Partner, Groenland, Charlotte Cardin, Marie-Pierre Arther + Galaxie @ FME 9/1/2016

Thursday was the first of September, but that doesn’t mean summer or festival season is over. I was one of the lucky ones flown on a chartered plane to Rouyn-Noranda Quebec for Festival de musique émergente (aka FME).

We landed in the mining town in the afternoon and after picking up our passes and checking into our hotel, we headed for the main festival grounds. Nothing was playing just yet but we were treated with great hospitality and piles of food which was served to all early attendees. The people serving us would be seen later around town at their various businesses. The community aspect of the festival could be felt right away.

With our stomachs full we headed to Agora des Arts, a church turned venue for the tail end of rock singer-songwriter Jason Bajada‘s set. He was followed by the amazing Charlotte Cardin, which I became a huge personal fan of this year. While the majority of the songs she sang were from her huge EP release Big Boy, she did reveal some songs that I hadn’t previously heard, including a mini premiere of a new song that I think is called “Paradise”. With her Amy Winehouse-esque voice, she is also a crazy good songwriter who can subtly imply the word fuck or call someone a bitch with class and badassery. This is one artist that will blowup in both languages.

Up next in the sweaty Agora was 6 piece band Groenland. What is always strange to me is how hard it is for a Quebec band (even those that speak in English) to break in Ontario but be so beloved back home and this was one example. They got the audience dancing with their orchestral-pop pieces complete with hand clapping. Though the set teased their September 16th release Wider Space, it’s hard to have a Groenland set with out the fun old numbers like “Criminals”.

Afterward, I went back to the main stage and caught some of Galaxie and Marie-Pierre Arthur’s collaborative project. It was a perfect marriage of folk songwriting and heavy rock energy.

Though I’ve seen them many times this year, I seriously couldn’t resist seeing Partner in a completely different setting. The band packed onto the tiny stage at Cabaret de la dernière chance. Their stage banter was in French but their tunes remained English and with each song gained new fans. There was a guy in a pizza shirt who was so genuinely excited to be there and tell the band how much fun he was having. Josée Caron spoke fluenter French than Lucy Niles, which somehow made for super endearing entertainment as well. A harmonica was pulled out for the song “Lesbian Porn”. Who knew a song like that would ever need a harmonica. They are seriously one of the best live bands of 2016. At the end of their set, the audience cheered and thumped for more. Because Partner don’t actually have any more songs, they turned the thumping into a hilarious cover of “We Will Rock You” by Queen.

FME Day 1 was off to a magical start.