It has been a week. Exactly. To the hour.
It’s been a week since we texted each other in excitement on our way to the 8th edition of LeFestif! : “OMG, J’ai trop hâte!!!”
Every year, I get a call from my dear friend: FESTIF?!? , and every year I scream “Yes!!!!!” As soon as the dates were announced, we jumped on the phone and rented the exact the same room, in the exact same hotel, with the exact same computer-confused front desk gentleman, crossing our fingers that the price will stop increasing so we can be exactly a 20-min walk away from the main center of activities, with the breathtaking beach and mountain view, where the ocean breeze tickles our nostrils and freezes our bones come sundown.
So we leave Montreal Friday at noon, with suitcases filled with outfits we will never wear and shoes that betray our urbanism. Because every year as we get ready, we realize that LeFestif! is not about fashion, feathers in your hair, crop tops and fancy sunglasses : it’s about the people as people and the unpretentious vibe of it all. And despite our experience, we still manage to be cold year after year because well…we’re Montrealers and we don’t own the small “puffy jacket”.
As we enter the bay, Fleetwood Mac blares in our car and we keep saying “Mon dieu que c’est beau” and “yeah!!!”, downloading the LeFestif! app, starting to plan our magical musical weekend.
Apérol Spritz on our balcony, and we’re off to the shows. Unfortunately we miss Laura Sauvage and Plants and Animals, having prioritized the drinks and avoided the thunderstorm but we have seen them a few times already. For city-folks, the programmation is not a must-absolutely-see situation, as we are lucky enough for most bands to play once, if not 3 times a year, in our big city. Music is but a conduit, or a great excuse, to vacation within our beautiful province, instead of spending it on cheap rum in Cuba.
We set foot on-site, the thunderstorm having finally finished its daily clean-up and no one seems to care that their hair is frizzy and dripping wet. The sun returns and terraces are bustling with happy campers all around this massive church acting as the central rendez-vous point of the festival. Our congregation for the weekend.
And the fun begins : Xavier Rudd (wow a didgeridoo!) , We Are Wolves (wow they’re wearing masks and costumes), then run to the other stage for Karim Ouellet (wow, is he playing Jump Around!!!), but then Qualité Motel always throws a hell of a party in the tent, and they are playing right now….let’s do it all!!! And we do it all.
We run, we mingle, we sing, we jump around, we see friends, we see people we haven’t seen in ages “omg, I haven’t seen you in ages!” and we know that even if we get split up, we will always end up meeting again somewhere. That’s the beauty of LeFestif!
As the night progresses, our voices get more high-pitched, our eyes get a bit more glossy, and I may or may not be on the hunt for French Fries.
We hang with the guys from We Are Wolves and Valaire in their loge/room in an art gallery. “Here, have more beer” says an unknown girl who just refilled my glass. The great ceremony of the beer sharing has me speechless. Definately, the generosity of these Baie St-Paulois is contagious.
4 am comes around, it’s freezing, and as I repeat it over and over, my friend tells me “okay, okay let’s go home”. We start our walk towards the sea, the sun is just starting to bathe the sky in a dark indigo blue, reflecting everywhere on the water. We see stars, and Venus, shining brightly in front of us. “C’est-tu beau, hen?” and “Man, why does our hotel seem sooo far, it’s freezing!!”
DAY 2 – SATURDAY
I wake up too early but the sun is shining, and the beach is calling. We grab our favoirite breakfast buffet at the hotel, get a coffee to go and I’m on my way to the beach with my New York Times crossword. As I’m sitting and looking at the receding tide creating puddle of argyle (or mud, as the locals call it), I hear Philippe B and Sarah Toussaint-Léveillé sound checking full songs at the stage on the docks. It’s a magical moment of serenity, relaxation and thinking “I’m pretty lucky”.
My friend is out for a run (who does she think she is). I get a text from another friend : ” There’s a super good outdoor showcase in a backyard! ” I’m on my way. I catch an amazing set by Amélie No (like seriously, what a soulful voice) . I’m sitting on the grass, vibing, someone offers me cherries. I’m burning in the sun and it’s simply perfect.
My friend comes back from her run “I found new paths in the woods that lead all the way to the city center, it’s so beautiful!! And there seems to be a super nice spa with people hanging in bathrobe everywhere. We should come back some time!” And we will.
We’re starving, but I really want to see Peter Peter, so we compromise by sitting at Microbrasserie Charlevoix. Despite the heavy crowds, the bartender is fantastic, the food is great and the soundtrack from the show next door makes it all the more delightful. 3 hours later, we leave. Philippe Fehmiu and Ici Musique are organizing a BBQ with surprise guests and free punch.
Under the sun we witness great local talents singing intimately and beautifully. Faces everywhere light up, everyone is filled with nice vibes. A beautiful moment.
And back for more food we go. The restaurant L’Orange Bistro has become our spot year after year. The manager is lovely and they are ready for action. We get the same table as last year, and like everything else on this trip, it overly excites us. We eat delicious local food.
Then, I confess : “The only two things I really want to see tonight are Voivod and Daniel Bélanger. “, in the same sentence.
We catch the last 4 songs of Voivod, warm up our cold little hands and headbang until my hair feels twice as big. Time of my life!
Then we hed over to the softer side of things. Daniel Bélanger, whether he’s your style or not, he is undeniably a great songwriter and is surrounded by the tightest band of all time. The crowd warms up by singing along to songs they didn’t even know they knew!
Click here for the Daniel Bélanger video.
The cold air and the intricate soft melodies may have gotten the best of us, we decide to skip the rest of the night and wake up early to enjoy the morning sun before our departure. We walk home singing Rêver mieux.
We enjoy our last moments in this beautiful town, our last moments at our lovely hotel.
I make a run for the argyle beach, a local man smirks at me when I cannot contain my happiness, my two feet in argyle. “when we were kids, we played in this mud all day”….mud?!? Euh…do you mean argyle good sir?
We’re on our way out, and I beg for my friend to stop at Fraîcheurs et Saveurs for some much-needed candy provisions. It might be the best candy shop in the province, so I load up.
100$ of candy later, we drive away. We wave goodbye to the mountains, and the beach and the stars and the sun and the fresh air.
“That was amazingly fun” . Let’s do it next year?
The festival is the definition of what art and music should be and should do. Unify in happiness. The pouvoir rassembleur of music travels through mountains and oceans, and is the fuel of emotions necessary to promote these small beautiful communities.
Thank you CHARLES MILLER
Thank you BAIE ST-PAUL
Thank you BAIE ST-PAUL people, from friendly cops to patient neighbours, for being so chill and awesome with all of us.
We love you.