Giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the annual outdoor rock/punk music festival Amnesia Rockfest 2016, the founder Alex Martel talks about the origin of the festival, the small host town of Montebello, Quebec, his role in this incredible undertaking and what everyone should be keeping their eyes open for this year.
Founded in 2005 by then 17-year-old Alex Martel and located in a small, beautiful countryside village of Montebello, Quebec (900 residents and 1 000 cows), bordering the Outaouais River, Amnesia Rockfest is celebrating its 11th Edition on June 23-26, 2016, with an insane lineup. Tickets are on sale now via this location.
The line-up features Blink-182, Rise Against, Jane’s Addiction, Ice Cube, A Day to Remember, Bring Me the Horizon, Kornm, Limp Bizkit, At the Drive-In, Billy Talent, Lamb of God, Sum 41, Anthrax, the Used, Lagwagon, Max & Igor Cavalera of Sepultura, Twisted Sister, Maynard James Keenan’s Puscifer, Travis Barker, Fat Mike as Cokie the Clown, Underoath, Millencolin, Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Against Me!, Strung Out, D.O.A., Turbonegro, Guttermouth, Leftover Crack, Streetlight Manifesto, Flag, GG Allin and No Use for a Name tributes, Sodom, D.R.I., Cannibal Corpse, Korpiklaani, Corrosion of Conformity, the Black Dahlia Murder, the Faceless, Poison the Well, Grimskunk, Despised Icon, the Sainte Catherines, Voivod, and a lot more!
Photos by Nick Ghattas. Top photo: DEFTONES live at Amnesia Rockfest 2015.
Hey there! Thank you so much for taking some time with IDIOTEQ! How are you? How’s Montebello?
I’m great! Montebello is sunny and beautiful as always.
A rock fest created in 2005 by a 17 year old kid’ sounds crazy! Please share some thoughts on the very beginning of this festival experience. What prompted you to organize the fest in Montebello?
I grew up in Montebello, which is a small town of 900 residents in the middle of nowhere, so there was no concerts here. I had to go to bigger cities all the time. I just wanted to create something in my hometown, so I did.
Apart from its outstanding location, what separates Amnesia Rockfest from other music gatherings?
There’s obviously the insane lineup of 130 bands, which is very stacked. Also, there’s really a unique vibe during Rockfest. The whole town gets taken over by tens of thousands of rockers, punks and metalheads. All the locals gets involved. It’s a very friendly party atmosphere where anything goes.
Who was it that you first talked with about setting up something that original? What helped you go from an idea to a reality?
I asked some friends if they wanted to help me a bit. Then I went to a city councilor who helped secure the festival grounds. My dad and my uncle built the stage and my mom took care of box office, which is pretty crazy. That’s really how it started, just me and those around me helping as volunteers.
How many people attended the first edition of the fest?
We had 3 bands and 500 people the first year, so it started pretty small. I’m actually pretty proud of that, we really did things DIY and we made it.
What were the line-ups first editions? Was it a similar mixture of artists to Amnesia Rockfest 2015 and 2016?
It was mostly local bands and popular Quebec bands. GRIMSKUNK was our headliner the first year. I used to be in a band called DEADLY APPLES and we opened the very first Rockfest, so I got to open my own festival.
When you first launched this project, did you anticipate it would grow to this huge level?
I had wild dreams, but I didn’t take them too seriously because it didn’t seem realistic. But reality totally exceeded my dreams, I feel very thankful.
What are your most memorable experiences from past editions? Also, what have you learned through organizing this festival through all these years?
There’s too many to list. As far as what I learned, I would say everything. The main thing I learned is that this is a very tough industry on many levels, but it’s all worth it in the end.
What makes it so exciting to want to do this year after year? What do you think keeps Amnesia Rockfest alive?
I love what I do, it’s my passion and a dream job. Not all parts of it are fun and there’s tons of work, but seeing the end result is always worth it.
What is your favorite part of Amnesia Rockfest?
Overall, I’d say that seeing my hometown totally transformed during the fest is a great feeling. It’s crazy to think that I’m responsible for all that. Getting to see so many bands that I used to listen to when I was a teenager, now playing in my backyard, is also quite insane.
When thinking of one of my favorite independent festivals in Europe, like Ieperfest or Fluff Fest, there are a lot of non-musical events that make them so special. Green policies, workshops, presentations, movie screenings, ‘more than music’ ethos, etc. Does Amnesia Rockfest offer some non-concert attractions and added values?
Yes for sure. We have comedy, amusement rides, circus attractions, etc. Just walking in town and in the campgrounds is an experience.
Ok, so how about you? Can you tell us what do you do after while not organizing this festival?
It’s really year-round, that’s all I do and I enjoy it.
Where do you see Amnesia Rockfest in 10 years?
Hopefully bigger and better. We always want to keep evolving and improving everything year after year. I never want to rest on my laurels.
Lastly, as you are in a position of great influence for anyone who’s up to putting up their first local festival, in just one sentence, what makes a great music fest?
I would highly suggest not getting into this business in the first place. I’m one of the very lucky few throughout the world that made it on an independent level, but the failures are countless. So it wouldn’t be fair to advise anyone to get into it knowing the odds.
Thanks so much for your thoughts and loads of information! Cheers and good luck with this year’s edition! Best!
Thanks for your support!