FME reviews

FouKi at FME 2023

The FME 2023 report: One long weekend, 18 standout bands and a round of applause

“The Festival de musique émergente took place from the final day of August through the wee hours of the long weekend with yet another spectacular edition of excitement, discovery, debauchery and all-around enjoyment.”

As has been the custom for 21 consecutive summers on Labour Day weekend the lakeside city of Rouyn-Noranda, in the Quebec region of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, hosted four days and nights of live music featuring some of the province’s most notable names in the business alongside multiple times as many upcoming talents from chez nous and abroad.

The Festival de musique émergente (FME) took place from the final day of August through the wee hours of the long weekend with yet another spectacular edition of excitement, discovery, debauchery and all-around enjoyment.

We went, we danced and we took lots of notes. And over the course of an unseasonably warm, sunny holiday weekend, we had a final hurrah as the 2023 summer festival season came to its unofficial conclusion. 

Here are as many reviews as we could pack in to bring you this year’s FME report.


Thierry Larose

The truth can hurt. And the truth is, Thierry Larose’s band was better than his vocal chops on stage on opening night on the main outdoor stage. That’s an unfortunate thing to have to say about a critically acclaimed Quebec artist kicking off a festival that wears love for our province’s success stories on its sleeve. Larose’s music is solid, and the players are top-notch, but the frontman never quite got over with the same level of intensity as the rest of the band. Being the first act up on the main stage on opening night at FME was surely a daunting task. And with that in mind, Larose carried himself more confidently than he sounded. 

Mauskovic Dance Band

Mauskovic Dance Band FME
Mauskovic Dance Band

This Amsterdam four-piece consists of a drummer, a percussionist, a keyboard player/vocalist and a bassist. Between their individually deft rhythmic timing and obvious affinity for weaving in and out of complex time signatures as a group activity, “Dance Band” feels like a wink-nudge. If so much as one bum note took these guys apart on stage, it would cause discordant chaos. Tight as hell, to say the least. That they’ve combined Afrobeat, dance-punk and Claypool-esque yelps and chants into a fun, entertaining and engaging performance model speaks to the unlikely strangeness of their appeal. There’s nothing minimal about these guys, despite their weapons of choice. 

Bon Enfant

The love child of musicians from Canailles, Ponctuation and LUMIÈRE, the best way to describe Bon Enfant is that they deliver peak-music-festival-music with a Québécois twist. That made them a perfect fit for a cool summer evening at FME.

Their intentionally over-the-top, danceable pop was full of hammy theatrics and choruses, and a collective laissez-faire attitude prioritizing fun without sidelining artistic merit. I don’t know that I’d listen to them at home. But Bon Enfant was a perfectly suitable soundtrack for a chill half-hour line at the concession stand. 

Emma Beko

Emma Beko at Chez Morasse FME
Emma Beko at Chez Morasse

A surprise show in the parking lot of Rouyn-Noranda’s legendary late-night greasy spoon, Chez Morasse, made for an early bit of FME magic on night one. Beko made sure early in the set to tell the sizeable crowd that turned up on short notice how much she loves the city and its hometown hero, Richard Desjardins. The following night I caught just enough of her scheduled show to hear her explain how she’d randomly met him early in the day. 

Bouncing back and forth from lighthearted mood music to aggressive, raw rap bars with grace, both performances came from the heart.  And with a significant number of primarily French-speaking fans rapping along to every word by heart, the connection between Emma and her audience was the star of both shows. 

Myst Milano

Myst Milano FME
Myst Milano

It can be tempting to see an incredible live performance from a new artist and declare them to be a rising star, especially in the context of a music festival that’s in the business of showcasing musicians with strong potential. 

Based on the truly incredible performance of Toronto-based hip hopper Myst Milano, I’ll go ahead with that assertion.  

Milano’s second project, Beyond the Uncanny Valley, dropped in late August to near-unanimous praise. The artist’s obvious love for electronic experimentation and throwback appreciation of classic afterhours club music is amplified by the album’s high-quality production value. Their pen game is on point and their lyrical delivery is as versatile as the music’s range of influence. 

On stage, it all comes together with ferocity and fun. Milano’s presence, charm, performance energy and body language speak from both corners of their smile. And what it’s all suggesting is, “Yeah, fuck with me! But don’t you dare fuckin’ fuck with me.

Population II

After weaving through an evening of indie rock, art pop, Afrobeat and hip hop throughout the first night of FME, a nightcap of psychedelically dosed, off-time jazz/punk with this young Montreal trio was probably the only thing that could have kept me on my feet. 

With their latest LP, Électrons libres du québec, due for release on Bonsound in early October, I’ll be looking forward to experiencing the truly blistering live experience with fresh eyes and ears, rested legs and ideally no actual blisters come autumn. Fans of experimental musicians that succeed in their experiments would do well to pay attention. 


Fraud Perry

A late afternoon set from Montreal hip hop artist Fraud Perry was a fantastic jumpoff for the second day of FME. The setting, a chill 5 à 7 lounge space, provided an atmospheric juxtaposition that made her performance all the more interesting. Perry looked right at home, rapping to the crowd indoors and through the terrasse windows to onlookers gathered on the sidewalk. If you saw a still photo, you might think it was a vocal jazz performance. But make no mistake. Fraud Perry was up there spitting dart after dart, with bars and punchlines that could make Kool G Rap take a polite step back and open the door for a lady. Weird that I had to be in a cocktail bar in Rouyn-Noranda to find out, but I’m glad I found out. 

Greg Beaudin

Greg Beaudin FME
Greg Beaudin

If you’ve followed Greg Beaudin since his early days as Snail Kid (one-sixth of hip hop legends Dead Obies) and as ringleader of Brown Family alongside his brother and fellow Quebec hip hop pioneer Jam and their father, Robin Kerr, you can appreciate that his career path hasn’t been about reinvention. If anything, as an artist that makes each new step he takes look and sound effortless, Beaudin’s creative energy inclines itself toward the rejection of laurels. His solo debut, Tiamat, mon amour (released under his government name early this year on 7ième Ciel) represents a bold effort by any standard, much less that of a marquee rap star. 

A rap wiseguy by nature, Beaudin’s vision on Tiamat showcases vulnerability but never treads into tired emo-rap waters or trusty hip hop gimmicks. On stage, that same energy comes to life. And if he has to stop and ask the crowd how long shrooms take to kick in, we can be assured that we’ll always recognize our boy, even though he’s a man now. 


Follwing Beaudin, fellow ex-Obie 20Some came out and continued with the job they were both there to do: warm up the kids for headliner and current Quebec rap sensation FouKi. If Beaudin set the table, 20 uncorked the bottle and poured out a barrage of bangers from 2021’s Home Run and his latest, FIYAH.

“Hold up! Je pense que j’viens de spit genre 2000 bars de suite!” After a solid four or five tracks without a break, he took a 10-second breather, enough time to shout out beat maker par excellence VNCE CARTER on the ones and twos and reminisced over DOs first big break at FME a decade back. Later, Beaudin joined them for a hot 16. Legends, as they say, never die — they just multiply.


Elisapie FME

As much as I would have loved to see the youth of Rouyn-Noranda lose their minds for Fouki, there was serious business to attend to on the other side of town as Elisapie showcased a selection of songs from her upcoming record, Inuktitut, which arrives on Sept. 15.  

Releasing an entire album of cover songs is a bold choice. Electing to translate the lyrics of popular classics and interpolate them into the Inuk language resounds as an act of love, personal connection, bonding and activism all at once. And debuting her new live show at FME was a gift to a festival and a region she holds dear.

Opening with “Heart of Glass,” moving on to compelling, pared-down versions of  “Time After Time,” “Dreams” and other greats from the canon of rock music and her own catalogue, Eliapsie also took time out to tell anecdotes, share personal stories and memories and commune with hundreds of fans tightly packed together in mutual appreciation. 

With a major tour of Quebec planned for winter (and surely spring and summer dates abroad), fans everywhere will soon get their chance to experience this timelessness made new again in concert. But it was pretty special to be among the very first. 


A midnight show at Cabaret de la Dernière Chance (a venue that would be more or less what you’d get if you squeezed Quai des Brumes into any given Royal Canadian Legion) was the perfect setting for the riff assault of Montreal-based ALIAS. The multi-instrumental, multi-genre composer’s studio work takes on a whole other dimension in the flesh – a dimension where Kurt Cobain and David Bowie join Queens of the Stone Age. Hip-gunning rock’n’roll, dripping with melted guitar pick juice. Catch the band this Saturday, Sept. 9 at Bar le Ritz PBD and look out for his Cult MTL interview before then. 


Les Louanges

Les Louanges FME
Les Louanges

The consensus among the group of FME regulars I tend to hold court with was that Les Louanges’s outdoor show on the festival’s main stage knocked his highly praised 2022 appearance out of the water.

That time around was my first time seeing the Lévis, Quebec-born provincial pop star in concert and elevated my general appreciation for the idea of his take on modern soul music from mild interest to genuine admiration. 

Between then and now, I’ve become a true fan o! his hit record Crash, his connection with his fanbase and his place in popular culture. 

Wherever he takes his artistry next, Les Lounages’ relevance is indisputable. And as he gets closer to the end of the Crash era, and readies himself to write its follow-up, fans in Rouyn-Noranda were treated to a command performance from an even more pristinely polished artist whose genuine charisma (tempered by a sincerity that doesn’t seem to be for show) only adds to the it-factor he so casually wields. 

Jodie Jodie Roger

With a co-sign from Backxwash, it could be expected that the rap antics of Montreal-based Jodie Jodie Roger were not gonna harken back to the Sugarhill Gang. But having said that, a fine enough comparison to Roger’s smart-alecky rage, crude cartoon violence, sexual imagery (that included at least one instance of the mic getting jerked off) and menacingly intense, pummeling beats would be that of a gang of neurodivergent children, loaded up on sugar, chasing each other up, down and around a slippery, rocky hill with pairs of rusty scissors in each hand. In ties. Growling Juice WRLD lyrics at each other. And not doing it for TikTok. So, in other words, pretty fuckin’ dope. 


Truckviolence FME

Next up was this Alberta-born Montreal transplant, who opened the show with a forlorn but heartfelt monologue about the destructive force of addiction, his personal experience coping with it is a family disease, and the unifying principles of OG straight edge culture.

Then came the battery of sound, sight and body that one expects, though perhaps the better share of the modest crowd wasn’t ready for. Six or seven kids started swinging, Truck jumped down to join in, Jodie Jodie joined the fray. While the music needs some refinement (and ideally some live bass), this has the honesty to get within closer arms’ reach of hitting straight to the heart of the ethos they promote.


“Musique rapide” is the calling card for a Montreal band that can just as genuinely be described as post-punk with respect to the roots of the term. Not that they need a label. This is a live band doing what great live bands do, live: entertaining, fucking with people’s heads, having fun, and showing what they’ve got – crazy licks – without showing off. 

Cheeky, raunchy, danceable and fronted by a guy and gal who are easy on the eyes, on top of it all. Their FME set happened to be their third-ever show. Keep an eye out for several Montreal dates in the near future, bring your dustiest shitkickers, and check your skeptical cool at the door.

A handful of singles are streaming now, while the official launch of DVTR debut, Bonjour, happens later this fall. 


Hippie Hourrah

A triple bill showcasing the many styles of throwback Franco rock, glam, and psychedelia served in three courses made for a hearty Sunday night meal at La Guinguette Chez Edmund, At sundown on a clear evening in Rouyn-Noranda, on the backdrop of Lac Osisko, the outdoor venue becomes the prettiest of them all. 

Setting it off were fest favorites Hippie Hourrah. Their name actually does the music justice, but the six-piece are not your carbon copied, long-haired freaky people, but rather more an old-timey looking lot of whip tight players who wouldn’t have looked out of place running a mid-19th-century general store. The whole vibe comes together…well, something like “Come Together,” with a lot of wink-nods to the Beatles and their worthiest peers. 

But as a Hippie Hourrah set kicks in and moves to the come up, the music gets faster. The instruments get louder. The celebratory urgency peaks, and the latter half of this show turned the gathering into a true-blue party, setting the stage for LUMIÈRE and Phillipe Brach. The bar was set high, which is likely true wherever Hippie Hourrah parks its wagon.


While I only caught the last 15 minutes of the Quebec metal icons’ one night stand with Rouyn-Noranda at FME’s traditional Sunday night mass, to the surprise of no one, all rotten fuckers are still being blasted deservedly and triumphanty after all these years. It’s funny to think some of the kids moshing and singing every word probably got their tapes from their grandparents, some of whom were swooning nostalgically at the back of the packed venue.


Was this four man band of analog instrumentalists, with their no-frills, no-hard-drives take on dance music’s core principles the darling of the 21st edition of FME?

I suppose it depends who you ask. 

After a surprise pop-up show near Rouyn-Noranda’s imposing foundry tower the night before their official festival billing, media types and fest regulars were abuzz with raving reviews for the Bonsound signees. Having missed that apparently gorgeous moment, I was convinced not to let it happen again.

TUKAN’s subsequent late-night Saturday in the packed, low-ceilinged cellar of le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Noranda charged a steamy warehouse rave atmosphere well past 2 AM, with fest goers bearing thick, sometimes oppressive body heat to keep dancing just a little while longer until the last organic twinkle, upstroke, low end whomp and bass kick faded into the dank air. As the crowd moved outdoors and welcomed cool hits of fresh air onto our skin and into our lungs, the prevailing group body language was ecstatic.

And on Sunday, when no outdoor shows were slated on the main outdoor FME stage in the town center, rumor began to spread early in the day that the Brussels-based non-electronic electronic music outfit would be giving the town a third go. 

And so it was that at 11 PM on Sunday, a sizable gathering appeared on 7ème street to dance the night away and, for all intents and purposes, put the Festival de musique émergente to rest until we all meet again in 2024.

So, right: was TUKAN the darling of this year’s fest?

Or is it just that year after year, FME conjures its own new set of standards for the magic it makes, and that this year TUKAN appeared to be the rabbit in the hat?

It’s probably both, really. And if one band happens to embody that for many satisfied festival attendees, it’s only because dozens and dozens more helped wave the wand, with no sleight of hand necessary. 

Just talent, taste, and a sincere sense of gratitude for being invited to take part in the show. FME, take a well-deserved bow. ■

The FME 2023 report: One long weekend, 18 standout bands and a round of applause

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