Wait: You Went to a Canadian Indie Music Festival That Was Held WHERE?

By Juliette Jagger

There is something to be said about choosing not to expand into a Coachella size festival. You know, keeping the proximity, keeping the passion. 

I just spent the weekend in a remote mining town called Rouyn-Noranda, in Quebec. That’s a 7-hour drive from Montreal. I flew in on a 10-seater plane, with single aisles, so I acquainted myself pretty quickly. Being that there was a slim possibility we could die inside the very small aircraft, it never hurts to know the first names of the people around you incase it’s your time to go. 


I was there for the 11th edition of Festival De Musique Émergente (FME). Being from Toronto and having experienced a number of CMW’s and NXNE’s over the years, this festival had something that’s hard to come by in the city and that’s proximity.


Remoteness of the area aside, FME does it different. They don’t book 300 bands into 35 venues across 3 nights, heavily promoting certain acts while others can surely expect to play to the floor. FME books just over 60 bands, placing them accordingly into beautiful historic churches and bustling local pubs with little overlap, ensuring everyone plays to a packed house while creating opportunities for special moments to ensue. 


After 11 years the festival could have easily relocated to a much more central, music oriented city like Montreal and booked a whole slew of big name acts, but they didn’t. It’s certainly not because their hurting for it either, this year the FME sold out its basic $120 dollar tickets in 6 minutes flat.


FME Founders Sandy Boutin, who also does managerial duties for well-known Quebec indie band and 2010 Polaris Prize winners, Karkwa, alongside FME Director of Programing Jenny Thibault, have consciously chosen not to expand the festival outwards of Rouyn-Noranda in order to keep their original motivation – discovering, sharing and showcasing emerging music while generating economic growth for the region – intact. 


Despite being sponsored by SiriusXM, the company doesn’t overreach and the festival doesn’t feel overwhelmingly corporate. Instead, there is a real accessibility between both artists and the media and artists and the fans, allowing FME to maintain the same homegrown community appeal it had at its onset, as well as that very important sense of go-getter fire that tends to fall away once something has peaked. 


We live in a really strange time where people have become so accustomed to measuring success in a language of Twitter followers and Facebook likes, that we often can’t stop to appreciate a damn thing while it’s still in the air and not yet a former idea of itself.  


FME should not be overlooked on the basis that it’s not as big as Osheaga or Pop Montreal because that’s a choice not a result. FME is a festival that in light of its counterparts elsewhere in the province, has grown while maintaining its integrity as a brand, succeeded in achieving its original goals, and generated something unique for a region that by fault of sheer geography, likely would have never made it onto the map musically if this festival hadn’t of come along. 


So, cheers to FME for being exactly what it claims to be – a festival de musique émergente.


Top 10 FME Artists Worth Checking Out


1.  Human Human

Sounds like: Brit rock, 80’s synths, and the Montreal underground. 


2.  Indian Handcrafts

Sounds like: Big, brash, riff heavy hard rock. 


3.  Maica Mia

Sounds like: Dark, sparse bluesy-folk.


4.  Pawa Up First

Sounds like: A clever and cinematic combination of post-rock, jazz, electro and hip-hop.


5.  Dead Obies

Sounds like: 6-piece hip-hop / rap collective with killer live energy.  


6.  Suuns

Sounds like: Deep bass and screeching guitars going up against electro synths and hushed vocals. 


7.  Pyongyang

Sounds like: Taking their influences from bands like the Talking Heads and ESG, Parliament and Grace Jones, Pyongyang is strange, electro-dance rock. 


8.  BonVivant

Sounds like: Punk rock aesthetics and pop rock melodies. 


9.  Groenland

Sounds like: Sonic landscapes, killer vocals and complex group harmonies.  


10.  Le Couleur 

Sounds like: Sensory electro-pop and infectious bass lines. 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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