The last time I attended Festival d’été de Québec in July 2019, the show-stopping performance was from Mariah Carey. Yes, she hit the high notes, but equally show-stopping were her costume changes: from a sparkling silver mini number to a shimmering floor-length gown to a waist-accentuating orange and purple long-sleeved dress.
So when I returned to the festival after a three-year hiatus for headliner Maroon 5, my expectations were high. Until lead vocalist Adam Levine hit the stage in a grey hoodie and baggy pants.
But after a couple days at the festival, I realized Levine was actually on-trend, embracing the loungewear look that’s come to define late-stage pandemic fashion. Over the next few days, I’d see several other artists sporting relaxed looks: Halsey wore a wife beater and baggy pants, hip-hop artists Freddie Gibbs and Ruby Da Cherry of hip-hop duo $uicideboy$ both rocked camouflage, Tai Verdes sported a wife beater and Alanis Morissette wore a t-shirt and converse sneakers.
Instead of jaw-dropping costumes, artists tended to default to gender and color-neutral outfits with the occasional pop of color. Adam Levine performed his guitar solo with hot pink nails and his baggy pants were decorated with a sparkling skeleton illustration while Lights’ bright yellow socks and shoes matched her guitar and keyboard.
When artists did dress up, they tended to color coordinate their top and bottom, whether through a matching set or single statement piece. Canadian artists Liana Bureau, Laurence-Anne, Sarahmee and Ariane Moffet all matched their tops to their bottoms.
Sarah Blackwood of Walk Off The Earth used the matching top-to-bottom approach to accentuate unique jean cut-outs.
While Malika Tirolien and Michelle Joy, lead vocalist of indie pop band Cannons, similarly used their one tone outfits to emphasize form.
The single pattern or color look was also one of the most common trends among the crowd—whether that meant a matching top and bottom set, single pattern romper or dress, or simply wearing one color, as seen on several festival-goers.
After a few days at the 12-day festival, it soon became apparent that the real fashion show was taking place not on stage—although the Bell Stage is certainly impressive, being one of the largest in North America—but on the ground. With the festival bundling performers of similar sounds to offer genre-specific nights, the fashion tended to correspond with the energy of each night’s theme.
When the crowd could expect alternative rock from The Tea Party, Halsey, Three Days Grace and Lights, the performers could expect a sea of black, with fans rocking emo ensembles accentuated with studs, leather, fishnets and lace.
While EDM night attracted an enthusiastic crowd of upwards of 70,000, largely made up of bright neon colors, crop tops and pairs in matching costumes, ready to dance to DJ sets from Marshmello, Oliver Heldens and Louis-Jean Cormier.
The audience on less genre-specific nights were no less stylish, perhaps because majority of the festival-goers are local Québécois; representing the fashionable population found in Quebec City on your average summer day. Local Juulie Rousseau accessorized her bohemian look with an accordion while another local Julia Caron looked summer chic in a black sun hat with a colorful frock that matched her casual sandals.
Both had been coming to Festival d’été de Québec for over a decade and expressed excitement to be back after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. “It’s fantastic, you can tell everyone who’s at the show is pumped to be here,” Caron told me enthusiastically. “I didn’t realize how much I needed this.”
If there was one thing that united the crowd and the performers, it was the expression of sheer awe at the magic that occurs when music brings together so many people. Several songs into Maroon 5’s 90-minute set, Adam Levine was so impressed by the energy from the audience that he asked repeatedly if the band could return every year. The following night, rapper Ludacris said, “this is the loudest city I’ve been in in my life.” Halsey would later echo his sentiment saying, “you guys are madness, this is absolute madness,” and “this is the best crowd I’ve seen in my life, no contest.”
While the loungewear looks among the headliners suggest it was a struggle to get performers back on stage after such a long break, a roaring fashionable audience encouraged the artists to meet the energy level of the crowd. The result was a festival that remained impressive—in terms of both the fashion and the music—for the entire duration of its 12-day run. We can’t wait to see who graces the stage, and the audience, next year.