FEQ 2018 opens with big name stars, new features

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Photo: Renaud Philippe, provided by FEQ

In 2015, David Grohl, seated on his special “throne,” and the Foo Fighters were forced to end their performance after only 20 minutes when a violent thunderstorm and a deluge descended on the Plains of Abraham. Let’s hope the rain on the Plains doesn’t drown them out when they return to the Bell Stage on July 9.

With a lineup that includes a rare appearance by Canadian rock legend Neil Young, the much-anticipated return of the Foo Fighters and young sensations Lorde, Shawn Mendes and The Weeknd, the 2018 edition of Quebec’s massive 11-day Festival d’Été (FEQ) aims to meet the annual and increasingly difficult challenge of outdoing itself.

It’s a tough act to follow, when the massive Bell stage on the Plains of Abraham has already welcomed most of the giants of musical entertainment, from the Rolling Stones to Madonna, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Metallica and The Who, to name a few.

Another tough act to follow appears to be that of longtime FEQ boss Daniel Gélinas. He announced his departure after the 2017 edition and has since taken on the job of revamping another big Quebec City attraction, the Carnaval de Québec, the world’s largest winter festival. Gélinas has recently been reflecting on his role in leading the organization that staged the city’s 400th anniversary celebrations 10 years ago.

FEQ has yet to find a permanent replacement for Gélinas, and meanwhile the organization has been operating under the leadership of interim managing director Claude Doré.

The festival also has a new communications director with the exit of Luci Tremblay, who was named Quebec’s delegate general in Tokyo last fall. Samantha McKinley, formerly of the Musée de la Civilisation and Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham ski resorts, has replaced her.

Other changes to FEQ will be more visible to the tens of thousands of festivalgoers. The zones in front of the stage have been reconfigured to give more general pass holders a chance to get closer to the stage. There had been complaints from fans and performers that the front section was dominated by premium pass holders who were not attentive to what was happening on stage.

Last year, rapper Kendrick Lamar interrupted his show to berate the crowd in front of the stage for their lack of involvement. This year, general pass holders gain an extra 400 square feet of space in front of the stage, room for an additional 1,500 fans, according to organizers. Gold and silver pass holders won’t suffer much, with the zones being about the same size. The VIP zone for guests, sponsors and the like has been reduced to accommodate the changes.

As of press time FEQ organizers say they are “very satisfied” with the number of passes sold, although they could not provide a precise number. Last year they sold 140,000. The price was hiked slightly again this year, although at $110 the pass is still by far one of the best bargains for a music festival featuring 300 shows.

Another new feature at FEQ 2018 is a squad, sporting yellow bandanas, that will be on the lookout in the massive crowds for incidents of sexual harassment. FEQ says squad members “are specially trained to identify and help anyone in a vulnerable situation.”

FEQ has added new attractions to sites associated with the main concert venues. With the completion of the restoration of the armoury building, the main box-office area returns to Place George-V, where there will be a new feature, a huge cube where “festivalgoers can pose against a series of eight backdrops – each wilder than the next.”

The Place de la famille is back again the Parc de l’Esplanade on Rue D’Auteuil, offering free shows, activities and workshops. The Coeur de festival is also back in the park across from the National Assembly, featuring free performances onstage, plus bistros, bars and food trucks.

FEQ has added another venue and musical element to the event, with jazz performances at the Théâtre du Petit-Champlain. Both FEQ passholders and non-passholders will need to reserve their seats in advance.

The festival has also added a diversion for those waiting in long lines for the big-ticket shows on the Bell stage on the Plains. Stereo FEQ is described as “a mobile structure with a DJ, [who] will entertain people waiting in line on the most popular nights. The schedules, locations and guest DJs will be a surprise.”

As usual, the Reseau de transport de la capitale (RTC) is offering special shuttles from the suburbs to the downtown sites as well as a variety of special passes to encourage festivalgoers to use mass transit.

For further information on the festival as well as a full program, go to infofestival.com.