It’s immediately clear FME is going to be a different kind of festival than we’re used to. The first steps into the grounds are met with the sight of a giant roast, intended for everyone visiting the festival. Five minutes later someone lets you know that there’s a secret show down an adjoining alley way, and after some intermittent rain Zen Bamboo are playing in front of a garage. The Saint Lambert four-piece rattle through a short set of indie rock, giving a nice preview of their set the next day. A converted church sets the scene for Thus Owls’ set up next, the band on stage is also joined by three guitarists playing in the midst of the crowd, including Little Scream’s Laurel Sprengelmeyer and Snailhouse’s Michael Feuerstack. The added oomph this provides the duo helps to make their set even more impressive.
After the roast is over the main stage activities kicked off with La Bronze, the project of singer Nadia Essadiqi who was joined on stage by two musicians to bring her electro-rock sound to life. Essadiqi moved effortlessly between drums and keys throughout the set, in addition to ruling the front of the stage. Finishing off the set by going crowd surfing for her first ever time she was clearly thrilled and the crowd reciprocated. Next up on the stage was Pierre Kwenders, with an album release imminently on the horizon this served as a great preview for an album that’s shaping up to be a highlight of the fall. His music is steeped in a deep African influence layered with a shapeshifting blend of hip hop styles. The crowd truly turned out for him, with the first couple rows populated with jubilant fans. Kwenders was all smiles as he closed out his set playing straight into audience.
That was nothing compared to what was coming next as the stage was cleared, and A Tribe Called Red’s gear was set up. The trio made up of DJ NDN, Bear Witness and 2oolman took the stage to the words of John Trudell, who opens up their most recent album ‘We Are The Halluci Nation’. The Polaris shortlisted record is a masterpiece, and any concerns that the group would be unable to replicate it live were shortly dismissed. Cutting effortlessly between tracks from their 3 albums, mainstream hip hop tunes, and tracks plucked from other Aboriginal artists they kept the energy high throughout their set. The crowd included large groups of young people who had been brought in from the Native American communities in the area, and the magnetism this brought the audience was palpable and lifted the experience to a whole other level. In speaking with the group before the set, they remained positive that things were moving in the right direction in Canada for Aboriginal groups and they’ve managed to turn that positivity into a formidable live event.
La Mverte, Zen Bamboo, Mustapio, Thus Owls, La Bronze, Pierre Kwenders, A Tribe Called Red, Fuudge