At the ripe age of 17, Alex Martel started inviting punks and metalheads alike to get loud in his small hometown of Montebello, Quebec, which boasts just 900 residents — and 1,000 cows, according to its website. Convening between neighbouring Ottawa and Montréal and bordering the Ottawa River, the town has been host to Montebello Rockfest (formerly Amnesia Rockfest) since 2005, and has blown up from a 500-person musical celebration into a 200,000 person event featuring some of the weightiest names in heavy metal, punk, hip-hop, and every subgenre in between. Usually coinciding with the St-Jean-Baptiste holiday, Montebello takes place annually in mid-June, inviting concertgoers to camp out amid Quebecois summer vibes.
The festival has welcomed genre staples like glam metal band Mötley Crüe, California rap icon Snoop Dogg and horror punk outfit the Misfits. Musicians who play the festival seem to have a high return rate, too: Blink 182, the Offspring, Rise Against and NOFX have all played the bill on two or more occasions. Even Twisted Sister’s Dee Snyder, whose crew member wrote a cyber complaint about the treatment the ’80s band received at the event in 2016, made his return in 2017. To boot, veteran performers have been known to play “secret shows”; Rancid’s Tim Armstrong broke out into acoustic song on a sidewalk twice during the 2014 gathering.
Canadian acts are also well represented, with five-piece St. Catharines, ON darlings Alexisonfire, ska favourites the Planet Smashers and Juno Award-winning pop-punk outfit Sum 41 all taking the stage through the years. Alex Martel’s own band Deadly Apples have fronted Montebello Rockfest on multiple occasions, as well.
2012 saw the last ever performances by the late Tony Sly of No Use for a Name and Mitch Lucker of Suicide Silence, after both died tragically later that year. In memoriam, Montebello named two new hardcore and punk stages after the late frontmen.