This past weekend was all about the Festival Franco-Ontarien at Major Hills Park for me. This year again, I had the pleasure of attending all three days of the festival. The 2012 edition was all-in-all a success, however several aspects must be improved if the festival wishes to fulfill its mandate and maintain its popularity.
Although the festival was back at Major Hills Park this year, which is a much bigger and better location for the FFO, there was a lack of variety of food vendors. Yes you go to a festival for the music, but while you’re there you often end up buying food and drinks. There was hardly any selection compared to other festivals who offer a wide range of food options. A bad choice considering there was sufficient space to welcome more vendors.
On Thursday, June 14, the Festival kicked off with Julien Tremblay, a Franco-Ontarian comedian who replaced Brigitte Boisjoli at the last-minute as the singer cancelled her appearance due to illness. Unfortunately, Julien Tremblay’s improvised show was rather boring, certainly not funny and even somewhat racist. As a result, most of the festival-goers who were already on-site didn’t seem to find the act interesting despite his failed-attempt at making the crowd laugh. Although they hardly had time to find a replacement for Brigitte Boisjoli, the organizers certainly could’ve made more of an effort to locate a talent other than this so-called comedian. Despite this bad call, the FFO’s opening night was a wonderful salute to francophone music with a splendid show offered by Les Cowboys Fringuants. The group from Quebec delivered a highly energetic performance in front of an impressive crowd that had gathered to dance and sing along to the band’s biggest hits. Listening to Les Cowboys Fringuants live gave me a sense of renewed pride in my French-Canadian roots and culture. It was definitely a fantastic show!
The following evening, festival organizers brought the East Coast to Ottawa with yet another super energetic performance by Radio Radio, a trio of boys from the Maritimes who create part-electro part hip-hop music coupled with the ever-unique chiac language of the Acadians. Their friendly approach and laid-back style offered the perfect mix on such a beautiful summer evening. Even those who claim not to like them were charmed by Radio Radio’s simplicity and lively vibe. Although they were back for the second year in a row, it was still an excellent choice which made for an excellent show 🙂 The crowd loved every minute of it and so did I!
However, once Radio Radio finished their performance, the night went downhill as Mia Martina took to the stage with mainly English material. Not only did she start her show with an English song, which was bad enough as it is at a festival that promotes francophone culture, she clearly lacked stage presence and as a result, many people left Major Hills Park during her performance. To me, this demonstrates how an artist like Mia Martina may have hit songs on music charts, but since she isn’t associated with a sense of belonging for francophones, people don’t really jump on board. In my opinion, Mia Martina’s cover of Julie Masse’s Zéro and Roch Voisine’s Hélène are what saved her performance from disaster.
On the final night of the festival, Congolese singers Ngâbo and Mohombi rocked the stage to the delight of hundreds of fans who had gathered at Major Hills Park to partake in the last day of festivities. I was pleasantly surprised by Ngâbo who was definitely a nice musical discovery.
Right before Mohombi’s performance, two of the festival’s sponsors, Radio NRJ and Metro News took 2 minutes to address the crowd, which is standard procedure at most festivals. Having said this, the Metro News spokesperson delivered her speech in English as if Metro News was unable to select a bilingual representative that would’ve been able to address festival-goers in French. Another fail.
Mohombi certainly didn’t disappoint performance-wise as he’s full of energy, has killer dance moves and can definitely sing his heart out. Having said this, again, most of his performance was in English despite him being a francophone and this aspect of the show was definitely unpleasant for many who expected to hear more French material. Either way, he definitely brought it and threw an amazing party!
In this morning’s press release however, the festival organizers did clarify that it was stipulated in Mohombi’s contract that he would perform 80% French material and exactly the opposite happened. Thankfully, the organizers did apologize for this error and promised that this would never happen again at the Festival Franco-Ontarien. Let’s just hope they keep their promises for next year’s edition!