The end of summer approaches in the month of August and the festival that keeps us holding on and gives us an opportunity for a last hoorah is FME: Festival de musique émergente. The last weekend of the month is dedicated to road tripping to Rouyn-Noranda for the festivities taking place across town in multiple bars and outside locations. The festival's 17th edition was our second, and though we had an idea of what to expect, nothing can fully prepare you mentally and physically for the 4 days of partying.
Day one was mostly traveling, getting reacquainted with the town and attending the different cocktail parties that welcomed the medias and artists. We attended Dare To Care’s Les Soeurs Boulay's lovely set before retrieving to the motel to save energy for the upcoming days.
Friday was the day that really kicked it off for us. The record label, Bonsound, organized their infamous pool party at a house by the lake. Finalists of the Les Francouvertes, Le P’tit Belliveau et les Grosses Coques, performed by the pool in-between hotdogs and corn. The whole festival is basically a gathering of music professionals from Montreal and Europe; something that could probably be done closer to Montreal but somehow being 10 hours away has its appeal and being secluded with the same people far away puts us in a position to connect, interact and engage in each others projects.
Still on Friday, after the pool party and a few photos of the band on a canoe, we went back to the media house for some more cocktails and our first interview of the weekend with Montreal duo; Lesser Evil. The band later performed for the first time live in a small local bar. The intense guitars and hypnotizing synths were the perfect setup for some head banging as we fell into a trance. Before that last show of the night, other Québec artists such as Laurence-Anne, Philippe Brach and punk rockers Victime showcased their tunes across the festival. The real show closer of that night was the Giant Tiger bought fireworks that were lit at 4 in the morning in the parking lot across the motel...which could’ve potentially destroyed the dépanneur situated metres away.
The next day started early and despite the lack of sleep, we were up and running. We had a chat with Simon Kearney by the factories and train tracks (for aesthetics) about his festival run and new music. Le P’tit Belliveau et les Grosses Coques were back and kicked off the musical performances for the day at the outdoor stage with children running around in the pit.
It might’ve been around 2 or 3 in the afternoon when we returned to the media house to meet up with rap duo Heartstreets and to grab some Apérol Spritz before heading to La Ginguette Chez Edmund (a sort of Aire Commune by the lake) for the interview. As we sat in the grass by the water with our drinks chatting, rap group Glauque from Belgium starting playing and they quickly became an obvious new musical discovery worth listening to.
The afternoon keep going with Montreal rock group The Flamingos Pink. The boys took over our Instagram during their soundcheck before coming to chat with us about their upcoming projects and how they got picked up to play the festival. Julien and Sacha then both played shirtless to a full crowd that were very into their enthusiasm and authenticity. At the same time, Simon Kearney was just a few doors down giving the people of Rouyn-Noranda the energetic pop n roll tunes they were all waiting for. With his full band dressed for the party, they delivered an engaging performance like they always do.
After the eventful afternoon we had, a huge feast was displayed in the backyard of the media house. The sun was setting and we must’ve been hundreds of people waiting to grab a plate and a drink. Day three was still not over as we went back to the main festival site for an interview with art-rock trio Motherhood from New Brunswick. We then headed over to L’Agora des Arts for night 2 of Half Moon Run’s set. “When is this going to be over?” “When are they playing the hits?” “This is way too Canadian” Are all things we thought and said during their set. Just because they are beloved and over-hyped doesn’t mean it should be assumed that they will play an exciting and refreshing set. Half Moon Run was truly bland and too rehearsed. There was no grit, no surprises; the band was basically like plain white bread. Lucky for us, that was not the end of the night. Heartstreets revived our night with a powerful and heated set under an outside tent.
Once the actual gigs were over, something we couldn’t have anticipated awaited us. We somehow travelled back to an odd techno era at The Paramount. A time when we were too young to experience raves and now too out of that scene to fully appreciate what was happening. There is no way to properly describe what was going on. All we know is that for the 20 minutes that we stayed there, we entered a time machine and the energy of that space will never be forgotten.
Day four arrived and we weren't even going home yet. The town had begun to slow down which is why all the shows during the day were full. Impossible to enter the garage for Émile Bilodeau, the café where Emilie Kahn played smelled like toast and we could only stand in the doorway for two songs. The lack of effort from our part to stay at those shows lead us once again to The Paramount and this time it was really worth it. We discovered Adam Naas. The 25 year old french “dark romantic soul” singer shocked us with his powerful raw vocal abilities, his realness and easy going attitude we caught from his speeches between songs. He has been compared to Prince and Childish Gambino, for us he’s a sort of Hubert Lenoir in his subtle cockiness that is clearly justified by his talent.
When September 2nd came around and the 8am bus pulled up, there was a bittersweet feeling. Being away for a while always feels good but we doubt we could’ve handled more time around the abundance of food and free alcohol. We discovered many brilliant artists, we got to fully experience the festival and we won’t ever forget the late night transport rides with Doris along with ordering pizza from Chez Morasse. There is one significant thing we learned during our time at FME, something we were already aware of; that the music industry is not a sober one.