Festival d'ete de Quebec: A Night of Legends

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Quebec City's massive annual celebration of music, the 11-day Festival d'ete de Quebec (FEQ), is known for presenting a very wide variety of performers. Acts come from all over the world to play at the festival, and fans also come from all over to hear pop, rock, world, reggae, rap, folk, blues, electronic music and plenty of sung-in-French homegrown music from the stars of the Quebec scene. FEQ took place this year from July 4-14, and while there was plenty of excitement to be had at all of the stages scattered throughout historic old town Quebec City, the shows that took place on the Bell Stage, FEQ's largest venue, were the shows that really worked the crowd into a frenzy. And the show that took place there on July 6 was nothing short of legendary.

It's not unusual for superstar talent to appear on FEQ's Bell Stage; this year alone saw Mariah Carey, Imagine Dragons, Slipknot, Twenty One Pilots, Alt-J, Level 42, Corey Hart, A Flock of Seagulls, Diplo, Logic, the Offspring and Chvrches perform on the big stage. It's not unusual either for a particular evening's entertainment to feature more than one big act; July 6 was one such evening as the Bell Stage hosted Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening and Lynyrd Skynyrd, who are in the midst of their farewell tour.

Festival d'ete de Quebec 2019Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul horn section (Photo courtesy of Renaud Philippe)

Little Steven's show began with the exceptionally raucous R&B of "Communion" as the Disciples of Soul came marching onto the stage; the horn section honking with glee, the trio of backup singers twirling colorful parasols, and the rest of the band laying down the groove. Little Steven Van Zandt is of course one of the guitarists for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, and the singer was dressed familiarly, all scarves and dangling earrings, like a rock 'n' roll pirate. "Camouflage of Righteousness" came next, featuring Van Zandt's first hot guitar solo of the evening and adding a touch of psychedelia to the mix. The band played the appropriately bluesy "I Visit the Blues" and afterward, always the rock 'n' roll scholar, Van Zandt introduced "Love Again" by noting that on this day in rock history John Lennon first met Paul McCartney. "Gravity," "Los Desaparecidos," "Superfly Terraplane" (with the horn section wearing sombreros) and "Bitter Fruit" finished the short but powerful set.

Festival d'ete de Quebec 2019Little Steven Van Zandt (Photo courtesy of Renaud Philippe)

Festival d'ete de Quebec 2019Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening singer James Dylan (Photo courtesy of Renaud Philippe)

Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening began their set with a take on the howling "Immigrant Song," following it up with "Good Times Bad Times." While singer James Dylan is actually the band's front man, Bonham, the son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, is the group's leader and spokesman. Addressing the crowd before playing "Over the Hills and Far Away," Bonham noted that he started the band nine years ago "to honor the best drummer ever, my dad!" The guys kept the set list to pre-Physical Graffiti, rocking through "The Ocean," "What is and What Should Never Be," "Ramble On," "Whole Lotta Love" and of course "Stairway to Heaven." In a surprise move, the band additionally played "Rock and Roll" before they left the stage. Certainly no band can ever replace "The Mighty Zep," but Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening is about as close as you can get.

Festival d'ete de Quebec 2019Jason Bonham (Photo courtesy of Renaud Philippe)

The Bell Stage entertainment for the night finished up with a lengthy and satisfying set from the most popular southern rock band of all time, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Each show that Skynyrd plays these days is especially precious as the band, after a long career filled with success and marred by tragedy, will soon stop touring. The big, guitar heavy line-up is fronted by singer Johnny Van Zant, the brother of late original singer Ronnie Van Zant. The early part of the set included "Workin' for MCA," "Skynyrd Nation," "What's Your Name," "That Smell" and the fast dance of "I Know a Little." The band's two most-adored songs, "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird" were of course saved for the end of the set, with other fan favorites like "Saturday Night Special," "Tuesday's Gone" "Simple Man" and "Gimme Three Steps" preceding the big finish. With visuals projected on a screen behind the band, the group honored all of their fallen members, of which there have been many.

Festival d'ete de Quebec 2019Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarists Rickey Medlocke and Gary Rossington (Photo courtesy of Renaud Philippe)

The amazing lineup that played out on the Bell Stage on July 6 was typical of the star-powered fun that could be had there on any given night, but FEQ always offers fun not only on the stages, but also with the giant street party that takes place between them. Some of the things attendees enjoyed (for free) this year were street performers like stilt walkers, games of skill and chance, free samples (the Bubbly truck was, well, effervescent), giant musical seesaws, displays of new car models and lots more. There was even a small upright piano available to be played by all comers. The array of food trucks are always popular too, especially those that sell one of Canada's most unique and favorite snacks, poutine.

Festival d'ete de Quebec 2019Lynyrd Skynyrd vocalist Johnny Van Zant (Photo courtesy of Renaud Philippe)

Some of the other performers appearing this year included blues legend Buddy Guy, +Live+, Taking Back Sunday, A Day to Remember, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Killswitch Engage, Bahamas, Braids, Radio Elvis, Mercury Rev, Voivod, Courtney Barnett and Between the Buried and Me. Details of the 2020 Festival d'ete de Quebec will be announced next spring here.

Photos provided by Festival d'ete de Quebec

Festival d'ete de Quebec: A Night of Legends

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