About This Festival
A Weighty History
Based on its sheer scale, the Festival d'été de Québec (FEQ) is a major contender for the top slot when it comes to North American festivals. With 300 shows, spread out over 10 stages in 11 days, it’s a behemoth that continues to draw major headliners and massive crowds year after year. And unlike a lot of newcomers to the circuit, it has a weighty history behind it. Founded in 1968, it was originally intended by local community leaders to showcase Quebec’s local artists, street performers, and musicians. However, since the 1980s it’s been an all-encompassing, international extravaganza with artists in genres spanning rock, French song, hip-hop, electro, jazz, world music, and more.
Making and Breaking Records
When it comes to FEQ’s street-cred, the festival is responsible for a number of firsts. Attendance regularly tops 1 million, a feat that FEQ first accomplished in 2007. The festival’s largest venue, the Bell Stage, has an audience capacity of 80,000 and also happens to be the biggest freestanding stage in North America, proudly constructed in Quebec. Projecting 200,000 watts of sound, it boasts a surface area bigger than a football field.
The lineups at FEQ boast performers—both old school and new school—that leave music-lovers bursting with anticipation. In the past three years alone, headliners have included Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses, Lionel Richie, Elton John, Lady Gaga, The Killers and Billy Joel. Try finding a list that includes names of such caliber in a single festival lineup in the US, and you’ll be searching for a while.
One might think that a festival of this size and scale would result in an event that is too unruly and unmanageable to actually enjoy. But the organization and thoughtfulness of those who in charge are second to none. All of the venues in Downtown Quebec are within walking distance of each other, which means there is no worry about transport or parking once you’ve arrived. The downtown area is completely integrated with public transportation, and festival-goers are offered a special FestiBUS ticket, which is designed specifically for attendees.
Easy Access for a Song
To manage the large crowds and keep things running smoothly, festival organizers were the first to introduce RFID (radio-frequency identification) wristbands, which contain a small tag that is detected when tapped on a reader to ensure easy entrance and exit to various venues. Another major bonus is that the festival is incredibly affordable given what it offers. An all-inclusive, transferable 11-day pass costs $78 Canadian dollars (less than $70 USD), which is a steal of a deal to see the quality of acts that the festival boasts. There are more expensive options for those who want to be closer to the action, including the Front Stage Zone card and inclusive hotel packages for those who want to stay in Quebec City.
The beauty of FEQ is the diversity offered among the indoor and outdoor stages. Whether you want to catch a huge headline act at the Bell Stage or Loto-Quebec Stage, or catch an intimate blues gig at the Le Petit Imperial, there is something for everyone. Those who have a full festival pass are entitled to all gigs, but some are also open to the public, which creates a community-driven and all-inclusive vibe that’s worth celebrating. Just make sure you show up early for major acts, because they will undoubtedly fill up quickly.
In keeping with its roots and history, Downtown Quebec is rife with street performers throughout the festival, specifically on historic Saint-Jean Street, providing attendees with ample entertainment as they walk from one festival venue to another. One could easily be entertained even without a ticket to the actual event. For those attending with families, there’s also a dedicated section for children, complete with acrobats, shows, activities, a picnic area and face painting. It truly is not an overstatement to say that there’s something for everyone at Quebec’s favorite yearly party.