So Montebello’s Amnesia Rockfest 2017 was amazing! Another great lineup of talent, reaching all corners of the globe, and encompassing a variety of styles. Again another 100,000 or so people descend on this wickedly beautiful little village, and they run amuck. Music is coming from every corner and can be heard for miles. Artists from Germany, Mexico, and all over the United States and Canada take the stage, as dust rises from the dirty boots of thousands of punk rockers and metalheads, and I got to witness it all from a very unique vantage point.
This is Rockfest year four for me, but this was the first time that Sound Check Entertainment was ever accredited, and with our media passes, we were granted a lot of access to a lot of doors that would generally remain closed. The whole experience of watching your favourite bands from side stage as 100,000 people mosh, crowd surf and sing along in front of you is really quite breathtaking, but truthfully it didn’t matter where you were standing.
Sure, I mean I am super grateful. I’ve very lucky and I will be posting more about my experiences in the coming days. That said, one thing that really kind of brought it down a notch for me, was that I was alone. I ran into some friends and I made a ton of new ones. I met heroes, but I slept in my car, and at the end of the day had no one with me to share the experiences with.
For a brief moment in time this year, I was involved with someone who had a child of their own. I would daydream about being that super cool dad who shows up driving a limo to prom. Or taking the little lady to get her first tattoo. Being the punk rock dad fit me well, I thought. I relished the idea of being apart of their first concert and having them come see me play live with Project Mantra, bragging to their friends about how their dad was cooler.
It’s silly, I know. Basically prototypical male ego. After all, the concerts and the tattoos and the shared experiences like that are great. But it’s really the things like changing a shitty diaper or taking them to get immunized that matters. Being a dad means a lot of things to a lot of people. To my friend Hugh, it was all of the above.
There was this cool moment I had last night. I was standing backstage talking with Noodles (legendary lead guitarist for multi-platinum punk rock icons The Offspring), doing my best not to be a total fanboy (which I definitely did more than I’d like to admit this past weekend), and as I was thanking him for being so welcoming to me, he stopped me mid-sentence to introduce me to his son. He’s a nice guy who probably does this all the time, but I remember feeling much obliged that someone of his stature isn’t bothered by me praising him for being himself. Instead he’s like “Way cool man. I appreciate you. But have you met my awesome son?”
Throughout Rockfest, I saw a lot of this. Tucker Rule of Thursday taking a break from catching his favourite live act to call his wife; The Offspring’s drummer Peter bringing his beautiful daughter on stage with him, earphones in hand; a simple t-shirt worn by a passerby who is obviously expecting a child, with a baby flashing rock and roll devil horns; George of Alexisonfire telling me about chasing his seven year old around. I could go on and on, to further illustrate my point that family is a crucial part of inspiration for many artists to set the stage on fire. But while I can go on and on, unfortunately my friend Hugh can’t anymore.
You see, Hugh and I were never close, but I always looked up to him. He’s from here in Brockville, and was a proud father to a charming cutie pie named Katie, who I’ve gotten to know pretty well over the years. We chat from time to time, and run into each other periodically when she is at a concert or music festival. Each time, almost without question, she was there with her righteous dad.
I saw Hugh around a lot. He was never short on humour, jokes, smiles or friendly greetings. He was a lifeguard at our local YMCA, and he always treated me like a rock star. Always asked about my music. And just this past week (literally just before he departed for Montebello) I ran into him at a local beer store where he was more than likely stocking up for a weekend shindig with his beloved family.
He always bragged about going to these festivals. And I always really dug that about him. He was proud of his kid. Proud of his family. And truly seemed to love the music. He always asked me about mine like it mattered because to him it probably did.
I remember when I was running for council, he stopped me at his door and said “you can count on our votes Leigh. We are proud of you. You’re doing great things. So have you heard this new record by…” And so the story always went.
Hugh didn’t make it home this past weekend. While I was chilling with Thursday and The Offspring and The Specials, Hugh quietly passed away not far from the festival grounds, which garnered national media attention. He spent the last hours of his life at a concert, jamming out to Bad Religion with his beautiful family.
I have to be honest, part of me was envious of that. He was a 60 year old punk rock dad. He was that friendly face that we all loved to see coming. And he went out in style, in Montebello. The beers were cold. The songs were loud. He was happy.
Today’s lesson is simple. Don’t take life for granted. Be like Hugh! We need more people like Hugh. I hope I’m as cool at 60 as he was, and I hope one day I have a family of my own to share countless concerts and laughs and smiles with.
No doubt tomorrow, my quaint community will feel a little less like home.
One day, when my band and I finally make it to the Rockfest stage, I will raise my glass to Hugh. Yes, we’ve always got Montebello, my man. Here’s looking at you!
Watch for more of my Rockfest coverage coming up later this week!