Qui voir aux Francos: CJLO's (Free!) Guide to the Festival

The 30th edition of the Francofolies de Montréal festival—now called the Francos de Montréal—is upon us. From June 8th to June 17th, the Quartier des Spectacles will be filled with the cream of the crop of Quebec’s Francophone music scene and artists from the international Francophonie. As an Anglophone, puzzlement may be the reaction to most if not all of the acts on the bill at this year’s Francos. Have no fear though, because CJLO has got you covered on the most worthwhile shows to catch during the festival. The best part? All the below recommendations are free to see!

Paupière (Friday, June 8 @ 8 PM, corner of de Maisonneuve and Clark)

There’s no shortage of artists in both French and English that mine the sound of 80’s synth-pop, but Paupière deftly update the genre for the 21st century. Released last fall, the Montreal trio’s debut album, À jamais privé de réponses, included an enticing mix of decadent dancefloor numbers (“Sans elle,” “Défunte lune de miel”) and sincere pop anthems (“Rex,” “Nouveau jour”). Having collaborated with stage director Félix-Antoine Boutin in order to bring theater and visual arts to the traditional live experience, Paupière will likely bring a distinctive blend of the esoteric and playful to the Francos stage.

Klô Pelgag (Sunday, June 10 @ 9 PM, Place des Festivals)

The cinematic and symphonic songs that made up Klô Pelgag’s second album, L’étoile thoracique, were rightfully given lavish praise upon its release in fall 2016. The album manages to create its own world for listeners to inhabit, with a balance between the wistful sounds of songs like “Les animaux” and the more grandiose sounds of tracks like “Samedi soir à la violence.” Pelgag’s performance at this year’s Francos might be the most striking of the lot, as a full-blown orchestra will flesh out the singer-songwriter’s baroque folk compositions, making it one of the can’t miss shows at the festival.

Jesuslesfilles (Wednesday, June 13 @ 8 PM, corner of de Maisonneuve and Clark)

Fresh off last month’s release of their third album, Daniel, Jesuslesfilles come ready with new material to captivate audiences. Their latest LP sees the addition of Yuki Berthiaume-Tremblay on vocals alongside those of lead singer and guitarist Martin Blackburn, a pairing that works wonders on songs such as the thrashing yet irresistibly catchy “Parasol.” That, coupled with an expanded sonic palette consisting of keyboards and saxophone, brings depth to Jesuslesfilles’ already energetic garage rock sounds. Expect nothing less than an intense and lively performance by the Montreal quintet.

Corridor (Wednesday, June 13 @ 10 PM, corner of de Maisonneuve and Clark)

Corridor is the perfect act for Anglophones who don’t understand French to follow, as their songs are filled with blurred vocals that defy language. Last year’s Supermercado was a leap forward for the Montreal quartet, with a compelling mix of earnest melodies and layers of sinewy guitars. The murky atmospherics that call to mind the lighter side of 80’s post-punk (think R.E.M.’s first album) are still present, but it’s the matured songwriting abilities on songs like “L'histoire populaire de Jonathan Cadeau” and “Data fontaine" that are the most pleasantly surprising feature of Corridor’s sophomore album. Audiences should expect a dynamic set from one of Montreal’s finest groups.

Lafayette (Wednesday, June 13 and Thursday, June 14 @ 7 PM, Place des Festivals)

One of several artists performing at this year’s Francos hailing from France, Frédéric Lafayette will bring his melancholic yet upbeat songs with him from across the ocean. With arrangements that conjure the most timeless elements of 80’s pop, Lafayette’s songs are perfect for Montreal’s rising heat, with songs like “Décapotable” and “Une fille, un été” evocative of endless summers (and he’s even got a song based on that too). Lafayette will be performing back to back shows on June 13 and June 14, so there’s no excuse to miss what will be a surely entertaining performance of both kitsch and poignancy.

LaF (Friday, June 15 @ 8 PM, corner of Sainte-Catherine and Jeanne-Mance)

While Quebec rap staples Alaclair Ensemble and Dead Obies are the biggest draws in hip-hop at this year’s Francos, LaF are the rising act not to miss. Fresh off their win at last month’s Francouverts competition (netting a $10,000 prize in the process), LaF’s three MCs and three beatmakers bring a palpable and irresistible energy to their songs. The group released their excellent Jello EP last fall, and whether it be smooth tracks like “Éternelle” to kick back to on a Sunday morning, or tunes like “Simple” to amp yourself up, LaF have the versatility to make them rap québ’s most exciting act to watch.