Thursday, September 6th, 2012
FME 2012 Day Three
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Marie-Pierre Arthur, and more at Festival de musique émergente 2012
Frank YangAn interesting thing about Rouyn-Noranda: for a town its size, the venues – though not plentiful – are really nice. Unsurprisingly, FME took most of them over for the weekend and large temporary outdoor stages aside – and those were also nice – each had good sound, lighting, and its own distinct character. The converted church of Agora des arts, the roadhouse vibe of Caberet de la dèrniere chance, the multi-level club attached to a music store of Salle Évolu-son, and for the first part of Saturday night, the converted theatre of La Scène Paramount.
I think I missed the first act but arrived in time to see Julien Sagot, another Karkwa member taking advantage of the band’s hiatus to engage in some solo work – I saw frontman Louis-Jean Cormier the previous night, if you’ll recall. And if Cormier’s set had me marvelling at how accessible his work outside of Karkwa was, percussionist Sagot’s compositions were more what I would have expected. His whole set had a distinct arc, starting with moody pieces built on intricate acoustic guitar figures, moving through some boozy ballads that fit his rough, Waits-y vocals well, and eventually ramping up to some Floyd-worthy prog rock. Sagot’s stage presence also matched this progression, as he started out seated amidst his five-piece band, occasionally looking around at them to inspect their performances and nod in approval, before eventually standing up with his guitar and leading them onwards.
Marie-Pierre Arthur also had a Karkwa connection – besides featuring Cormier and Sagot as guest players on her 2012 Polaris long-listed Aux alentours, Karkwa keyboardist François Lafontaine produced the record. Not that she needed the cachet of her collaborators to get attention – her big, joyous pop-rock sound was maybe the most conventional thing I’d hear all weekend, but in the best sense. Fronting her six-piece band on bass, it was big, melodic, energetic affair and the songs had hooks that transcended any language barrier while leaving room for dueling guitars and drum solo without feeling forced or excessive. Thoroughly enjoyable and it was nice to have some proof that not all rock coming out of Québec had to be some degree of proggy. Though let’s be honest, a lot of it is.
Photos: Marie-Pierre Arthur @ La Scène Paramount – September 1, 2012
Video: Marie-Pierre Arthur – “Pourqoi”
Video: Marie-Pierre Arthur – “Si tu savais”
Video: Marie-Pierre Arthur – “Déposer les armes”
Video: Marie-Pierre Arthur – “Droit devant”
Video: Marie-Pierre Arthur – “Elle”
Prog is one of the many adjectives that could reasonably be applied to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, one of the festival’s headliners by measure of international repute, but obviously that’s insufficient. You’d also have to hypen up post-rock, experimental, political, metal, ambient, orchestral, terrifying… basically the only way to describe Godspeed would be to call it Godspeed. This show came two and a half years after the unexpected announcement that the Montréal collective would be ending their hiatus and touring again, and even though I’d seen them last Spring as part of their four-show run in Toronto, there was still a real sense of occasion around this performance given the scale and setting (Agora des arts holds about 400 people on a good day).
Silently taking the stage a little after midnight – though I think one of them waved to the audience – they started with an orchestra-type tune-up that quickly turned into what I can best describe as industrial strangulation reading of “Hope Drone”. The Toronto version was intense, but this one seemed considerably moreso and that really applied to the show as a whole. While never necessarily refined, this show felt extra primal in its sonic fury and for the first while, any melody or beauty that would escape the tumult would have to do battle to do so. As the nearly two-hour show progressed, the band silent and semi-circled while bathed in film projections (which included scenes of industrial bleakness, interesting imagery to show in a mining town) the brutality was gradually dialed back but not before the crowd had thinned to maybe half of the packed house that it was at the start. One wonders if some were unprepared mentally or physically for what they’d be enduring for the show. For those who lasted throughout – and I admit I was only barely among them – it was an impressive, intimate, and inscrutable experience.
And was poutine consumed after? I’m not saying it was, but I’m not saying it wasn’t.
Photos: Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ Agora des arts – September 1, 2012
MP3: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven”
MP3: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “The Buildings They Are Sleeping Now”
Stream: Bob Dylan / Tempest