Voidz (whose Saturday set was cancelled due to rain) and fans. Photos by Mr. Wavvy
This weekend marked the second edition of the Santa Teresa festival. After a smaller scale event last year, the Sainte-Thérèse affair went with a far more ambitious approach this time around, promising more international acts. Unfortunately, nothing went as planned. The bulk of Saturday’s outdoor shows were axed due to weather restrictions. Rappers Trippie Redd, Ski Mask the Slump God and Lil Uzi Vert were absent from the festivals closing day, allegedly due to border issues.
As a natural-born cynic, it was admittedly entertaining to watch all of the mayhem unfold. Here are the highs and lows of Santa Teresa 2018:
The first performance of the day is never an easy feat. It can be hard to read your crowd, especially when they are only just entering the performance grounds. Montreal producer CRi has received a number of these placements in the past year, a true double-edged sword; on one hand, it can be difficult to win an audience over in these situations, but if you can, the payoff is fantastic. In any case, CRi’s summer-friendly sounds are more than appropriate for (literally) warming up a mixed festival audience.
I never thought I’d be typing the words “Sans Pression saved the day,” yet here we are! After nearly five hours of no outdoor shows due to heavy rain, the rap-Queb icon came through with some old-school sound to satisfy the masses. Well, kind of…
SP is painfully out of touch with the genre’s current climate. His street sound can be likened to 50 Cent, with acts like Dead Obies coming through like Kanye and making it cool to be eccentric. Belting “Do you support rap franco?” ultimately sounded more fearful for his own fate than anything else. The set got progressively cringeworthy as it continued, between giving away mixtapes and playing an egregious remix of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You.”
Nevertheless, Sans Pression managed to win fans over. The fans don’t care about history, they were just happy to hear some music. Even if that music sounds like the artist is stuck in 2003.
July Talk is a band I have never deliberately sought out live, yet have caught a handful of times due to their prominence on the festival circuit. The band has retained roughly the same dynamic they’ve had for years, and not necessarily in a bad way. They’ve found something that works: a rough, playful back and forth between vocalists Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay.
They are Canadian in the best way possible, asking the audience to “Please put [their] hands together for everyone working to make this show happen in the rain.” Using the same approach to performing over an extended period can be dangerous for musicians (see Loud below), but July Talk tap into what makes them unique and stick with it, doing a graceful job at countering this stigma.
“Talk Is Cheap” and Australia’s Nick Murphy lives by his words. The artist formerly known as Chet Faker sped through songs in just over an hour’s time due to the Santa Teresa’s “tight [11 p.m.] curfew.” His use of multi-instruments helped to stimulate and impress what was undeniably the most well-received Saturday set. The artist’s music since reverting to his government name is nowhere near as memorable as his early work, yet still impresses in terms of technical ability. Murphy’s low energy was not appreciated in the moment, but ultimately served as an apt calm before the storm that we would face the following day.
One of the few festival elements that Santa Teresa got right was their afterparties. This was in large part due to allowing Ragers’ member Billy Eff Williams to curate the line-up. “The staff were so excited to see us,” Williams told me outside, on what is clearly one of the most exciting weekends of the year for Sainte-Thérèse locals.
Inside HB Bar, there was barely any room to move. It’s hard to imagine the spot would look as full on any other night. Williams, who goes by Ativan Halen when he hits the turntables, supplies house heaven for festival attendees alongside his fellow Ragers. The band’s live set on Sunday is a total 180°, with enough funk to give Busty and the Bass a run for their money.
“The boys are back!” Snail Kid announced gleefully as the Obies took the stage for their first performance as a five-piece. Plenty was up in the air this time around, with fans uncertain how the group would present themselves following the departure of Yes McCan. In a rather surprising move, the boys chose the petty route. Lyrics were slightly altered to include lyrics about the former member, though all disses remained subliminal for the most part.
All hostility aside, nothing has changed about the Longueuil lyricists’ consistent camaraderie. The set brought forth the biggest singalong moments of the weekend. A trifecta of new tracks were met with a warm reception. Changes may be in motion, but DO’s reign isn’t going anywhere.
“All I smell is vape juice,” says a stranger from a distance, as punks and edgy teens gathered together to celebrate the music of a madman. Ghostemane’s mid-afternoon show saw the most wide-ranging crowd of the festival. This is quite representative of his music, a chaotic blend of metal and mumble rap (not to mention the only outdoor performance with consistent pits and wall of death). Songs were so bass-heavy that it was hard to hear my own thoughts, one of the many flaws about having a festival on parking lot grounds.
“This is honestly the first festival I’ve ever played that I’ve actually enjoyed,” the rapper announced towards the end of his time on stage. An act with such interesting crossover appeal, events like Rockfest should consider someone like this for their future.
It’s no secret that Loud has a solid lock on the Quebec market. Une année record was undeniably 2017’s best franco-rap album. The rapper has toured the province to sold out crowds night after night. After ending work with the trio Loud Lary Ajust a mere couple of years ago, Loud seems more than comfortable as a solo artist.
However, it seems as if fan fatigue is arising. Sunday’s performance felt like a magician who has run out of tricks. Most of the Santa Teresa crowd seemed to have seen Loud live beforehand, myself included. While his sets are certainly agreeable, it may be time to spice things up.
As Laval’s finest took to the Redbull Stage, it quickly became clear that this would not be an average performance for him. “This will be my first set sober,” the DJ announced before diving into his set. Anyone who has followed High Klassified’s Instagram over the past week could make sense of this, with detox juices flowing through his “My Story” posts. Playing a cut from J. Cole’s anti-drug KOD album early in the performance only helped further assert HK’s distance from drinking.
Despite this newfound sobriety, the “Coming Out Strong” producer still bears the same focus and energy as usual. Trippie Redd and Ski Mask the Slump God tunes were spun as a “tribute” to the two rappers not making it over the border, though it is Klassified’s own tunes that deliver the best crowd reactions.
Lil Uzi Vert
The Youngblood Brass Band will be forever hated by Santa Teresa festivalgoers after the turmoil that emerged from Sunday’s closing slot. Fans lost their minds in the worst way possible as the funky jazz collective blared on the mainstage while they waited for headliner Lil Uzi Vert to come out. Impatience turned to rage as spectators threw cups, cans and anything they could find as yet another track from the Brass Band played instead of the trap titan performing. People had enough time to make multiples memes about the unsettling music while waiting in the crowd. Finally at 11:30 p.m. — a full two hours after the scheduled set time — it was announced that the show was scrapped due to “a lack of cooperation from the Canadian customs.”
Fans felt betrayed as the festival had confirmed that he was in town earlier in the day. Indeed, his DJ posted videos of soundcheck preparations, so his team made it in at the very least. Rumours began to swirl about the Philly talent being too drunk to take the stage, while some kids formed nonsensical conspiracies about him being at the Billboard Awards in Las Vegas. Riots were rampant and the stage was taken over by looters moments after the cancellation was announced.
Booking artists who have never been able to enter the province is a ridiculous gamble. Santa Teresa tried to expand but ultimately just saw growing pains. Next year they’ll have to tap into the elements that allow them to stand out. “Push them to the edge,” and Santa Teresa does not deliver. ■