FME: 15 Years of Supporting the Weird in the Middle of Nowhere

Festival Musique Émergente (FME) is a music festival in rural Northern Quebec that has been giving the artist, freaks and freaky artists of Canada a place to play. Celebrating 15 years this summer, FME threw yet another fun weekend full of the unexpected to close out summer on Labour Day weekend. I spoke with Jenny Thibault, Vice President, Communications and Marketing Director about the path FME is on.


How long have you been with FME?

Since the beginning! My friends and I were tired to go to Montreal or TO to see good music concerts. So, we had this crazy idea late in 2002, and we did the first edition in our hometown in September 2003, with 22 bands.

The best way I can describe FME is a festival for the Canadian underground and obscure. How would you describe it?

It’s an indie music festival with a lineup of 75 artists running in a small mining town. We are a multi-venue festival with more than 20 venues all over the city, one central outside stage, and pop-up shows happening everywhere: In a garage, a backyard, on a lake, etc. To accomplish this, we have more than 300 volunteers. The local community is very involved and you can feel the vibe of the festival all across the city.

What sort of advantages are there to having a festival in Northern Quebec verses having it in a big city like Montreal?

I think it’s a mix of distance, remoteness, music enthusiasts, and passion. Every venue is located into a walking distance. There is also a natural selection. Only real music fans would drive seven hours to go see some concerts in a small isolated town. All these passionate people converge towards Rouyn-Noranda for four days of intensive music and party!

For the past eight years, FME has been focused on being environmentally responsible. Can you talk more about your efforts?

Yes, it’s something very important for us. We are composting everything. We use reusable glass, recycling papers, and carbon offset.

Are there any performances that stick out in your mind?

We are building a lot of memorable souvenirs. It’s our trademark: GSYBE playing in a church at midnight. Richard Desjardins on a stage on the lake. A Tribe Called Red at the opening night last year by -2 degrees. Pop up shows in a convenience store, in a garage, in the commercial centre. Random Recipe playing at 2 am at the 24-hour poutine restaurant, John Spencer and his project Heavy Trash in a basement. Owen Pallet making everyone’s dance at the closing event…

After 15 years as a festival, what does the future of FME look like?

Good question! The concept of emergence is something very conceptual and always evolving. Therefore, this is why we don’t have a strategic development plan for the upcoming years. We want to be agile and continue to propose new and innovative musical experiences that will touch people and reach new audiences.