Phoque Off Festival Metaverse Edition Recap

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Sadly, conditions for musicians are harsh.  

Touring was ground to a halt, streaming services only pay pennies and merch sales have a pulse nearing flatline.

It might remind us of the frozen Arctic, home of seals (phoque in French).  

Survival is only possible because of the way they are adapting to their surroundings.

For example, a seal’s molars are cusp-shaped, to filter krill more easily.  It takes massive amounts of krill to fill a seal’s belly.  

Similarly, it takes massive amounts of streaming hits to pay the rent.  

But a seal’s teeth are also very sharp to catch and cut up fish.  

Musicians must stay sharp and capture our attention.


Performing In The Metaverse

This year’s 8th Phoque Off Festival, which is considered the SXSW of Quebec, adapted their event to accommodate an abundance of emerging artists.

Existing in the Metaverse of NOWHERE, artists, fans, media and industry professionals experienced a live festival which was an innovative move by Patrick Labbé and his team.

<Read our interview with Jon Morris, CEO of NOWHERE to learn more about the platform.>

The Virtual Experience

After you join the event, you choose the room you wish to visit.  I entered my first room on the 3rd level.  A greeter was at the door, should I need help. 

Knowing the platform somewhat, I moved my “disk” towards a hole at the end of a runway.  As I moved towards the end of the second level, I could start hearing the band.  

I dropped into a room with the audience.  

Like at a real concert, clusters of people gathered and talks to each other’s faces.  Yes…you don’t have an avatar, but rather a live image of you is projected inside your disk.

If you really want to focus solely on the music, you can opt for a silent room where all are muted.

I wanted to full experience, so watched with the majority of guests in the main rooms. 

You can expand the performance screen, fulfilling a wish my wife has had at every concert she has attended:  To rise above tall people in front of you and see the band clearly.



L I L A’s Dream Pop with an Alternative flair, was impressive.    

Something that is interesting with this platform, is that the band could be standing next to you while the recorded performance plays.

Sure enough, I had a chance to speak to L I L A and introduce her to Jon Morris, who enjoyed her performance.  

A connection was made and now, if she ever visits New York, a musical connection has been established with someone who has worked with Nine Inch Nails, Lady Gaga, Cirque du Soleil, among others.

That is what this festival is all about:  Connecting with like-minded people.

Not only was Jon impressed, but L I L A is now on my radar, and if they decide to play a gig, I will be there.



Having interviewed Kerry Samuels prior to their performance, it was great to bump into Kerry and chat.

The performance was tight and bled 90s like an open wound.  Dinosonic Youth Jr vibe.  

Kerry spored something that Kurt Cobain would be proud of, a striped black and white open neck sweater.  

L I L A provided backing vocals to add a little sweetness to the sonic attack.

Another band I will not pass up if they visit Montreal.

Virginie B

Virginie B

There was a buzz about this performance which was impressive.  Virginie owned the stage and captivated with their sound, musicianship and vibe.

Like seasoned performers, there was a comfort with the performance that felt natural and mature.  

A pedigree of Soul, Funk and coolness all around.

Would I attend a Virginie B gig?  Count me in.

Les Lunatiques

Les Lunatiques

Sporting unique jumpsuits, Les Lunatiques had great energy.  

Some retro vibe that has deep roots in French culture.

I could see a total dance party in a live setting which would separate humans and android.  Forget captcha on websites…replace with some Les Lunatiques and if someone doesn’t move…they are a robot!



What is a festival without a release party?

The musicianship of this Psychrock band was pretty impressive.  Like a well oiled machine, they each added layers to the sound.

Where they lost me was with the vocals, which seemed a little off.

Great potential and a live setting would probably let the room add yet another layer to their sound.

In Solastalgia EitherWay

The benefits having access to the platform is being able to watch any missed performances.  As I am writing this, I’m listening to the instrumental Post-Rock that is taking me on a creative voyage.  

I could just imagine the amplified vibe of a live performance, which is also on my must-see list when they next come to town.

Ken Presse

Ken was one of the bigger names to hit the festival and his Indie Folk did not disappoint.

What came out of a three piece was a rich sound where Ken’s voice is almost another instrument.

Soft backing vocals balanced the raw energy that would command attention in a room.

I could imagine complete silent rapt attention as the band played.

Will not miss their next performance.  Astounding.

The Death Wheelers

From the opening distortion and stoner rock drumbeat, I knew this would be good.  

Like a classic desert performance, the heaviness set in quickly, with some infused Surf Rock to give it a sharp right left, that weirdly felt right.

I feel like if I put their music, while riding my own motorcycle, I would be popping wheelies and looking for mischief.  

My Honda Rebel 500 might stand out in the row of Harley’s parked at the dive bar, but I know I would be accepted and would have a rockin’ time.


I took a quick sip of Zouz and could feel the energy they gave off, with some Prog elements that teeters between soft and hard.

The jamming is where they really shinned in their intensity.


Curious about Urban Pop, I also watched an appetizer amount of BéLi.  

You can feel the emotion behind the performance and it had some really interesting musical journeys. 

You have to have the right cadence & flow in this genre and it was hit perfectly.

Charlotte Brousseau

Big surprise, there is L I L A again, supporting yet another artist.

Charlotte has a great chill vibe that feels like waves of calmness.


While not an expert in this genre, the duo of rappers complement each other well, and could set a room on fire.

I’m just glad I don’t have a condo to burn.

Érika Zarya

Hip Hop with a touch of class.  

Great flow with a gentle, yet strong delivery.


Hard to resist a genre like Ginger Soul.  

A chill vibe with the power of a voice that pulls it all together.  

The softer pieces seemed to shine.

Industry Panels

Apart from the performances, this event included panel discussions on various topic of great value to musicians.

The one I attended was with fellow journalists from Quebec City.  A great opportunity to educate the audience on how to stand out, what not to do, and how to make it easy for a publication to pick up your story.

Probably the most interesting is the value of subtle communications…whispers if you will…that will eventually return with interest.  It’s about staying on someone’s radar, and not expecting immediate reactions.

With media, it’s sometimes a long game, and the patient will be rewarded.


When you are on the bleeding edge, it can sometimes come at a price.  

It would have been better in person, but this was the second-best thing, and I applaud their vision of creating such an innovative event for artists.

Yes, maybe it was a little difficult to navigate a new platform, to get the hang of it all, but it happened, and it did what it promised:  It gave us a live experience like no other.

Phoque Off Festival brought some carefully curated musicians to share a stage and show us what they are made of.

What I came away with, is a newfound respect for the absolute talent right here in Quebec.  

I was exposed to an abundance of new music, which many left a lasting impression.

For that, I have to complement Phoque Off Festival for its vision and execution.

They truly sealed the deal…so to speak.

Writer: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube. His Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their day jobs with out-of-the-box advice from Ted Talk Speakers, Best Selling Authors and other interesting Entrepreneurs and Creatives. He created the Rock Star Today Music Business Jam Session for musicians. Randal is a collector of signed vinyl, cassettes and CDs.

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