Festival d’Été de Québec bigger than ever in 2010

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Photo: Jay Ouellet

Will.i.am and Fergie of Black Eyed Peas  Saturday’s performance at the Festival d’Ete by the Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D. World Tour  was among the most popular shows in Québec since the performance of former Beatle McCartney in 2008. One of the world’s top American hip op bands had 150,000 fans dancing with every song. Lead singer and songwriter Will.i.am gave a virtuoso DJ performance lasting 25 minutes.

Place d'Youville was jumping Sunday afternoon to a blend of blues, funk, traditional New Orleans Jazz and Motown, courtesy of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, a unique New Orleans based outfit that a few years ago might not have been signed for the Festival d'été.

"In 2003, there were less people," said Festival Director of Communications Lucie Tremblay. "People saw that they could go to the other festivals in Québec and see the same music."

Focus groups and other research showed that festival-goers wanted a wider variety of acts that they couldn't see anywhere else in Québec during the festival season. The Canadian group Rush, for example, signed an exclusivity agreement making the festival the rock band's only appearance in the province this summer.

Festival officials in recent years have also been dedicating over 50 percent of their budget to the music, up from about 25 to 30 percent.

The new outlook has reaped big dividends as the annual early to mid-July event becomes ever more popular.
"We sold 150,000 passes," said Tremblay, "so they were sold out by Friday the 9th."

The top draw was The Black Eyed Peas, the popular hip hop band from the United States. Tremblay said more than 100,00 people watched the show, based in part on the number of passes sold, but it was difficult to arrive at a true estimate, since there were many children under the age of 12 who are not required to buy passes.

This year's event also featured performances by British hard rockers Iron Maiden, the Latin-tinged Santana from the United States, Staff Benda Billili from the Congo, and the legendary Quebec chansonnier Gilles Vigneault.

"We had the biggest crowd in the history of the festival," Tremblay said of the Black Eyed Peas.

The unusually warm weather also helped, rather than limited, revenues.

"We had an increase in revenue because of the sales of beer," she said.

Tremblay said festival officials won't know for several weeks the number of people who attended, but they were shooting for 1.5 million.

Tremblay attributed the growing popularity to the festival's burgeoning reputation. Rammstein, which closed the festival Sunday with a spectacular fireworks display on the Plains of Abraham, decided to play here on the advice of the band Linkin Park.

She also said that bands are impressed with the quality of the stage on the Plains of Abraham as well as the city's reputation for drawing well-behaved crowds.

"We wanted to have Rammstein in 2008," Tremblay said, but she added that the band was unaware of the festival's reputation. Rammstein, it turned out, shared the same agent as Linkin Park and was able to rely on the other band's experience in deciding to play the festival.

One band that didn't benefit from the weather, at least on Saturday, was the Tex-Mex, surf music band Chicha Libre from Brooklyn, NY. Their Saturday set was interrupted by a thunderstorm that scattered the crowd while stagehands mopped water and tried to keep the instruments dry.

Festival Director General Daniel Gélinas attributed the festival's success to years of hard work.

"This 2010 Festival is the outcome of years of efforts, investment, planning and groundwork. We have made it the great event that we wanted it to be, but above all, that the public wanted us to give them, an event that promotes Quebec City," said Gélinas in a prepared statement issued Monday.