By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – Every year music lovers, concertgoers and adventure seekers of all ages and backgrounds converge on a picturesque town nestled on the shores of Osisko Lake in the verdant forest terrain of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Québec. Famous for hosting internationally renowned arts festivals while maintaining a distinct cultural flavour of its own, the historic region will once again open its venue doors to the Festival de Musique Émergente. Taking up residency in the scenic town of Rouyn Noranda for a four-day week over the Labour Day long weekend, FME will be celebrating 16 years of music, fun, and friendship in 2018.
“My two good friends, Jenny Thibault and Karine Berthiaume, and I founded the festival back in 2003,” explains FME co-founder Sandy Boutin.
“Our motive back then came from the frustration of never having bands stop in our hometown of Rouyn-Noranda. We grew up there, went to school there, we lived our whole lives there and we love it. So, we decided to create our very own festival in response to that.”
What began as a grassroots initiative has blossomed into one of the most popular late-summer festival destinations on the calendar. Word-of-mouth and social media have certainly help propel FME and the musicians it showcases into the spotlight, but for Boutin and company it has always come down to the interpersonal connections that are activated between performer and audience.
“Our biggest mission with the FME has always been to encourage emerging artists and music, with a programming that goes beyond the ‘obvious’ and to really give a platform to up-and-coming genres and talents. We do that by always keeping in touch with what is happening in the musical landscape, and we bring them to various venues (from retirement homes to elementary schools or corner stores),” she continues.
“The majority of our line-up is Canadian, with a few international guests, which we handpick. It’s important to note that, since the festival is held in such a small region, we always want to present the most diverse programming possible, in order to satisfy everyone’s musical taste.”
It’s not easy keeping ahead of the freshest trends and followings, yet one glance at the festival’s jam-packed schedule will give you a pretty good idea of the depth and breadth of creatives that have been brought together for this bucolic romp. No wonder FME is catching on with those hungry to discover their next sonic obsession.
“Our biggest challenge as always been to make the festival grow without distorting it. For instance, in our first edition, we presented 22 artists over four venues and counted around 3500 entries. Last year (our 15th anniversary edition), over 70 bands played throughout 14 venues. We counted 35000 entries. Around 40 per cent of our audience travels over 500 kilometres to attend the festival.
”That’s a lot of sandals over the threshold, yet the intimate feeling of FME has not been diminished by its growing reputation. If anything, it has become a sort of pop-up village of rockers and talkers who are going to take the knowledge, material and network of like-minded individuals they’ve gained out into the world with them.
“Although the festival is bigger than it was at the beginning, it’s crucial for us to remain authentic, and not alienate anyone,” Boutin observes.
“There’s always been something very human, organic about the FME, a sort of closeness between the audience and the artists. We want to keep that.”
Thanks to the army of employees and volunteers who make FME ‘happen’, attending artists are reaping the benefits of a unique platform and the opportunity to generate the positive momentum they need to take their projects to the next level.
“Over the years, the FME has developed a strong professional network, it has become a focal point for industry professionals from all over Québec and francophone Europe. So, whenever a band performs at the FME, they can expect to play in front of around 40 international festival programmers, 120 journalists and 120 Québec industry pros,” Boutin emphasizes.
“Media partners have played a crucial part in the FME’s success, especially in its beginning.
Since we didn’t have any money to put towards promo, we invited every media outlet we could think of to attend, and they did! They gave us a lot of coverage, which helped us gain visibility. FME is turning 16 this year! I think it’s like a young adult. It has its own personality its own life now. It just finished it’s teenage-crisis stage and has been through a lot of questioning. But now, with a new Director and team in place with a lot of energy and passion, I think the FME will continue to evolve and will become a nice and inspiring adult!
”Festival de Musique Émergente featuring: Karkwa and Patrick Watson, Pierre Lapointe, Nakhane, Basia Bulat, Yonatan Gat and the Eastern Medicine Singers, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Frigs, Johnny Mafia, Moonwalks, Cattle Decapitation, Camaromance and many more runs August 30 – September 3 at various venues (Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Québec)
Festival de Musique Émergente featuring: Karkwa and Patrick Watson, Pierre Lapointe, , Nakhane, Basia Bulat, Yonatan Gat and the Eastern Medicine Singers, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Frigs, Johnny Mafia, Moonwalks, Cattle Decapitation, Camaromance and many more runs Aug. 30 – Sept. 3 at various venues (Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Québec)Basia Bulat, Camaromance, Cattle Decapitation, Festival de Musique Émergente, Frigs, Johnny Mafia, Karkwa and Patrick Watson, Moonwalks, Nakhane, Pierre Lapointe, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Yonatan Gat and the Eastern Medicine Singers