So I was sitting in the media lounge at Montebello’s Rockfest. The chalet was beautiful, the staff was welcoming, and the iced coffee had the perfect amount of pep and kick. I was charging my phone battery and preparing for a second day of incredible live music, when who should walk in to charge their phones but punk rock icons Good Riddance.
I sit there recalling my youth spent (not wasted) listening to the likes of them, Pennywise, Bad Religion, and a whole collection of others who are gracing the stages in Montebello throughout the weekend, and I begin to salivate.
You see, there is this old Bob Seger line about how “rock and roll never forgets,” but in this case it is more that punk rock helps you remember. It brings me back to a moment where my hair was fire engine red and my t-shirt was torn, and I was standing in a mass of sweaty and drunken humanity at some loft flat, falling in love with the sounds of someone else’s anger. This sentiment would recreate itself multiple times throughout the weekend, and no doubt I must have looked like quite the juvenile star-chaser, getting lost in countless moments that helped me remember what it was like to feel something I have been often guilty of forgetting.
When I asked Good Riddance for some advice for an aspiring musician like myself or someone like me, they summed it up pretty honestly. “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re more focused on making it then enjoying it, it becomes just another job.” And with those words if wisdom, my punk rock heart began to beat a little faster.
Standing in an overcast mist, watching AFI (A Fire Inside) perform on the main stage the afternoon before this encounter, I recalled a moment in my history where I cuddled into a friend to stop from shivering in between the security doors of an apartment complex in Montreal, after boarding a train with only the clothes on my back, to catch AFI just after the release of their widely successful “December Underground” album. As I watched them perform what would be classic hits by today’s standards (sounding just as fresh as they did a decade ago), I remembered what it was like to be a goth kid who lived and died by every word (“every word”) on that record, and how when Davey Havok sings “I will wait for you,” I realise I am still waiting for my Harley Quinn, and still singing songs about “my Holy Fuck,” just like he sang “I fall asleep for you, oh my beautiful one,” on Sing The Sorrow.
What began to shape in my mind is how an article about how The Offspring sounded “like really good, man” just wouldn’t cut it. Rockfest was more than nostalgia for me. It was like coming home. Except I was coming home to a stage I have never played (hey Rockfest folks, Project Mantra is totally available next year and we will totally play really good and stuff), but instead I was coming home to a feeling like the world was new even if “the song remains the same.”
You see, I’m thirty years old (I know, ick), and being that pissed off kid waiting for the new CD by my favourite band I just discovered at Music World is getting farther and farther away from who I am now. That said, when 100,000 plus people congregate in a small Quebec village, with liberty spikes mowhawks, Stooges t-shirts, and tattoos for as far as the eye can see, it’s hard not to feel like you belong to a very special club of people who don’t need your approval. They’re fine being whoever the fuck they want to be, and they’re happy to share that moment in their histories with you.
Watching an audience of thousands lose their mind as Rammstein plows through a pyrotechnics-filled performance, and everyone joins together with their best drunken-German version of “Du Hast,” or listening to an energized audience literally explode into flames while Alexisonfire chimes in with the chorus of “Young Cardinals,” there was really nowhere else I would have rather been.
The Offspring delivered like they always do. At The Drive-In still perform at a level that is truly legendary. Good Charlotte were nice guys. The Queens of The Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal were perpetual rock Gods. And The Specials brought us back to the roots of how this counter culture was birthed.
All I did was allow myself to be a kid again, and it was beautiful…and loud.
Oh, how I miss you Montebello.