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FME Rings In 20 Years of End-of-Summer Bliss

Rural Quebec prepares for platinum party vibes with an A-list cast of emerging talent.

by Christine Leonard

Celebrating 20 years of musical discovery, Quebec’s Festival de Musique Émergente (FME) is back in full swing for the 2022 instalment of the beloved end of summer gathering.  Set amid the verdant forests and glittering lakes of Rouyn-Noranda, FME transpires over four days (September 1 to 4) transforming the sleepy northern locale into a party town filled with dynamic live music programming, stunning art installations and informative industry panels.

Famous for their hospitality and knack for highlighting some of the finest Canadian and international talent on the scene today, FME brings together musicians of all stripes to display their wares and round out the summer while simultaneously kicking off the busy fall touring season. Lining up the best in show and the ones-to-watch for the 2022 edition, FME’s programming director, Marilyne Lacombe has selected an impressive and diverse roster of artists, ensuring their special platinum anniversary menu offers horizon-expanding audio adventures for attendees and performers alike.

“The founding idea behind the Fest is to bring emergent music, indie musicians and bigger bands together to create an experience where music is at the centre of everything without the distractions you’d have in a city like Montréal, for example,” says Lacombe. “But when you drive eight hours to Rouyn-Noranda it’s really all about that for four days.”

2022 will find FME staging acts including art pop royalty Animal Collective, Chad VanGaalen, Julie Doiron, Lisa Leblanc, P’tit Belliveau, Johnny Pilgrim, Les Louanges, Hubert Lenoir, Rich Aucoin, Ombigiizi, Dying Fetus, Les Hay Babies, Loud, Growlers Choir, Balaklava Blues, Koriass, Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire and many, many more. Lacombe and the FME team will be abuzz as they present some 100+ indoor and outdoor performances at an eclectic variety of bars, theatres, parks and pop-up spots around the capital of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region. “The remote location is one aspect that adds to the atmosphere of the festival. It is kind of a pilgrimage that we do every year. It’s so beautiful in this northern mining town and at FME we like to invest in all of the unique venues.”

It’s not unheard of for your headliner to pull up to the beach while serenading you from a canoe, just ask the locals. “The people of the town are a big part of FME,” Lacombe confirms. “Everyone is involved with the festival in some way. They come, help, participate, and attend. They always pack the shows. There’s a real interest in partaking of these cultural exchanges and being exposed to new music that’s outside of the mainstream.”

A long-standing reunion of sorts for the musicians and concertgoers who faithfully observe the annual FME ‘rite de passage,’ the event also shines a light on the stunning beauty of the wilderness that surrounds the city of (just over) 40,000. For veteran booking agent and record label executive Lacombe, it’s the perfect opportunity to foster new talent and welcome back the bands that the festival has seen flourish over the past two decades.

“We enjoy placing new projects who are at the beginning of their career alongside bands with more established audiences to give them a nice boost and encourage people to discover them. We also try to match groups with the best environment to accommodate their sound and create an ideal setting in which to immerse yourself and absorb the music live. Like maybe you want to hear a certain band in a dirty little bar, or perhaps on a huge outdoor stage with an illuminated backdrop.” 

The Medicine Singers collective exemplifies the power of FME to launch careers and plant the seeds of inspiration. Emerging from a sonic collaboration between the Eastern Medicine Singers, an Eastern Algonquin pow wow ensemble, and boundary-pushing guitarist Yonatan Gat (Monotonix), The Medicine Singers group has since graced festivals across North America and Europe and launched their own recording projects in earnest.

“We are thrilled to be back at full capacity and presenting everything on the spectrum,” enthuses Lacombe. “The core of FME is a very festive and social event, it’s great that we can get to party together again! I think we have to thank the local team who does an amazing job putting everything together. The artists look forward to seeing each other and trying out their new material in front of our live audiences before they present it more widely. It’s no wonder that bands are so excited to play FME.”

The ultimate way to chase the lazy, hazy days of late summer down to the Labour Day finish line, FME promises to remain a locus for the cultivation of Canadian music and a prized retreat for those who dream of whisking their favourite bands away to a private chateau in the wild woods.

For a full list of artists and tickets, visit fmeat.org