Shazam Fest 2021 Reflections

The 15.5 edition of the Shazam Festival occurred over the weekend of July 9th through 11th, 2021. The idyllic site located near Ayer’s Cliff, Quebec was a beehive of activity compared to the much smaller festival that took place last year. To make up for lost time, the schedule was packed with an eclectic mix of shows; on the day this reporter was there, there was not much downtime between artists. 

The power duo Birthday Suit Special, which is Gideon Yellin on guitar and Alex Lepanto on drums, hit the ground running and the festival started with an epic forty-five-minute version of their song "Happy Birthday". They were followed by Battle for Shazam winner Bless Her Evil. The band won the right to strut their stuff at the festival by claiming first prize in the Eastern Township’s music and performing arts competition held in May. Powering through songs like System of a Down’s "Aerial", the band (led by singer Emman), compelled the audience to take a step back; but for a few brave souls who were able to break through the wall of sound. Festival organizer Ziv Przytyk commented on the band, “They were good if you’re into that kind of thing.”

Following the release of their latest album Morning Walk, Sherbrooke band Occult Witches showcased songs like "Flower From Your Dreams" and "Pigments". The psychedelic hard rock band led by strong vocals and a duo of guitarists was a hit at the festival and showed they are a band to look out for. Switching musical gears, the folk-pop group Les P’tites Germaines charmed the audience with their humorous angst driven music where singers Julie Cossette and Caroline Clément proudly wave the flag of positive feminine sexuality. 

Shazam Fest has never been just about the music, with skateboarding and pro wrestling also taking place over the weekend. Friday night saw the circus arrive at the festival via Ziv’s Freakshow and Burlesque, and the extraordinary masters of soap bubbles and fire, Les SomnamBulles. Some of the highlights were when the Mighty Leviticus set the record for the can smash with the number to beat being ninety-two in sixty seconds. He said afterwards while nursing his sore hands, “with forty seconds to go, I was wondering if this was such a good idea.” Escape artist Steve Winchester closed a mouse trap on his tongue and FenyxFyre of StrangeOrDanger Thrillshow fame swallowed razor blades then washed them down with Windex. During the burlesque segment of the evening, Miss Bibi Lolo BangBang, Bijou Bisou and Tristan Ginger infused their charm and wit for their performances.

After a brief pause to clear the stage of circus paraphernalia, it was time for underground Sherbrooke rock/folk artist Frank Custeau. From the very start of the show the audience was dancing the night away to songs from his latest album Xénial Blues. His bluesy pop tunes like “Sirop d’érable” and “Le Rock and Roll” struck a chord with the Shazam Fest audience.

Closing off the evening was nouveau folk band Excavation & Poésie, made up of Charles Lapierre on guitar and vocals, Olivier Dussault on double bass, Laetitia Franco-Lévesque on violin and Rafaël Poggetti on percussion. The quartet provided a swinging good time, dancing and foot-stomping their way into the wee hours of the morning.

That was just the first day. Thankfully, the weather predictions of rain were grossly exaggerated with only a few clouds to block the otherwise sunny vibes that reflected against the green, green grass of Shazam Fest.

Festival Photo Credit: Robert Portnoff

Shazam Fest still life with schedule. 

Sherbrooke band Occult Witches during their afternoon concert.

The artist in red, better known as Bijou Bisou


Julie Cossette and Caroline Clément of Les P’tites Germaines

It’s not Batman, it’s Tristan Ginger. 

The Mighty Leviticus setting the can smash record.

Escape artist Mr. Steve Winchester.

Burlesque artist Bibi Lolo BangBang.

Snack time for sideshow performer FenyxFyre.

We bid you goodnight from Ziv’s Freakshow and Burlesque.

Dancing the night away with Frank Custeau.