FME Take 3: The Also Cools’ Return to Rouyn-Noranda

 

The Festival de musique émergente celebrated its 21st birthday this past weekend, returning to the northern city of Rouyn-Noranda. Surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant murals, the Also Cools unpacked our suitcases and jumped straight into four outstanding days of live performance.

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Featuring over 350 artists from across Quebec and beyond, FME sprawled across every sidewalk, and we are pleased to report that it shone as bright as the end-of-summer sun. As we bounced between venues, chilled Sapporos in hand, it became progressively more obvious that identifying our favourites would be no small feat – that every memory of this edition deserved to live forever. 

Our adventures included secret shows with sunset backdrops, car parking lots, chalk drawing late into the night, the Bonsound pool-side BBQ, making toast out of a Darth Vader toaster with Truckviolence, and enjoying some of the best music that the indie scene has to offer. Here are just some of the sets that made the séjour a success.

La Sécurité

Although La Sécurité marked our seventh show of the day on Friday, the art-punk quintet packed a rejuvenating punch. Rocking a pair of gas station visor shades, band member Éliane Viens-Synnott exuded carefree cool from the moment she took the stage. Her eccentric delivery and free-flowing choreography commanded the Diable Rond – as did bandmate and drummer Kenny Smith, whose technical precision was impossible to ignore.

Les Louanges

Emotive yet unserious, mellow and multidimensional – Les Louanges held Rouyn-Noranda in the palm of his hand. The Lévis native has garnered praise at lightning speed for his soulful stylings, and his appearance on the main stage certainly justified the hype. Backed by groovy basslines, howling flutes, and a slew of rapturous Queb teens, the artist floated to and fro with a captivating sense of swagger. Catching Les Louanges at this dynamic moment in his career was nothing short of a privilege.

TUKAN

Without question, TUKAN is the name on every festival-goer’s lips. The Belgian group delivered three palpitating performances over the course of the weekend, taking FME by storm with vivid post-rock arrangements. While their jam-packed set at Le Petit Theatre was a strobey-sweet affair, the magic of TUKAN’s final show will be something to remember. Lining 7ème rue with an air of bittersweet anticipation, a sea of glistening bodies gathered to transcend one last time, folding into each rhythm with the desire to make it last forever. And TUKAN? They did too.

AMMAR 808

We met AMMAR 808 on one of the many volunteer-run shuttles we took from our hotel to the main festival grounds. He told us about his long journey from Amsterdam, and mentioned he would be playing a set “somewhere, sometime soon”. Little did we know, our humble new friend is the acclaimed Tunisian producer Sofyann Ben Youssef. We caught his show at the electronic night at Le Petit Theatre, and were absolutely blown away by his masterful blend of traditional African beats and hardcore techno.

Milk TV 

Another post-punk favourite of the festival was Milk TV, a trio hailing from Brussels. Initially not knowing where they were from, we thought they must have emerged from either the Canadian West Coast post-punk scene (think NOV3L, Pottery, and Crack Cloud), or somewhere from the world of Omni, Deeper, or Parquet Courts. Their no-wave energy was electrifying and had the whole crowd moshing by the end of the set.

Myst Milano

Absolutely slayful, and a new discovery for Also Cool, is Myst Milano. The DJ and multi-instrumentalist captivated their audience with their 90s-inspired beats and hard-hitting lyrics, not to mention killer dance moves. Their album Shapeshyfter, which made the Polaris Prize longlist in 2022, now has a permanent spot on the Also Cool daily Spotify rotation.

We once again had a beautiful time in Rouyn-Noranda, surrounded by good music, new friends, and the most incredible end-of-summer vibes we could ask for.


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