French Immersion: FrancoFolies de Montréal 2015

June 24, 2015

The air was sometimes cool and it rained a few times, but it still felt like summer had finally arrived during the FrancoFolies de Montréal. There were shows for all tastes during this 27th edition, which featured both established and emerging artists, playing a wide spectrum of musical styles, from light pop to heavy rock.

Photo: Benoit Rousseau, FrancoFolies

My festival started at Metropolis with Dumas, who set the bar very high for what would follow. The singer/guitarist won over the audience with his many anthems, which are perfect for people to sing along to, notably Alors alors, Au gré des saisons and Le Bonheur. Describing himself as “Victo’s Bono” (!), Dumas also sang a few tracks from his recent self-titled album, including the excellent Compte à rebours. During the encore, he went down into the crowd to perform two songs, among them the moving Les Secrets.

Photo: Victor Diaz Lamich, FrancoFolies

Flanked by four musicians, including her priceless collaborator Antoine Corriveau on guitar, Julie Blanche performed her entire debut album, a collection of atmospheric songs with affecting lyrics, which she sings with a lot of heart and soul.

Photo: Kevin Laforest

Antoine Corriveau also headlined a show on an outdoor stage. Wearing a black hat like a desperado and armed with his guitar, his harmonica and his deep voice, he delivered a solid dose of gloomy rock from his Les ombres longues record, including the brilliant Le nouveau vocabulaire, which is in the running for the SOCAN Songwriting Prize.

Photo: Benoit Rousseau, FrancoFolies

40 years after the release of Prends une chance avec moé, the street poetry of Lucien Francoeur hasn’t lost any of its originality and the classics from his band Aut’Chose, e.g. Le Freak de Montréal and Nancy Beaudoin, still have a lot of impact. Scattered but entertaining, their performance concluded with Francoeur’s hilarious solo hit, Le Rap à Billy.

Photo: Kevin Laforest

Domlebo offered fans the songs from his album Bricolages. Barefoot like a hobbit, he sang a series of ballads with positive messages of harmony and engagement, accompanied by his musicians and three guest singers: Chantal Caron, Geneviève Toupin and Kyra Shaughnessy.

Photo: Kevin Laforest

The members of the band Alice assembled with Karlof and Annie from Ma blonde est une chanteuse to form A.K.A., « the Avengers of rock », to quote Karlof. Together, they happily did songs from each of their respective repertoires. It was particularly fun to see the high energy with which the quirky Annie performed, despite the fact that she’s heavily pregnant!

Photo: Benoit Rousseau, FrancoFolies

During her concert at L’Astral, Stéphanie Lapointe further proved that she’s certainly the most talented graduate of Star Académie. The pretty pixie with the crystal-clear voice was alternately joined on stage by Stéphane Lafleur, Philémon Cimon, Safia Nolin and Leif Vollebekk, resulting in a series of charming duets.

Photo: Benoit Rousseau, FrancoFolies

The FrancoFolies’ loudest band? Probably Galaxie who, in a packed Club Soda, unleashed a barrage of incendiary riffs and solos by Olivier Langevin, Quebec’s ultimate guitar hero. Electro-infused on their latest albums, Galaxie’s rock was wonderfully timeless on stage; the year could have been 1975 or 1995 as much as 2015.

Photo: Victor Diaz Lamich, FrancoFolies

“The FrancosFolies are where, 22 years ago, I first heard a crowd sing my tunes,” said Éric Lapointe during his intense show on the final night of the festival. And once again, the crowd sang the rocker’s tunes with him, from his early hit Poussé par la vent to recent single Moman, by the way of Loadé comme un gun, Motel 117 and countless others.

When I stepped out of the venue at around midnight, it was still warm outside and the streets were filled with festivalgoers and other folks out to have good time on a Saturday night. Summer had definitely reached Montreal. Thanks to the FrancoFolies!

–Kevin Laforest

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