Published Aug 30, 2019Kid Koala began the proceedings rather unceremoniously at Festival de musique émergente, northern Quebec city Rouyn-Noranda's annual festival of left-field pop, electronic, hip-hop and experimental music.
He wandered onto the Desjardins stage around 9, said something about the show starting now, then left to make way for Adira Amram, a New York… singer? Rapper? It's hard to say. Dressed in '80s garb (leopard print, hot pink) and barely staying on rhythm with her chintzy backing beats, Amram half-rapped, half-yelled her songs, which found her using embarrassingly dated slang and phrases: she used the word "boom" as a euphemism for sex ("I wanna boom," etc.) and said things like "DJ, hit me!" when she wanted her next beat.
Amram was the opening section of Kid Koala's 'Vinyl Vaudeville' show, a variety hour filled with puppets, backup dancers and, unfortunately, not quite enough turntablism. It's entertaining enough — he scratched while a marionette traversed a neon tightrope at one point, and played deft, lively versions of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," OutKast's "The Whole World" and even some Slayer — but it felt garish and gimmicky for the most part. Kid Koala's an extraordinary DJ, and he felt reduced to a wedding entertainer here.
That said, the crowd were firmly in the palm of his hand throughout. When he played Slayer, a mosh pit opened up, and folks enthusiastic enough to brave the heavy rain later in his set went wild for TNGHT's "Goooo," so it's not as if he weren't connecting, but it felt like more focus on Kid Koala's skills might have been due.
The rain persisted outside as Ellemetue entranced the capacity audience inside Rouyn's Cabaret de la Dernière Chance with a set of dark synthwave punctuated by rhythmic deviations, droning interstitials and clarinet solos. The duo included ex-les Georges Leningrad's Mingo L'Indien, who played the clarinet, guitar and a few other instruments throughout the set, while singer Nunu Métal triggered pounding drums and provided the set's thick synth haze.
Between songs they might have settled too long into interstitial synth meanderings, but when Métal was singing, it provided enough melody to keep the crowd captivated throughout — they were a satisfying discovery and an early highlight of the festival.
Back outdoors again, atop a sodded platform that absorbed so much rain it gushed water when you stepped on it, electronic duo Millimetrik (pictured above) were providing an ideal set for the stormy night, all pounding, festival-ready electronic music that, at its best, summoned images of Battles. They were at their finest when they centred their percussion during slower, heavier beats, and they often did — the duo both bore drumsticks, one to hit a full kit and the other to trigger electronic samples and hit cymbals.
At times, they verged a little too closely to ODESZA's anodyne, EDM-lite sound, but their late night grooves, heavy on atmosphere, were exactly the right music for the weather; things even got a bit Boiler Room at the end, when audience members hopped onstage.
Closing out the night were Swiss post-industrialist outfit the Young Gods, who filled the Petit Théâtre du Vieux Noranda with doomy, elegiac compositions that, in the '90s, attracted fandom from the likes of David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails. Below a ceiling adorned with abandoned shoes, and on a stage adorned with fake trees, their performance transcended classification, drawing as much on drone and cymbal-centric ambience as pounding, menacing industrial. Their legendary status felt palpable throughout their set — these were veterans, and their strong, haunting performance showed it.
It was an ideal way to end the first night of the festival.