour. It’s awesome to have these two great guys getting involved and recognizing my work.
This is the first year, I believe, that you’ve added a comedy stage. How’d that come together?
At Rockfest, it’s always a great party vibe with everyone having a good time. We thought that adding some comedy would be a good fit and a great addition to that. Tom Green, Steve-O and Mike Ward definitely fit with the Rockfest vibe.
Last year you had a lot of problems concerning grants from the government – where they didn’t take into account the continual growth of the festival which raised the economic spinoff from 3 to 10 million in just three years. Were you able to sort that out for this year or are you still facing a budgetary deficit? How big of a role do those Governmental grants play in ensuring the continued survival of the festival?
We’re currently working to make sure they fix their mistake for 2015. Like most festivals in Quebec, we do rely on grants, but it’s a very small chunk of the revenue. It’s definitely nowhere near as big as what the other major events in Quebec receive.
There were some complaints last year in regards to transportation problems getting to and from Montebello. Are you working on tackling those problems for this edition?
There will obviously always be traffic with tens of thousands of cars coming into such a small town at the same time, but our festival-goers have been patient and understanding in that regard. We’re reworking the entire transportation and parking system for 2015 to accommodate the growing number of festival-goers. The details will be announced in the next couple weeks.
As I mentioned earlier, the organizers from Festival D’Ete – évènement-expérience-émotion – along with P. Miron Consultants helped coordinate the expansion last year, a much needed fix after some prominent complaints with the 8th festival’s overly long lineups, lack of garbage cans causing constant littering, washrooms overflowing and messy and muddy camping facilities. Are they on board again?
It will be the same team as 2014 for the most part, as everything ran smoothly with them.
Are you focusing on improving any particular facet of the festival experience this year in terms of logistics?
As mentioned above, we’re reworking the entire transportation and parking system for 2015 to accommodate the growing number of festival-goers.
Last year you had VIP tickets, yet a few people complained it wasn’t worth the extra money as they weren’t even able to make it to to VIP areas due to overcrowding. Are you offering VIP tickets again this year?
We haven’t heard of any such complaints. In fact, most of the VIP packages are almost sold out with 90% of them being the same buyers as last year. That being said, we always try to improve the packages every year.
What will VIP tickets get you this year?
We have everything from standard reserved seating and front stage area to a pool package, a backstage after party, a guided tour of the backstage area and backstage/lodging/meals packages. All details here: www.amnesiarockfest.com/en/tickets
Will it be different than the VIP camping?
Yes those are separate. We’ll have a new VIP camping this year and details will be announced in the next couple weeks.
Anything in particular about Amnesia Rockfest that you think people should know?
We’re music fans, just like you! It’s a lot of work, but seeing all of you invade my quiet little town once a year is the greatest feeling ever! We really appreciate all the support.