Those who attended this year’s Festival de l’Outaouais Émergent, held from September 4 to 7, all ended up with a similar conclusion: the local cultural scene in Gatineau is certainly alive and well. Affectionately called the FOÉ, the annual festival that’s progressively growing, does a fine job at giving centre stage to emerging artists from the Outaouais and beyond in an effort to celebrate homegrown talent from a variety of artistic disciplines.
This year, on top of the shows presented at the main festival site, organizers made great use of existing venues in the Vieux-Hull sector to offer a series of late night sets that allowed downtown bars, restaurants and art galleries to host a welcoming amount of festival-goers. A sure sign that the FOÉ is spreading its wings and expanding towards wider horizons.
It was the first year that Eventful Capital got to cover the festivities, and overall I walk away with a very positive experience, and it somewhat felt like Gatineau’s equivalent to Ottawa’s DIY Arboretum festival.
I jumped feet first into the FOÉ on Friday by catching Philippe B’s set at the AXENÉO7 art gallery located a stone’s throw away from the main stage. Because of a power outage, the talented folk pop singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based out of Montreal gave an intimate acoustic performance in a constricted muggy room piled with about 70 attentive festival-goers. Although Philippe B ended up playing a shortened 30 minute set given the circumstances, it was extremely special, moving and a rare occasion for both the artist and the audience. In this case, less was certainly more. Joined by two vocalists who complimented the performance with beautiful harmonies, the artist humbly offered the songs La complainte du scaphandrier, Ornithologie II, Archipels, Nous irons jusqu’au soleil, Les prisonniers du Lac Dufault, Petite Leçon de Ténèbres, Calorifère, and a cover of Gainsbourg’s La chanson de Prévert. The crowd unsurprisingly called him back for an encore, which he gladly delivered.
Following Philippe B’s unique set, I crossed the street to see Gabriella Hook who was opening the night on the main stage. The pop jazz singer-songwriter and musician originally from Chelsea was in great shape and gave a noteworthy performance to warm up the crowd gathering for headliners Half Moon Run. Armed with a good stage presence and accompanied by a drummer and keyboardist, the lovely Hook delivered material from her debut album “Build a Storm” including the songs Don’t Put Your Hands Down, Miles, and Barrels and Bears.
Soon after Hook, it was Alexandre Desilets’ turn to take the stage. The 30-something Montreal-based pop rock artist originally from Gatineau, was joined by his band and together they jumped right into their set with tunes from Desilets’ latest studio album “Fancy Ghetto” including the title track, Perle rare, and Bat toi mon coeur along with older songs like Le repère and Si loin. Desilets, who was clearly happy to be back home performing in front of a local audience, delivered a high energy performance complete with great stage presence. He had just the right amount of interaction with the crowd and had festival-goers singing and dancing until the end.
I returned to the FOÉ on Day 2 just in time to catch Milk And Bone at AXENÉO7 and I’m really glad that I chose to arrive early to see them because they surely didn’t disappoint. The electro synthpop duo from Montreal comprised of Laurence Lafond-Beaulne and Camille Poliquin, gave an intimate set in front of about 60 people and for artists who performed their entire repertoire in front of a live audience for the first time, they sounded flawless. Their sound, somewhat reminiscent of Purity Ring, Blue Hawaii and Jessy Lanza, was mesmerizing, combining hauntingly beautiful harmonies with simple synth melodies and drum beats. The duo, who’s currently working on a debut album, gave a solid 45-minute set including the tracks New York and Sochi. The whole thing was extremely candid and honest and it just felt right. Look out for Milk & Bone and keep them on your radar, because they girls are definitely going somewhere.
After Milk And Bone, I made my way over to the main stage for Mastik, a Franco-Ontarian indie rock trio based out of Ottawa. The guys, who are about to release their first full-lenght album, previewed some of the new material to those gathered at the FOE to discover them. Mastik delivered a respectable performance, however there was something missing that I couldn’t put my finger on, either from their stage presence or their overall sound.
After a well-deserved lunch break, I returned to the main stage to check out headliners Les Trois Accords. A rather big name for a relatively small festival, the pop/punk rock band from Drumondville, Quebec attracted lots of fans to the FOÉ and did what they do best: entertain. Bringing tons of energy to the stage, the trio interacted with the crowd throughout the set and clearly had fun with festival-goers who seemed to love every minute of it. It’s always a good time with them and there’s never a dull moment so it was certainly a good move from festival organizers to book them as they were sure to bring in a good crowd. The group’s set features the songs Saskatchewan, Le Bureau du medecin, Lucille, Elle s’apellait Serge, Tout nu sur la plage, Son visage était parfait, and Dans mon corps among others.
It’s at the Bistro that I chose to end Day 2 of the FOÉ, by checking out the live performance courtesy of Quebec “Franglais” hip-hop supergroups Alaclair Ensemble and Dead Obies. Judging by the lineup outside the bar and the ever-growing buzz around these two groups, Bistro was definitely the place to be on Saturday night. And what a party it was! The minute Alaclair Ensemble hit the stage, the young crowd lost it and went wild. It was a packed house and everyone in attendance was singing along to their favourite tracks and bouncing to the beats. Alaclair Ensemble are known for clowning around and offering high-energy performances without taking themselves seriously and that’s exactly what they did on Saturday. The boys had fun with the crowd and couldn’t be bothered by much. They performed a variety of tracks from their repertoire namely Babouine, Snare Drum, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mon Cou and Capoté including the ridiculous slow song Calinour, to which I shamelessly danced to with the good-looking Claude Begin, one of the group members, as though I were still in 8th grade.
Dead Obies hit the stage right after Alaclair and received the same warm welcome from the pumped up crowd. The energy inside the Bistro was at an all-time high. It was the second time that the Montreal-based post-rap collective gave a show in Gatineau, and for the occasion, they delivered tracks from their debut album including crowd favourites Montréal $ud, Do or Die, In America and What It Is.
For the final day of the FOÉ, I concentrated my efforts at Petit Chicago where I caught The Dying Arts, Eldorado, We Are Wolves and Ill Scarlet.
I arrived just in time to catch The Dying Arts, a Toronto-based garage indie punk rock band. The 4-piece group started out somewhat slowly and tame, but quickly built up their set to a lively in-your-face punk rock revival. Having done my homework and listened to the debut EP at home before making my way over to the Petit Chicago, I was quite pleased with the raw punk rock that I heard and the rowdy energy that I saw live. The Dying Arts performed material from their self-titled EP including Fame, Scratch and Snake in the Grass and I could’ve gladly listened to a longer set.
After a short intermission, the show continued with Eldorado. Performing at home in familiar territory, the band was right at ease and exuded confidence. The boys rocked out to songs from their debut album “Gin Vinyle” including the catchy Corvette 67. It’s obvious that the Gatineau-based rock/rock n’ roll 4-piece has great stage presence and energy to boot, but there seemed to be a disconnect with the crowd who barely reacted to their set. It was disappointing to see such a lack of response from the audience towards a local band.
The 2014 edition of the FOÉ closed off on a high note with the excellent We Are Wolves. The Montreal-based electro/rock trio who’s no stranger to the FOÉ or the Petit Chicago made a triumphant return to the Outaouais to the delight of their fans. By the time they hit the stage, a good crowd of people had gathered at the Hull venue to catch the magic operate live.There’s something really special about this band aside from their contagious charisma and electric stage presence. Whenever they perform, they exude talent and give out so much energy that it’s impossible to remain still. We Are Wolves gave a generous 60-minute set including the songs Angel, Sun, Paloma, Night, Snake in the Sand and We Are Made of Fire. Although they weren’t technically supposed to, they came back for an encore with the Black Sabbath cover Paranoid as the crowd danced and cheered on.
FOÉ organizers can pat themselves on the back for a job well done as a 7th successful edition has come and gone, attracting a larger crowd and continuing to make ample room for local and emerging artists that deserve a place in the spotlight.