Festival de musique émergente 2012

Think about the last ten years of your life. Who were you back then? What were you wearing? Is there any constant over that decade that remains with you today? Working on any project close to one’s heart that long, is near impossible. Hence the reason fans from around the world came to the small town of Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec to tip their collective hats to the tenth anniversary of the Festival de musique émergente, colloquially known as FME; a quaint but powerful matching of emerging artists and savvy veteran acts.

Blossoming from the minds of local impresarios Jenny Thibault and Sandy Boutin, the festival came about in a simple but genius manner. Sandy recalls, “Many times during the year we have to take our car to see some show in Montreal or Toronto. They don’t have a wide array of genres of music presenting concerts over here. One day we were coming back from a show in Montreal and we had a crazy idea of starting a festival.” Immediately the two sprung all their hopes upon the support of both locals and those willing to flee a big city on the last weekend of summer. “It was pretty small, the first edition” begins Jenny. “We had twenty two bands and they were all playing in four venues. There was only one show at a time.”

Sandy: If you only had ten people at the festival they can see all the shows.

Jenny: It was a huge success. At the end we got three thousand five hundred people.

Sandy: And the festival was sold out.

Jenny: The year after, we doubled it.

This year’s celebration of Jenny and Sandy’s decade of success spared very little for both the uninitiated and seasoned music fan. On opening night, a triple bill of David Simard, Half Moon Run, and Timber Timbre constructed repeated waves of aural bliss over a packed house. With Half Moon Run evoking the sounds of Half To The Thief era Radiohead and Timber Timbre frontman Taylor Kirk showcasing songs from their new release Creep On Creepin’ On.

Half Moon Run

Timbre Timbre

Timbre Timbre

A festival, however, might be able to be judged by all the satellite amenities and Easter eggs found in the crevices of the experience. With surprises around every corner, like performance artists and a pop up radio station, FME is rich with ways to spend all the in between time. For example, speaking of satellites, if you’ve ever wanted to eat a Georgia Satellites album made of dark chocolate, you missed your chance to do it this year. FME really is the alternative to the big ticket price, one large mass in a field kind of festival; intimate but without sacrificing talent.

On Friday a healthy crowd assembled to catch a performance by Kandle and her band of strikingly accurate instrumentalists. With a surprisingly heavy sound for such a cautiously twee girl, the audience that night was captivated from the opening track and showed their deep appreciation after every song on the set list. The twinkling blonde was making her first trek to the northern section of the province and was quickly wrapped up in the environment. “I’m just really excited to be part of something so amazing. Such a good community, and I am meeting a lot of great artists that I get to play with and hang out with.” Kandle remembers what her immediate reaction was to hearing the news that she was booked for this year’s festival, “I said ‘Cool, I’ll go.’ I heard it was a wonderful festival: countryside, big old party, bunch of cool tunes, good times, ‘I’m there!’ and here I am!”

If Sandy and Jenny were to offer up just one night’s experience from the last ten years to represent all that FME is about, the Saturday night in Rouyn-Noranda of this year’s festival would be a top contender. Starting in a theatre full of gleefully pumped fans, Marie Pierre Arthur took the stage around 22:30h. It’s a tall order to attempt a John Lennon cover in the middle of a set, but fans and those casually attending, had their skepticism wiped away very quickly; not so much immediately after Marie Pierre Arthur’s version of “Jealous Guy” but after a few more of her original tunes helped surround the Lennon number with quality. Her songs could be plucked from the Lennon songbook, which one would imagine is high praise.

As engaging as Mademoiselle Arthur was, the real shining moments came at midnight, with a few hundred people huddling in a church off the main strip. Performing there was the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The post rock juggernaut was a perfectly congruent choice to cap off ten years of imaginative and ambitious programming. They performed that night with a culminating orgasm that mesmerized everyone who has a lust for a musical identity. Every instrument represented a voice of fans who were buried under the girth of the band’s monstrous sound, and all without a vocalist. They have a drummer who has the biggest rack tom on the planet disintegrating the low end, and an angelic violin player keeping the entire boat steady. With these pieces, Godspeed appeals to one’s carnal instincts, hitting the listener in the stomach, the mind and the heart. While hundreds of people were trying to decide between holding back tears and trying to breathe (it was impossible to do both), it’s a wonder that a band like this didn’t burst into flames sometime during the two hours-plus show.

One can’t imagine that FME hasn’t fulfilled and exceeded the expectations of Jenny Thibault and Sandy Boutin’s original roadtrip dream. After a full decade of lofty ambition and precise execution, attempting to derail this institution would be near impossible. It has become synonymous with the city of Rouyn-Noranda; the people’s festival. “The locals really like it because they are involved” states Jenny. “We have more than 1500 volunteers working on the festival. It’s like ‘our’ festival, like their own festival.” A festival by the people, for the people, owned by the people can’t really be stopped now can it?

Now, remember this year. Remember what you’re wearing, who you are, and what your plan is, because when asked about producing another ten years of FME Sandy Boutin simply states, “Yes. Of course.” Godspeed Jenny and Sandy. Godspeed.

Photos: Owen Ellis

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