Monday, 5 September 2016

Welcome to the FME

The Emerging Music Festival  (FME for short in French) takes place on a long weekend in the copper mining town of Rouyn-Noranda. Rouyn and Noranda were previously two distinctive towns but merged in 1986. It’s about a 7h north/west drive from Montreal.

We arrive Thursday afternoon. Our stay in town starts with a show at Cabaret de la dernière chance for a midnight concert. Partner, a band from Sackville (New Brunswick), is playing. We’re by the bar at the back of the venue next to festival-goers with little respect for the four playing on stage. Being loud throughout the whole performance. This doesn’t bother the musicians though. Many among the crowd are having a good time. Perhaps not my type of music (am reminded of 90’s skate punk and teen years full of angst), Partner gives a good show and Josée Caron’s guitar solos are impressive.

Friday. Walking around Noranda in the afternoon, we end up breathing some polluted air from the foundry. Our mouth suddenly tastes weird and I can’t control my coughing. JF, who grew up in Rouyn, tells me it used to be much worse. This sounds awful.

We drive back to downtown Rouyn, around lake Osisko. There’s a big gathering. It’s La Colonie de Vacances. I thought it was meant for kids. I was wrong and the performance is awesome. It consists of a quadrophonic show forming a square with the crowd in the middle. Four bands (Papier Tigre, Electric Electric, Pneu, Marvin – 11 musicians) playing ping pong with music.

Afterwards it’s Ludo Pin at the Café-bar l’Abstracto (Rouyn). A good performance and enjoyable music.

Ludo Pin

I especially appreciate the drummer’s, Mat Vezio, guitar playing on one of the songs. It rocks. The only problem is he continues making odd sounds with his guitar even though the song had ended.

Later, in downtown Noranda, we decide to watch Half Moon Run perform instead of Avec pas d’casque*. It’s a questionable decision, I agree. Not that Half Moon Run isn’t good, only Avec pas d’casque just released the album Effets spéciaux, their first full length in four years. JF had a good point though; the chances of us catching Avec Pas d’casque in concert in Montreal are greater than those of catching Half Moon Run.

It’s a double bill with Yann Perreau playing at 8pm and Half Moon Run playing at 9:30pm. They play some good songs but also play quite a few ballads. I’m not a fan of their ballads. All in all, for fans, it’s a good performance and I unfortunately miss an Avec pas d’casque event.

Next. Co/ntry at 11pm. An outside event, as with both performances before. I truly appreciate this Montreal duo. Playing a kind of Synth Pop 80’s music. Saw them perform three times before. Not always good. Beaver Sheppard sometimes sings off key and it feels like it’s done on purpose (I might be wrong though). Anyhow, none of that at the FME, the show is splendid, Beaver Sheppard is very theatrical (in a good way) with his large Hawaiian shirt. Would have stayed until the end had I not had freezing toes.

At midnight, U.K. Subs are set to play in the downtown Noranda bar Diable Rond. I soon realize a dram of whisky (Glenfiddich) costs the same as a Boréale beer at the bar. My stomach gives me a hard time when drinking that beer and it’s the only beer sold during all festival events. I love the Diable Rond all of a sudden with my glass of whisky in hand. U.K. Subs turned out to be, in my FME experience, the event of the weekend.

They are an English punk band from the mid-seventies with singer Charlie Harper as the only original member. Bassist Alvin Gibbs, present that evening, joined the band in the 80’s.

Not only is the crowd into it, U.K. Subs is having a blast. Fans step on stage, sing with M. Harper, give him hugs (it’s ok, he tells us, it’s Rob) and of course the usual moshing and crowd surfing (the bar’s ceiling is quite low I might add). I loved it.

Charlie Harper holding the mic for a fan

U.K. Subs at Le Diable Rond

After the encore we head home with some difficulty. No taxis available. Finally cornered one by walking in the middle of the busy street and telling the driver it was only a five-minute drive. Turned out I was wrong.

Saturday is our last day at the FME. JF is scheduled to work on Monday; we have no choice but to leave Sunday morning.

GaBlé, a trio from Normandie (France) is at L’Abstracto for a 5pm to 7pm set. We head there early to get a good spot in the bar. The only table available as we arrive is next to the speaker. They start playing and it sounds good but unfortunately loud. It’s happy music with some experimentation.


All is well until one band member asks us to sing along by doing the sound of a First Nation, placing your hand repeatedly on your mouth and chanting. This act makes me feel real uneasy. Not many among the crowd follow suit on the musician’s proposal. I start to feel the urge to go to the washrooms. I leave and never come back to my seat. The place is crowded and I’m thinking it’s not worth it. JF joins me five minutes later.

At 8pm we’re back in Noranda at the Petit Théâtre du Vieux-Noranda for Royal Caniche, VioleTT Pi and Metz. I like Royal Caniche for the performance they give. They leave all pretentiousness behind. Next is VioleTT Pi. Good and a bit more accessible than Royal Caniche. But at this point, all I want is to listen to Metz. So my mind unfortunately wanders. Metz steps on stage and I’m really excited. They give a good show but the crowd doesn’t embark on the ride. I don’t listen to Metz at home but in concert they’re a whole lot of fun. I stop thinking and analyzing when I watch them play and maybe that’s what the crowd can’t do. They need to understand. I want to be carried away but sadly it doesn’t happen as the crowd starts thinning away.

Metz in Noranda

After Metz, we head to the basement of the same venue for Yonatan Gat (from Monotonix) and UUBBUURRUU. Yonatan Gat’s stage is at the same level as the floor in the middle of the room. We all know what to do; we circle the instruments and wait patiently for the musicians to arrive. The drummer amazes me. As he starts playing, he barely stops hitting those drums and with quite a fast pace.

The set ends and he smashes the drum kit with his stool. I’m naïve and really think he’s tired of playing the drums as the two other musicians stand there without knowing what to do. JF, who enjoyed the performance as much as I did, thinks it’s all for show. Their music is beautiful but the whole setting reminds me of a cult leader and his followers. The crowd is making a big thing out of a good show.

drummer Gal Lazer (Yonatan Gat)
Yonatan Gat

The last performance for us that evening is UUBBUURRUU. Unfortunately for this Montreal band, they are playing after Yonatan Gat. Not that they aren’t talented, only that it’s not the same. I’ve seen them perform before and I enjoy it. I’m drinking my second Boréale when my stomach feels weird (they don’t sell whisky in the basement). All I’m thinking about is how to digest it, therefore more or less paying attention to the band on stage.

The FME is a great festival. The setting is perfect. You feel welcomed by everybody in Rouyn-Noranda. I love it. I just wish there was more emerging music but I guess it’s a tough thing to get a festival going when the musicians aren’t known. Also, many of them, which I haven’t mentioned in this post, are from the Quebec province. Very talented, only we don’t need to go to Rouyn-Noranda to watch them perform. They often play in Montreal. Still, going to the FME was worth it.

a downtown Noranda alley

We leave the next morning with good memories and quite a few burps.

* KNLO, Brown and Dead Obies are also playing that evening. I’ve heard really good things about Dead Obies. Someday I will attend a performance of theirs. They live in Montreal. Maybe soon.

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