FME 2023: A Preview

My, where does the time go? It seems not that long ago when I was basking in the glow of FME 2022, hungover from the thrill of a festival in such a far off remote part of the province, having the opportunity to see acts like Gustaf and Gus Englehorn for the first time. But that is what FME, or Festival de musique émergente is all about: Being exposed to music, often new, experimental and never boring. The 2023 edition is set to get underway over the labour day weekend in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec. 

Spread throughout the small northern town, this year’s edition of the festival kicks off on Thursday August 31st (bright and early Thursday morning, to be precise), with a duo of concerts by Atchoum, a youth rock project for the kids and parents alike. Treating the audience to her new album Autour de Moi, Atchoum, aka Véronique Gagné, invites everyone to share in a celebration of music and imagination. After a pause in the afternoon, the festival revs up with non-stop shows the rest of the evening and into the weekend ahead.

Unless one is a resident of the Rouyn-Noranda area, it is far away from just about everywhere (It’s a seven hour or so drive from Montreal, if anybody is thinking about it). While the festival attracts visitors from Montreal, Quebec and from across Canada, there are also large amounts of visitors from around the globe. Montreal multidisciplinary artist N Nao will try to ease all the weary arrivals after a long bus ride or flight with songs from her latest album L’eau et les Rêves. For those with a little more energy, Amsterdam’s Mauskovic Dance Band will be showcasing their hazy rhythms and dubby percussion at the big outdoor stage, Scène Vidéotron. Closing out the outdoor scene will be the punk-bluegrass band The Québec Redneck Bluegrass Project. Continuing the banjo punk theme, Margaret Tracteur will hit the stage late night at Espace Lounge. Closing out the first day are a couple of Montreal’s art rock bands - Pressure Pin and Yocto.

After a crazy first day, an energy bar might be needed; fortunately twins Mark and J.Scott Grundy and with help from keyboardist Cher Hann form Heaven For Real and I imagine will be playing selections from their latest EP, Energy Bar. They are part of a 5 a 7 sponsored by Mint Records. Also on the bill is the Montreal Alt Country artist Nora Kelly Band. Putting a closure to a madcap second day are some late shows by two European bands. First from Paris noise rock band The Psychotic Monks and from Brussels, Milk TV will explore the boundaries of post punk. Montreal art punk band La Sécurité will try to put an exclamation point on the day with their 1am gig.

Like the Energizer Bunny, FME is the festival that keeps on chugging. Saturday has lots in store for fans of ambient electronic music with Mélissa Fortin, Patch, Night Lunch and Cedric Noel providing ample opportunity to aimlessly ogle the Nikes. Montreal folk artist Arielle Soucy showcases her two self-produced EPs, Shame and Waterway and Unresolved Collection during a 5 à 7. For those in more of a hip-hop mood, Fraud Perry, also from Montreal hosts her own 5 à 7. Yes, the festival conundrum of conflicting schedules, always a pleasant burden at FME. From the Innu community of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, Canadian music award winner for indigenous artist of the year, Kanen will present her recent work Mitshuap. Things pick up late night when garage bands Les Lunatiques and DVTR might just turn the volume up to eleven for their appearance at Daible Rond.

It is said, ‘all good things must come to an end.’ If that’s true then why not go out with a bang? I’m not sure if this was the intention way back when the tradition of the Sunday night metal extravaganza started but it certainly seems to be the case. Last year ,American metal icons Dying Fetus headlined the evening. This year a trio of death metal bands from la belle province will endeavour to carry the torch. Starting with Guhn Twei from the infamous Notre-Dame district of Noranda. Up next is B.A.R.F. (need I say more?). Closing out the head-banging evening are none other than the Abitibian metal icons Mononc’Serge and Anonymus

This year's closing ceremonies will be held on a scenic stage overlooking Lake Osisko with Vanille, Hippie Hourrah, Lumière and Philippe Brach partaking in the festivities.   Anyone still looking to party till the lights come on (heck, the bus ain’t leavin’ til six in the morning) so if you're looking for something to do, art punk quartet Saints Martyrs and grunge veteran ViloeTT PI will get started just around midnight. 

Those are just some of the goings-on during FME 2023. I’m sure I omitted lots of great music, not to mention the pop up events that take place in the oddest parts of the city; another activity the festival is famous for. Be it a garage parking lot or back alley, only the Shadow knows what's in store over the Labour Day weekend. 

Clifton Hanger hosts Brave New Jams, every Saturday 10-midnight on CJLO.