FME 2022

The 2022 FME music festival was solid gold

Looking back on the best of the best of the 20th edition of Rouyn-Noranda’s Festival de musique émergente.

And just like that, like so many Fred Fortin side projects, the 20th edition of Quebec’s Festival de musique émergente (nestled in the lovely little gold and copper mining town of Rouyn-Noranda, in the province’s Abitibi-Témiscamingue region) has come and gone. 

Why has such an unlikely destination become not only a highly anticipated end-of-summer escape plan for fans of live music, but a veritably cutting edge music festival unlike any of its peers — and for two full decades, at that?

Part of it has to do with its organizational structure, founded once upon a time on the simple premise that the boonies should have cool shit, too. That led to its mission to curate an event that invited novelty. 

In recent years, FME organizers have increasingly handed those reins to the capable hands of the team at Mothland, a Montreal-based promotional hive-mind that doesn’t limit itself to convention in terms of what an agency, record label or publicity firm would ordinarily task itself with. They’ve kept FME fresh and overcome significant odds in these years of unprecedented disruption in the live music business. 

But when all is said and done, the answer to why FME brings people to the middle of rural Quebec on Labour Day weekend year in, year out is because the town of Rouyn-Noranda and its people, who welcome the fest and its visitors from far and wide, are just plain nice, ordinary folk…who really, really love to fuckin’ dance and party all day and all night.

There is no way one person could possibly manage to take it all in and spell it all out. 

But I did my damndest to whittle down the best of the best and report back on the weekend that was at FME 2022.

Thursday, Sept. 1

P’Tit Belliveau

The first set I enjoyed at this year’s FME happened to be my coup-de-coeur discovery at the festival’s 2019 edition. From an afternoon pool party back then to a co-headlining slot on the main outdoor stage now, the Acadian talent is making moves one banjo pluck, guitar strum and ivory-tickle at a time, earning accolades and fans of every age, size, shape and colour along the way. 

With one of the best releases of the year and sold-out shows across Eastern Canada, catching bigger signals on the international radar at FME with a high-energy charmer of a set was good news for P’Tit Belliveau et les Grosses Coques. 

Lisa Leblanc

Speaking of people having amazing years, Chiac Disco queen and fellow Acadienne Lisa Leblanc, who headlined the same stage following Belliveau and les Hay Babies, showed the people of Rouyn-Noranda one helluva good time. On a somewhat chilly northern night, Leblanc made keeping it hot — with a great selection of new jams from her aforementioned 2022 LP and established fan favourites — look easy. 

Her powerful voice, instrumental talent and bursting-at-the-seams party girl charm made ‘em move. Her band is equally awesome, pros who can hold their own and then some and manage to make their own space to shine while giving their frontwoman the raw force that her music (once dubbed “trash folk”) demands. 

Disco, metal, folk and francophonie started FME on a high note, all in one fiercely seductive package. What more could you ask for? Vive Leblanc! 

Grim Streaker

Brooklyn kids are built different. And in Rouyn-Noranda, anything goes. These visitors bring riff-heavy downtempo punk crafts to life under the watchful of eye of a fully pantsuited frontperson who looked and behaved like she just got off an exasperating shift at the bank. She could also very well be the person who’s been hiding razor blades in the Halloween candy all these years. 

Pushing the limits of the tongue-in-cheek right to the edge of pretentiousness without ever taking themselves too seriously, Grim Streaker is cool as fuck, effortlessly and inclusively.


A second helping of Brooklyn youth was more than welcome. For round two, Abitibi met Gustaf. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this band again. Their truly charismatic stage presence and performance ethic are far from limited to singer Lydia. But as an anchor of sorts to their angular, anxious but ultimately joyous take on angular, Gang-of-Four-checking post-punk, this person does a remarkable job of keeping the chaos controlled. 

These five friends are obviously gifted creators and, moreover, people just undeniably of their time and place. 

Nothing about Gustaf tries. It just is. And what it is, in a cramped, overheated show bar setting, is absolutely marvelous.

Friday, Sept. 2

Johnny Pilgrim

A barroom 5 à 7 with leatherfaced cowboy and lowkey Keb icon Johnny Pilgrim didn’t seem like a terribly out of the ordinary way for the people of Rouyn-Noranda to kick off a long weekend, but what the hell do I know? I’m just lucky they let me stand in the doorway. Pretty sure if there had been actual swinging saloon doors, my kind wouldn’t have been welcome there. 

Perpetually appearing to be on the edge of tears, Pilgrim played up the sentimentality, wink-nudged at the crass in the way only an old charmer can get away with, and might have been the person having the most fun in a room full of people clapping, laughing and endeared. A great band, led by a sincere throwback. Did they ever actually even make them like this? Maybe we’ll you at LASSO 2023, pilgrim.


This French pyschedelic punk trio made some real waves on the edge of Lac Osisko early on a gorgeous summer evening at sundown. Kickass riffs, tight drums and some sort of electric hurdy-gurdy made for a fun, weird palette of sonic colour, but the finest moments were when all three players harmonized, singing in Languedoc, a nearly-extinct French dialect. Safe to say the band left with quite a few new fans. 

Sheenah Ko

The Besnard Lakes keyboardist, a go-to player for several high-profile Canadian music artists, gave FME a sweet dose of her own solo material, a spacey, luscious experiment that dabbles in electronic as much as it does experimental rock, leaning more heavily into the former. Ko’s upbeat anthems hit the spot and her presence as a band leader is undeniable. 


The second half of a set from Quebec’s biggest brand-name hip hop star may not have reached the heights of his last visit to FME in 2019, but it certainly struck all the right chords for the megafans gathered at FME’s main outdoor stage. Three years ago, Loud’s summer started with the release of one of the best solo rap albums in the province’s history, two nights at the Bell Centre and a summer of touring that brought him to the heartland at peak popularity, mere months before the performing arts would be forced to stand still indefinitely. 

In 2022, Loud still has the clout (and the tracks, as evidenced by a great third album) and the love. But it doesn’t look like he still has quite the same numbers, judging by the crowd size in Rouyn-Noranda

But Loud’s vision, supported by the team he rolls with, suggests he won’t fall short any time soon. As for the show, he played the hits with the energy they demand. And a mini Loud Lary Ajust reunion, while predictable, was a treat. Long live the king.


Catching much buzz in the day leading up to their 1 a.m. Friday night set, MNNQNS ended up seeming, to me at least, like a lesson in what happens when style is over-emphasized when there is already enough substance for a band to work with. It was cute to see the indie four-piece (out of Rouen, France) have a little pre-show huddle outside the front door of the small (and excellent) Cabaret de la Dernière Chance. 

But when they got onstage all I could think was that the lead guitarist already wants to go solo, the singer will one day be shit-talking the whole band to anyone who listens, the bassist is just there for the experience and the drummer will probably sleep with all of their girlfriends. MNNQNS are too intentionally showy, to the detriment of their obvious talent.


This French hardcore goth-techno duo is terrifying, thunderously aggressive and nothing less than awesome. And I’m not sure, but I think I may have accidentally been baptized into the Church of Satan when the DJ half of this ghost-faced, demon-eyed, dark order of two used a bushel of coriander to douse the small but rapt audience of dancing fools with a small drops of a liquid that I’m quite certain was less-than-holy. 

Meanwhile, the singer screamed, wailed and gutturally chanted his way through a dark mass of intense lights, eye-searing visuals and dancefloor madness. 

One wonders if, when their show was done, Gargäntua just absorbed into the cement walls of the dingy venue basement, only to be released again elsewhere at the next half pink moon. Yikes. 

Saturday, Sept. 3


Having missed the popular Quebec MC the night before, where he shared the bill with Loud and Sarahmée, I was pretty happy to catch him at a genuinely surprising secret show early Saturday evening at an unassuming green space on a residential street. 

It must be pretty cool to live in a little, secluded place and have a certified star pop up and do a show in your own backyard. One of the great aspects of FME is seeing big-name Quebec acts get their flowers in the heartland of the province, so there really was something extra-special about watching Kori and DJ Manifest lead a singalong to “Jamais Jamais” as fest-goers, families, curious onlookers, dogs and babies bounced around together on the grass. 

It’s good to see a talent like Koriass wear the gratitude he has for his fanbase on his sleeve, up close and personal.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This Montreal vocalist and the musicians they work with deserve it all. This was my third time experiencing the range and raw, emotive urgency that Fernie bleeds into every note they sing. Each concert has had a totally different feel. 

There’s a modern R&B star rising in Fernie and I’m honestly thrilled to be catching a glimpse as it shoots by. What a talent. 

Les Louanges

An excited theatre packed wall to wall with dedicated fans of the Quebec star — who blends cool charm with easy to enjoy, accessible modern pop music — was once again a reminder of how important it is that Quebec stars are able to reach their audience outside of the big city we take for granted, deliver high level productions and bring fans an intimate, personal experience that feels important. 

Is Les Louanges to the regions what the Weeknd once was to the hipster underground? In any case, he made it a Saturday to remember at FME. 

Growlers Choir

Growlers FME 2022

Growlers Choir is literally a vocal ensemble of a baker’s dozen heavy metal growers. I couldn’t look away from their surprise late-night performance in a tiny parking lot. But not for any other reason than that I was giggling uncontrollably throughout most of it. 

Complete with a narrator–cum-choir director perched on the fire escape stairs of the building, somberly intoning the tale of… the last survivors of some fuckin’ cataclysmic LARPer campaign, I think? I don’t know. The word “doom” was growled a lot. I’m probably just an asshole but this was stupid. It was basically like wrestling but with no wrestling.

Gros Mené

Quebec singer-guitarist Fred Fortin is an FME regular and a connector across the various reaches of the province’s rock, punk and metal scenes, and just a super entertaining guy. The ex-Galaxie and les Breastfeeders axe-man gets his fingers up and down a lotta fretboards, mouth harps and drum sticks. 

With this particular on-and-off project back again for the moment, Fortin and company show off what a bunch of really great players can do when they play it a little sloppy, a little silly and a with a whole lotta loud. Call it Keb Zeppelin — but only up to II. Super fun. 

Sunday, Sept. 4

Alicia Clara 

Switzerland-born Montrealer and Hot Tramp artist Alicia Clara had a beautiful early Sunday afternoon lakeside setting, perfect to work out her easy-going brand of pensive pop-rock. With a new three-piece band backing her own strumming and singing, Clara delivered with a certain distinguished shyness that, if wielded with a little more polish, could become her performative signature. 

Pieces from her small but scrupulously composed catalogue fit easily alongside the promising direction of new songs she shared. A very nice way to spend an early Sunday afternoon at FME.


I attended Lysandre’s performance with no expectations and, if anything, a little skeptical about the description provided in the festival app. Frankly, I went because I really like the venue and they serve coffee. And I’m glad I did. The singer-keyboardist and her five-piece band carry some seriously soaring tunes. It’s not quite one thing or another. It’s not synth pop and it’s not rock. 

Perhaps the best way to describe Lysandre would be: new adult contemporary from a very gifted young talent. Or better still, don’t listen to my attempt at an analysis and instead, when you see Lysandre billed at a venue near you, go hear her for yourself. But something tells me that within a couple of years, Lysandre will be a headliner. 

Hubert Lenoir

What better way to shut down the main stage at Quebec’s emerging music festival (and its 20th edition, no less) than to bring out the embodiment of eccentricity, attitude and over-the-top freedom of expressive, excessive pageantry that is the Hubert Lenoir experience and burn the motherfucker down?

In a weekend that held a lot of “this may be the best thing I’ve seen” moments, Lenoir and his band of criminally entertaining troubadours made a flaming hot mess that was equal parts MJ, Kanye and Fishbone, delivered with the prancing snark the Quebec star is adored for by many and hated on by a few. 

Songs bled from one to the next in a bacchanale of stage dives, sax solos, screen projections and a smashed guitar, culminating in what would have probably turned into a full-on orgy in the town square if it had gone on even a minute longer. 

As it was, the show ended well over schedule, to the dismay of exactly no one but a lone CHOM host whose name shan’t be mentioned. Sunday nights at FME have no chill, and especially not when gifted with a celebration like the one Lenoir orchestrated. Bravo.


Coda: What could possibly follow the showstopper Rouyn-Noranda had just born witness to and not disappoint? 

It turns out that Atlanta, GA’s CDSM had that last bump that party-goers who needed a little extra were still craving. 

Thanking Hubert Lenoir for opening for them, they launched their counterassault. 

Staffed by members of Material Girls, Mother and a handful of others, CDSM (that’s Celebrity Death Slot Machine, thank you very much) brought the moods out with their measured delivery of highly danceable darkwave.

When an encore was demanded, the crowd was simply told, “We’ll write more songs.” 

Catch them at l’Esco this Friday, Sept. 9 to witness where these wild things are. 

With that, it was time for bed. 

(Well, okay, maybe after another hour of dancing in the middle of Rue Murdoch to some terribly fun club music with the last FME’ers standing.) 

Congrats to the entire festival organization for hitting the big 2-0 and for putting on a celebration that went big. And thanks to the scores of volunteers, and of course the town of Rouyn-Noranda, for having us. See you again Labour Day weekend, 2023! ■

For more on FME, please visit the festivals website.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.