Interview with Amnesia Rockfest spokesperson Mathieu Marcotte | By Joe Smith-Engelhardt
Rural Quebec seems like a strange place to hold a massive rock and metal festival, but for one weekend a year, the tiny town of Montebello is consumed by the gargantuan Amnesia Rockfest. In its 11th year, the festival returned with another stellar lineup that included a diverse range of artists such as Blink-182, Ice Cube, Bring Me The Horizon, Lamb Of God, and over 100 other acts.
Amnesia Rockfest began when 17-year-old Alex Martel decided to bring the bands he wanted to see to his hometown instead of traveling to big cities for their shows. The first edition of the festival drew 500 people consisting mostly of locals, including Rockfest spokesperson Mathieu Marcotte. “Alex started the festival with two things in mind,” he explains. “First, bring the bands to our hometown. We always had to travel to see our favorite bands, and it was nice to have them play in Montebello. Second, he played the first few editions with his band, so he created a place where he could play his songs in front of an audience. Over the years, he stopped playing with his band at the fest, because there wasn’t enough time and he had too much on his plate. But he overachieved with the first part and the bands we had access to got more and more interesting, which was a great source of motivation to keep going!”
With a population of only 900, Montebello is a very small community with many great businesses run by friendly residents who are more than welcoming of the roughly 200,000 attendees the festival draws today. There are a number of challenges that come with running a festival of this size, such as accommodations for attendees, booking the bands, and running the festival smoothly the entire time, but Marcotte says one of the hardest challenges is dealing with every artists’ needs. “Usually, the bands are really nice, but they have teams working for them whose sole interest is the well-being of their artist,” he says. “This is their job, and it’s OK, but it’s hard to please all of them; sometimes, some requests might be—let’s say ‘unreasonable.’”
Amnesia Rockfest ran into a bit of a media scandal during their 2013 installment when many media outlets called them out for being disorganized and unprepared for the volume of people. “Our hardest year was probably 2013, where the festival got bigger than we expected,” Marcotte recalls. “It was not as dramatic as some media outlets made it out to be, but it was the year where we learned the most. The good thing is a lot of people still see 2014 as the best edition, so the adjustments paid off.”
Amnesia Rockfest has gone from being one teenager’s way to see his favorite bands in his hometown to one of the largest music festivals in North America in just over 10 years, so where could they possibly go from here? According to Marcotte, the plan is to see how long they can keep it up. “We celebrated our 10th anniversary last year. Nobody expected the Amnesia Rockfest to last this long, but now, we’re in it for the long run,” he says. “It would be amazing to celebrate the 20th, 30th, and—why not?—50th anniversary one day! But, for the next few years, our goal is simple: be the best rock festival in the world.”