Snippets from the main stage at Quebec City Summer Festival

Aaron Neville.jpg
Photo: Jay Ouellet

Aaron Neville, four time Grammy winner, Soul and Gospel music.

Droves of back-packing festival goers, fedora-donning hipsters, and local music fans descended on the city last Thursday, July 7 for the start of Quebec City Summer Festival. The outdoor music festival, the largest in Canada takes place every year during the first 11 days of July, transforming the city into one mega music stage.

Each year, the fest reaches new levels of popularity and 2011 is no exception with headliners Metallica, Elton John, Ben Harper, and John Fogerty.

Opening night featured Paris-Quebec under the stars, led by Quebec-artist Béatrice Martin, who goes by the alias Coeur de Pirate. The 21-year-old tattooed blond singer and pianist performed backed by a large instrumental band.

Reggae pulsed through the city on the second festival day with Stephen Marley, son of the reggae legend and Ben Harper, a Grammy-Award winner and known activist.

Thousands packed the Plains on Saturday for Aaron Neville and Elton John. Soon after Neville’s soulful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” the sky darkened and a bright-half moon appeared.

Elton John opened with an upbeat version of “Saturday Night” and kept the energy high the entire set. The audience belted out the chorus of “Crocodile Rock” and during the song, the star sprang onto his piano and kicked one leg high into the air.

“I was a bit surprised. There was lots of improvisation on the piano from Elton. The backup was very good too,” said fan Daniel Boutin who has been going to the performer’s concerts since the 1970s.

“Rocket Man,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and “Gone to Shiloh,” a song John said was, “for the civil war happening right now in the US,” were stand-out favorites during the sold-out show. After what was supposed to be his final avoir, the crowd called to him to return to stage and he returned to sing,“Daniel.”

“Thank you Quebec. I will never forget this night,” John said.
On Sunday, the Plains may have had less people than the night before, but there was no lack excitement. Rockers from every corner of the city braved foreboding clouds and lighting to see Cage the Elephant, Girl Talk, and The Black Keys.

Between Matt Shultz from Cage the Elephant diving into outstretched arms and The Black Keys opening their set while being pelted with rain, Girl Talk started one huge dance party. Confetti, balloons, and approximately twenty teenage dancers created a half-slumber party, half-disco. He samples from a smorgasboard of music, from hip-hop to Kelly Clarkson and dares to merge Beck’s beats with Wu-tang Clan raps. Or mess with John Lennon’s Imagine.

“Honestly, it wasn’t my kind of songs. I didn’t know many of the songs he proposed. It was groovy and stuff,” said Guillaume Cholette, who agrees that the energy was high.

Girl Talk’s first few songs and demands to “Get your hands up,” were met with apathy by the majority of the crowd, but by the last mix most were at least nodding their heads to the rhythm. Many were all out dancing under the rain, connected by a moment in music.