Once a year at the end of the summer, Quebec’s Emerging Music Festival (aka Festival de Musique Émergente, or FME) transforms the small mining town of Rouyn-Noranda into a four-day showcase of live music from all over North America. The streets start to overflow with music; a whole city block becomes a venue over the course of the fest; and bands work their way into every possible performance space. Pop-up shows happen everywhere, from parking lots to train stations, like an ad-free SXSW where everyone speaks French.
With a range of music that spanned hip-hop to nu-metal to Owen Pallett, this year’s FME never catered to a particular niche. Instead, I saw a celebration of the way music fits into and enhances life. Each year of the festival takes on its own mascot, and this year’s was a robot, an easy image to splash across a town but also potentially a symbol for technology and how it affects people and the art they make. It got me thinking about musicians as cyborgs hijacking machinery toward emotional ends, even those musicians who shun computers, dress up like cowboys, and play the harmonica.
I thought about how we’re all cyborgs, even in a place where technology seems to be an afterthought (no Apple store anywhere near Rouyn), and we might as well embrace it. With its seamless integration of arts spectacles into a town that makes art a priority year-round, FME made that easy.