Festival d'été de Québec Remained Canada's Most Elaborate Musical Feast

Featuring Denzel Curry, Lydia Képinski, Hubert Lenoir, Lisa LeBlanc, Ludacris, $uicideboy$

Hubert Lenoir | Photo: Stéphane Bourgeois

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jul 13, 2022

Held annually in the provincial capital of la belle province since 1968, Festival d'été de Québec (FEQ) is one of Canada's largest live music events: a world class experience that plays host to a genre-diverse collection of emerging artists and international stars alike. Its main stage, on the historic Plains of Abraham, can accommodate upwards of 80,000 festivalgoers, while multiple smaller stages — both in- and outdoors — invite fans to walk the blocks in and around the walled city to catch old favourites and new discoveries.

Year over year, this unique environment can make for unquestionable live music magic. In past years, I have seen Sting and Peter Gabriel crack tantric sex jokes before covering songs from each other's catalogue, Metallica morph into a Taiko drum ensemble, Gorillaz and a wealth of guests hit their audio-visual peak and Rae Sremmurd throw one of the wildest, wettest parties the main stage has ever seen.

The 2022 edition of FEQ was no different. Running this year from July 6 through 17, the fest's first weekend was highlighted by a series of celebrated MCs, emerging pop music powers, country-fried cover tunes, the return of a hometown hero, and the biggest kitchen party this country has seen outside Acadia.

July 8

Lydia Képinski

Lydia Képinski's self-described "pop epique" was the ideal soundtrack to ring in FEQ's first weekend, and the effervescent artist brought the energy and moves to match. Making use of a lower stage-front riser to start the set amongst the crowd, Képinski soon had the audience enraptured by the pumped-up electro lean of "L'imposture" and "Vaslaw," and the slower, no less beguiling grooves of "Arbol" and the title track of this year's Depuis.

Flipping her hair, writhing on the floor, and punching and kicking her way across the stage, it was a wonder the singer had any breath left to have her pitch-perfect call-and-response harmonies conjoin with those of backing vocalist Alex Guimond, a member of the talented four-piece band who pushed Képinski's powerful tracks into more exploratory spaces via extended instrumental jams and solo sections.

During "Chlorine," Képinski ducked behind the backline, throwing up the horns with a wicked grin as multi-instrumentalist Blaise Borboën-Léonard laid down a wonderfully warped synth solo, feverishly attacking his keys and mod wheel. Képinski didn't stay hidden for long, closing the set by making a mad dash into her adoring crowd with stage security in hot pursuit.


On recordings and in interviews, Ottawa-bred singer-songwriter TALK comes across as an endearing artist, and he further charmed his Quebec City crowd by sporting one of the weekend's more memorable ensembles: a pair of white overalls with the legs painted like the provincial flag — complete with a single fleurs-de-lis on the chest — rounded out by a Fleurdelisé-turned-cape.

Originals "How Long," "Run Away to Mars" and "Hollywood" showcased the artist's uninhibited vocal style and knack for writing stirring choruses, while covers of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive" and Van Halen's "Eruption" provided a fun, familiar glimpse of the chemistry between frontman and three-piece backing band. The best, if not most unexpected, of the bunch was a rousing a rendition of La Bottine Souriante's Quebecois folk classic "La Ziguezon," which the crowd wasted no time singing along to. 

Matt Lang

Between his snakeskin patterned shirt (and matching guitar strap) and seamless switches between twang en Anglais and fluent French in addressing the crowd, Maniwaki native Matt Lang proved himself a chameleonic country stylist while onstage in his home province. Between bringing Nashville to Quebec with originals "Getcha," "I Woke Up Like This" and "My Final Pour," and showcasing his own multi-instrumental talents with a piano-led cover of Eric Paslay's "She Don't Love You," Lang and his bandmates cycled through a series of rock favourites as if mixed by a DJ.

An extended jam on the main riff of Lenny Kravitz's "Always On the Run" saw four backing instrumentalists take a solo — highlighted by bassist Dan Moranville walking his instrument's neck for some thunderous low end, and pedal steel player Francis Veillette rolling his slide bar up the strings for unique effect — before leading the crowd through lightly country-fried takes on Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" and Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City." The group even worked in a tease of Mötley Crüe's "Dr. Feelgood" before the set was out.

In further displays of the crew's undeniable showmanship, guitarists Etienne Joly and Marcel Rousseau traded solos and swills of beer with one another, while the band were all smiles upon their tour manager ferrying elaborate cocktails to the stage.

Hubert Lenoir

Hubert Lenoir's performance to a packed Place de l'Assemblée-Nationale marked the artist's first show in his home city since 2018, an occasion he felt to be "un veritable homecoming." Now recognized well beyond provincial borders as a creator who is wholly uncompromising in his aural and visual approach, the set felt like a celebration of his accomplishments to this point, and the continued joyous, humorous dismissal of Quebec's staid social and political conservatism that has helped make him a star ascendant.

Lenoir and his expansive band took the stage dressed in fluorescent safety work wear, treating the vocal synth effects of "GOLDEN DAYS" as something of a clarion call, before the songwriter donned a black cowboy hat to gallop headstrong into "MTL STYLE LIBRE" and "DIMANCHE SOIR," choosing a growling, guttural style in the absence of pitch shifting. Not only did he show off his vocal range with a well-loved cover of Jean-Pierre Ferland's "Si on s'y mettait," he also used his voice to both command a mosh pit and call for the safety of crowd members, and declare for the younger generations of Quebecers, "C'est notre province."

The visual aspect of Lenoir's set was further enhanced by a live camera feed operated by creative partner Noémie D. Leclerc, beamed to the venue's video screens. As his band fell into a jazzy jam to segue into "Octembre," Leclerc's lens followed Lenoir backstage to the green room for a costume change, placing an empty wastebasket on his head and draping himself in a quilt that was later lost to the crowd. Following a stage-diving excursion during "Ton hotel," Lenoir had the entire audience get low to the ground as Leclerc trained the camera on a lone defiant 40-something standing with his arms crossed, getting laughs from all in attendance. The camera also caught a cleared out green room beer fridge (met with a thumbs down from Leclerc), saxophonist Felix Petit shredding Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 on Nintendo Switch as Lenoir turned in a dry, droll rendition of LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem," and a stunning sax quartet to highlight beloved single "Fille de personne II."

July 9


Atmosphere is a key component of Dizzy's recorded catalogue, and the festival's main stage on the vast Plains of Abraham was an ideal environment in which to witness its translation to a live setting. Playing through "Roman Candles," vocalist Katie Munshaw exhibited great control between projecting her voice in the chorus and softening things for quieter admissions in its verses. Guitarist Alex Spencer was a treat to watch during songs like "Joshua" and "Roman Candles," moving between his intricate six-string melodies and nebulous held notes achieved through use of a slide and EBow. The rhythm section of bassist Mackenzie Spencer and drummer-synth player Charlie Spencer remained in lockstep even when lending a hand with vocal harmonies, with "Stars and Moons" a highlight for the latter as he worked both his acoustic kit and sample pad for some enhanced hi-hat patterns. The loudest things got all evening was when the adoring crowd chanted for Munshaw to chug her glass of red wine on multiple occasions — a request first met with a sip and a sly smile, before tipping what remained all the way back a few songs later.

P'tit Belliveau

"Ma platform c'est, stop being cool today," P'tit Belliveau told an adoring crowd who were already chanting his name following the first song of the set, relishing the self-effacing nature of the Acadien artist who later summed his artistic aims quite simply: "Ah, le music. C'est le fun." With the audience in the palm of his hand, the songwriter born Jonah Guimond brought listeners into his world with favourites like "Moosehorn Lake" and "J'aimerais d'avoir un John Deere," and out of it with selections like the yearning "J'feel comme un alien" and the bouncy bluegrass of "Black Bear." Requesting audience participation in grand sing-alongs to the vraiment chill "Les bateaux dans la baie" and the worldly, humorous "Mon drapeau Acadjonne viens d'Taiwan," he quipped, "this is not a drill — this is real life." Guimond's remarkably active backing band were undaunted in the occasional instrumental pivot from Acadien folk, to power pop, to punk and metal with a double-kick bass drum occasionally pounding through the venue's PA — a heaviness best captured when I witnessed them break into a cover of Papa Roach's "Last Resort" as a solitary beer can sailed through the air. C'est le fun, indeed.

Lisa LeBlanc

The relationship between rock and the rise of disco music is a piece of prejudiced, socially regressive history, and Lisa LeBlanc — who was introduced by her bandmates as the queen of Acadian banjo and "Chiac Disco" — used her time onstage to make a royal decree befitting of the present day: why not both? Getting a diva's welcome as she strode onstage in a glittery pantsuit — complete with matching cape — LeBlanc was an undeniable force as she led her band through delectable grooves of "Dans l'jus," "Entre toi pi moi pi la corde des bois," and the simmering "Le menu acadien," all of which launched her latest to the 2022 Polaris Music Prize long list. Whether plucking the banjo or strumming her equally sparkly electric guitar, LeBlanc kept her crowd rocking with well-loved cuts like "City Slickers and Country Boys," "You Look Like Trouble (But I Guess I Do Too)" and "Gold Diggin' Hoedown," reaching a fever pitch when she and her band revved into a rollicking cover of Motörhead's "Ace of Spades." A welcome moment of reprieve came in the middle with "Kraft Dinner," for which LeBlanc requested the audience to hold lighters and cell phones alight — likening the twinkling beams of her crowd to globs of powdered packet cheese as opposed to stars.

July 10

Denzel Curry

Earlier this year, Exclaim! explored the way Denzel Curry wields aggression and affectation in his music, and in his Quebec City debut, this duality remained no less intoxicating. Striding onstage to the blissful beat of "Walkin," the Florida-bred artist soon commanded the crowd to "turn this shit up" upon its beat drop, the packed stage-front kicking up a massive dust cloud straight out of the song's sandy music video.

Fully recovered from his torn ACL, Curry moved about the stage in commanding fashion, caring less about the loose in-ear monitor dangling down his back and more about striking stage poses to look as if he were charging up a spirit bomb, or Force pushing his enemies to the brink. There was power in his vocal performance, too, singing the cascading melody in the second verse of "This Life" in pitch-perfect fashion and showcasing dynamic delivery through a particularly bruising run of "Ricky," "Sumo" and "Ultimate."

Curry couldn't settle for a calm crowd, roaring, "give me your energy" before locking into the staccato flow of "ULT," boisterously declaring before later leaving the stage, "I do this shit. I am him, I am here!"


A cancellation from 2 Chainz led to fellow Atlantan Ludacris taking the stage to a packed crowd alongside fellow local legends Lil Fate and DJ Infamous. In this moment, it wasn't wrong to think that some of the younger audience members may know him better from a certain film franchise than an eight-album studio catalogue and myriad guest verses. "Where my Fast and Furious fans at?" he asked the crowd early on, sharing how he was fresh off the plane from shooting the forthcoming Fast X to be on the Plains of Abraham Sunday evening.

It really didn't matter that he hasn't released a record since 2015's lukewarm Ludaversal, delivering a consummate set of well-loved smashes that served to demonstrate the enduring ubiquity of Ludacris as rapper, actor and entertainer. The hits were in no short supply: after striding onstage to "Southern Fried," Infamous cued up the equivalent of an audio clip show that included Luda's verse from Jermaine Dupri's "Welcome to Atlanta," "Number One Spot" and "Act a Fool," the last of which the MC and Lil Fate used to gauge audience volume from their respective sides of the stage. It doesn't matter how played-out that exercise can seem: the crowd lovingly ate it up quicker than Chicken-n-Beer.

At the request of "party music" from the Ludacris catalogue ("Y'all fuck with EDM music?") his guest spot on Usher's "Yeah" led into a reminder of appearances on Taio Cruz's "Break Your Heart" and "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)" by Enrique Iglesias, followed by a reclamation of Fergie's "Glamorous" from that languorous Jack Harlow single with a flash of his gleaming bust-down Jesus piece and matching chain for the stage cameras.

A brief ceding of the stage to DJ Infamous saw the crowd get whipped into frenzy with spins of House of Pain, DMX, Nirvana and Lil Jon, before Luda returned to orchestrate one of the weekend's most unforgettable scenes from my side-stage vantage point: a mass of tens of thousands hollering the hook to "Move."


Rather than comb through the extensive discography of $uicideboy$ for research before watching their headlining set, I chose to leap blindly into the performance of the New Orleans punk-rap duo without expectations. The duo of Ruby da Cherry and $crim, who are also cousins, scaled the mountain of SoundCloud-based style in recent years on the allure of abrasive production and corrosive lyricism — a devilish dovetailing that led them and their G*59 Records label to reportedly secure an eight-figure record deal.

Prowling around the stage in front of an inflatable skull, the duo's chemistry as performers was their strength, whether pulling out tracks from last year's Long Term Effects of Suffering or digging into their myriad mixtapes to play tracks they admittedly hadn't performed in years. Between the bleak stage banter ("Fuck all the haters, the government, all the religions … Fuck it all, you know what I'm talkin' about?") and multiple asks to "open up like six fuckin' pits," the eager crowd hung on their every word.

$crim, who soon removed his ski mask under the stage lights to reveal a wealth of detailed face tats, had his meticulous delivery enhanced by the energy inherent to the live environment. Ruby, a commanding MC in his own right, demonstrated an impressive vocal range in melodic moments of tracks like "Meet Mr. NICEGUY" and "And to Those I Love, Thanks for Sticking Around," at times holding high notes as something of a textural accompaniment to $crim's spit. Their lone moment of true separation involved them organizing simultaneous "wall of death" moshes on their respective sides of the stage, laying down pit law of picking concertgoers up who had fallen, and warning, "If you're scared, just get the fuck out the way," before the drop of "Memoirs of a Gorilla" kicked off the collision.

By the set's end, it was understood that $uicideboy$ were not overtly dedicated to self-destruction, but living this occasionally cursed existence to the fullest — whether it includes FaceTiming friends who couldn't be there, reverently sloshing a can of Coors on anyone within five feet of you, or lending a hand up to those who are down.

Jazz Cartier

"Last time I played FEQ, I broke the stage," Jazz Cartier shared with the crowd inside the Quebec City Armoury. "So we gon' turn this up so I'm back outside next year."

Though he's now based in Los Angeles, the MC will always have a home in Canada, evidenced by the rapturous reception he received in his late-night performance slot. An 11:30 p.m. start time on a Sunday is not the most enviable of positions, but Cartier arrived ready, bounding on stage and promptly sloshing a water bottle on the first few rows.

The boundless confidence that carried him through Toronto's rap ranks was felt in his performance of more recent material like "Itchin' for a Lick," "Which One" and "Disclosure," while fan favourites "Red Alert," "New Religion" and "Tempted" found his audience more than ready to ramp up the energy in the late hour with push pits and skyward hands.

Cartier was often seen up on the guardrail — capturing the moment with fans' phones and his own — before having the crowd hold him aloft to bring the house down with "Dead or Alive." Perhaps Quebec City should be his next stop should he grow tired of the West Coast, his name sounding infinitely more stylish when chanted by the francophone crowd.

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