Considered to be the SXSW of Quebec City, Le PHOQUE OFF Festival will be the place to see emerging, and eclectic artists from the 21st to the 25th of February 2022.
The theme this year is inclusivity, having nearly half the lineup made up of women, as well as a special collaboration to celebrate Black History Month, not to mention the wide variety of genres represented.
While I remember the snickers by saying the French word for Seal, back in my primary school years, this festival is no laughing matter.
This 8th edition is in reality a first edition, direct from the Metaverse.
Using a platform called NOWHERE, the festival will have the feel of being at a real venue.
Spatial audio means that if you approach a group of people, their conversation will get louder, and you can join in.
After the press conference, we chose one of the sponsored rooms to watch the performance of l I l a, who was performing at one end of the room with her brand of Folk Psych, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
As a guest, I could go to the front to fully immerse myself in the performance, or I could meet someone, and move to the back of the room where we can both hear the performance and have a private conversation.
Books such as Neuromancer by William Gibson opened my mind’s eye to the future possibilities of technology, but here I was living a new reality.
Instead of a full avatar, everyone is a sort of disk, with real video.
When I spoke to Jon Morris, Co-Founder of NOWHERE, he pointed out that avatars give anonymity, and we all know what that does to social media.
Having real faces speak to you give it an intimacy that other platforms don’t have.
Montreal Rocks spoke to Patrick Labbé, the founder of Doze Management, drummer in Never More than Less and co-founder/general manager of the festival.
The idea of the festival was conceived in 2014 and the festival started in 2015.
“At the time, I was touring 10 years with my band. We were playing the Vans Warped Tour, and big European stages. We were wondering why artists around us, in Quebec City and Montreal didn’t have the same chances.”
Patrick’s band had clout everywhere but at home.
“The (Quebec) industry wasn’t looking at us at all.”
The obvious question arose: Why is our hometown industry not even seeing us, while we are part of the greater international industry outside Quebec?
Doze Management was started in 2012, managing bands and tours to address this problem.
Patrick noticed a disconnect with music trade shows and what was really happening on the street. It was a “fake corporate industry” vs what people really wanted to hear.
“Since they don’t want to listen to us and give us a place…we will try to create a safe space for that inclusive industry that we had in mind.”
When Patrick speaks of “inclusivity at large”, it’s not only about your country’s origin, but it’s all musical communities. The roster of bands validates that point.
If every genre was an ingredient in a soup, I would not want to taste that soup, yet for a music festival, it’s bursts of all kinds of various flavors, which makes it all the more interesting.
“Over the course of the last 7 editions, we’ve establishes ourselves as the spotlight that gives new beginnings for new artists.”
Hubert Lenoir’s first ever show was at an office “secret show” that unleashed the craziness of that artist.
Because of their curation, they attract big promoters and label owners who are looking for the next big thing.
They also create a community of creatives, who share resources and tools.
“We want to ensure everybody knows how to do things, has the tools to do it and access to what is really happening on the street. We want to be the spark for the artist, the label or the festival and give the audience what is going to come next.”
“We want to be the spark for the artist, the label or the festival and give the audience what is going to come next.” – Patrick Labbé
As event creators, they strive to create magic which comes from the connection between the artist and their fans, as well as those attending the shows.
What was important was a space where they could see and hear each other, along with a sense of proximity.
Nothing fit the bill, until NOWHERE came along.
Here was a company who previously did immersive light shows for Nine Inch Nails.
“We are coming from the same kind of vibe.”
The festival had the connections & relationships and NOWHERE had the technology.
A match made in…well…NOWHERE!
What bands is Patrick excited to show the world?
One of his long-time favorites is The Death Wheelers. Think Stoner Rock on motorcycles.
Solipsisme is a new band launching their album at the festival. Psych Rock, 70s/90s vibe. Trippy and feel-good. “It feels like you are flying when you are listening to their music.”
Virginie B is also doing a big launch. “I think she will be all over the place in Quebec.”
Élégie are fan favorites participating multiple times in the past to the event.
l I l a “is a great great singer.”
Les Lunatiques features Arianne Roy who has her own prolific solo career.
One of Patrick’s favorites in Quebec is Zouz.
Ken Presse of The Franklin Electric is probably the most known artist on the bill.
A big focus of the festival is the French Community, so they are working the Les Bluecharms.
The Post Rock band In Solastalgia Either Way is one band that is on my own radar. This is an all-star band of experienced touring musicians.
Electro Hip-Hop band La Fiévre is another band Patrick is looking forward to.
Of course, this is just a sample of what is gaining traction on the scene, albeit not the traditional one yet.
Another band that stood out for me was Worry, whom I interviewed and will appear on MontrealRocks.ca shortly. Think 90s Sonic Youth, mixed with Dinosaur Jr, but yet sounding like something fresh and new.
I was once a music snob, ignoring Québecois music, even though 50% of my blood is “pure laine.”
I have since changed my tune and enjoy expanding my musical horizons to include this genre.
For Patrick, Québequois music simply means good music produced in Quebec, regardless of genre or language.
“Just give me chills” and you will make the roster of the festival.
That is the blood of Phoque Off Festival: It’s a love of the whole community in Québec, regardless of language, race, gender or style.
It’s all about finding what unites us, which is a stark contrast to this divisive world we are living in during these difficult times.
Join us for one of the first Metaverse Music Festivals and encourage our own local community of artists as they are given a chance to shine on stage we get to attend from the comfort of our own home.
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