Written by Victoria Dvorsky
It’s the end of summer and the cold temperatures may make it seem like it’s time to start hibernating; but, don’t lose hope just yet.
Warm up this Saturday (September 26th) at MRCY Fest. This stellar music festival features a diversified line up with musical headliners like Alabama Shakes and Mac Miller. MRCY Fest is not just about music; the site located at Espace Montmorency includes a visual arts exhibition and the “Chill Forest” where you can sit down relax and enjoy a cold beer. I had the chance to speak with MRCY Fest’s creator and organizer Julien Aidelbaum. Not only did I get the low down on the festival, but I had the unforgettable chance to speak with the Alabama Shakes’ guitarist Heath Fogg.
Although MRCY Fest is only in its second year, it has already pulled in a variety of bands and artists including: A$AP FERG, Kodaline, Local Natives, The Joy Formidable, July Talk, Battles, Angel Haze, Safia Nolin, Misterwives and Alaclair Ensemble. The festival site includes two stages on opposite ends; but, don’t worry, the MRCY Fest organizers were kind enough to plan the schedule out so that you don’t have to chose between acts.
You might be wondering why Laval has not had music festivals before, but Julien Aidelbaum is changing that. He explains, “Scène 1425 and Salle André-Mathieu’s mission is to promote culture in Laval and that’s exactly what we are doing here with MRCY.” He elaborates, “I also grew up in Laval so there’s something special about bringing all these amazing artists to the suburbs.”
For all those students taking the old B.M.W. (bus metro, walk) out for a spin Aidelbaum let us know, “It’s a great place to listen to great music with great people in an easy to access location. Metro Montmorency – 21 minutes from Berri-UQAM!”
The MRCY Fest creator also let me know that you might have the chance to be “upgraded to VIP if you tweet on site.”
As I mentioned earlier I had the chance to speak with Heath Fogg of Alabama Shakes. Let me tell you, I was nervous, but he was so down to earth that after two minutes of talking with him I couldn’t help but feel like I was having a casual conversation over a coffee.
Before this weekend’s MRCY Fest, here is your chance to get to know Alabama Shakes a little better. The band has never been to Montreal before yet Fogg is aware of Montreal and Laval’s French culture and is very excited about experiencing it next weekend.
Alabama Shakes toured with several artists over the years. I ask Fogg for his favorite. His answer is more than a name but instead an interesting story about a band involved in their journey to stardom.
Fogg explains, “Right now, it’s kind of surreal. We’re on tour with the band the Drive By Truckers.” The band is based out of Athens, Georgia, but have shared common ground with Alabama Shakes being originally from Alabama. He goes on to say, “They are really interesting song writers and musicians and we are doing really interesting things. I’ve been a fan for a long time and they fortunately were the band that first gave us a shot. They took us out as a support act for them and put us in touch with their management and record label who we later signed with. They were the catalyst for everything that came later for us. So if it wasn’t for the Truckers, you would have never heard of Alabama Shakes more than likely and it’s kind of surreal on this tour that they’re out as a support act for us. So it’s kind of an ironic turn of the tables. But they are really excited to be here and were excited to have them. It’s still fun and inspiring to watch every night and to hang out with them. I know them well now but I am still kind of starstruck. Just being one on one in conversation with them. It’s a strange thing, but it’s fun”.
When I ask what kind of environment the Alabama Shakes prefers when playing, Fogg responds by saying, “I would say a small venue inside as opposed to an outside festival that’s really big, but now we’ve kind of found an interesting type of venue in-between that we’ve been playing at this summer which is like the outdoor amphitheatre. You know they are larger venues but there’s always an interesting energy there. People are in a really good mood, the weather is good, then it puts us in a good mood and we’ve had some really good shows at those venues.”
I follow up by asking Fogg what kind of experience they hope their music brings to their fans. He says, “We try to make the show dynamic as a whole. In a way it’s some sort of emotional roller coaster right from the beginning of the show to the end. There are fun moments and serious moments and I think moments that make people want to cry and moments that may make people want to laugh. I think we just like that. Playing with the dynamics of emotion and it’s not one mood that we are searching forbut many.”
Looks like we will have something to look forward too at MRCY Fest. By the looks of it their performance will be quite the experience.
Fogg, like Aidelbaum, has an interest in visual arts. When I ask about what other interests he has, other than creating music, he says he might have pursued arts had his current situation not unfolded. He states, “I was interested in visual arts first and I had studied graphic design and advertising in college and I think I probably would have ended up in that field.” He elaborates, “It’s hard to say, if this were to end today if I would go back to that. I don’t know but at one point in time that’s what I wanted to do”
He also brings up how he’s been able to still experience visual art in his current life with Alabama Shakes. “It’s been fun being part of this band whether it’s dealing with art directors and different designers for album covers and that sort of art work or whether it’s just a t-shirt or a poster it’s fun. I feel like we get to absorb a lot of visual arts. So I am still lucky to exercise that part of my personality.”
I wrap up the interview by asking Heath Fogg if there are any funny tour stories or obstacles they had to overcome on tour. “When we toured Mexico and South America, most of us in the crew were in agony for like two weeks. Thanks to Kool-Aid at catering, we’d drink the purple Kool-aid and it messed everybody up pretty badly. So, it’s not only a story, but a bit of advice: don’t drink the water or the Kool-aid in Mexico.” Take note that this event is not the origin of the band’s name.
It seems this weekend holds an insane opportunity to see some genuine people play some breathtaking music. Oh, and I forgot to mention! MRCY Fest won’t be letting you go hungry, a variety of food trucks will be present on site! For more information on MRCY Fest’s schedule and the site plan or to buy your MRCY Fest ticket, if you have not already, visit HERE.
MRCY Fest takes place September 26 from 1 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. at Espace Montmorency, Laval (475 Boulevard de l’Aavenir). $60. The Alabama Shakes headline from 10-11:30 p.m. on the Scène des Prairies.
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