35 amazing years of Les Francos

June 14, 2024

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Montreal’s famous francophone music festival is celebrating its 35th anniversary this summer, and it’ll have plenty of special surprises. The program for this year’s edition – which runs from June 14 to 22 – includes more than a hundred local and international artists performing 150 concerts in the downtown core. Here’s your chance to see some of your favourite singers and discover tomorrow’s stars.

We spoke with programming director Maurin Auxéméry about this year’s edition.

By Sébastien Tétrault

What does this 35th anniversary mean to you?

When a person turns 35, we might say they’ve got a good amount of life experience under their belt. I think you can say the same thing about a festival that’s evolved over the years – changed its format, location, timing. Today, Les Francos kicks off Montreal’s summer festival season. This year’s edition is dedicated to Guy Latraverse, who co-founded the festival in 1989 with Jean-Louis Foulquier and Alain Simard. Sadly, Guy passed away last October. As a well-known impresario on both sides of the Atlantic, he played an important role, particularly as a liaison between France and Quebec, in making Les Francos what it is.

Speaking of late, great luminaries, this year’s festival will also pay tribute to Jean-Pierre Ferland, who passed away on April 27…

Of course, the Jean-Pierre Ferland tribute on June 18 was not planned. Les Francos didn’t have an outdoor show scheduled for that day, but how could we not recognize the contributions of such a giant in Quebec music? We had to act fast, and it took a collaborative effort to organize such a big show in record time. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we will honour this titan and his legacy with a show called Les petits rois, produced by Ariane Moffatt. I think that Jean-Pierre Ferland inspired an incredible number of people, particularly with his Jaune album. An entire generation of artists who grew up listening to his music – Karkwa, Ariane Roy, Hubert Lenoir, Marie-Pierre Arthur, etc. – will be on stage to celebrate his legacy, and not in a concert hall with a few hundred seats, but on our main outdoor stage, with an audience of thousands.

Aside from that fully deserved tribute, what are some other highlights of this year’s festival?

There are too many to name, but if I had to pick just two events, I’d say the outdoor show Ambiance R&B, on June 22, with Corneille and a ton of great local and international artists. That event is the grand closing of Les Francos and it will celebrate an influential genre that has received a bit of a bad rap in Quebec, and it deserves to be more fully recognized and appreciated. Another key moment is Le roy, la rose et le lou(p), on June 15 at MTelus, a show that was first presented at Les Francos in 2022. It stars Ariane Roy, Thierry Larose and Lou-Adrianne Cassidy, and it’s a testament to the incredible talent and ingenuity of their generation of artists. In spirit it harks back to the great moments in Quebec’s music history.

Which artists are you particularly proud to be presenting at Les Francos this year?

First off, I have to mention the return of Karkwa to the main stage on June 20. Then there’s the return of Zaho de Sagazan. She performed outdoors last year, on one of our smaller stages, and this year she’ll play a sold-out MTelus on June 22. I think audiences will be delighted to hear Meryl on June 19. This rising star of French rap and R&B is from Martinique, and she also sings in that island’s creole. That’s important for the festival, because we want to highlight every facet of the French-speaking world. I think the Franco-Cameroonian singer and rapper Yamê, who will perform with Anaïs MVA on June 15 at Club Soda, will also be well-received. And then there’s the show called 50 ans en cavale by Pierre Flynn, who will perform with a string quartet in the Cinquième Salle at Place des Arts on June 16. Finally, we’re delighted to welcome Marie-Annick Lépine once again. Last year, her concert was disrupted by rain. Her return this year is important in more than one way, and I’m sure the audience will give her a very warm welcome.

What advice do you have for those who want to make the most of Les Francos?

I’d advise you to consult the program and pick a show that interests you, then head to the site early and soak up the atmosphere. Les Francos is a festival for the curious, and it’s great to wander from stage to stage and let yourself be surprised. You might get to hear the next Angèle or Zaho de Sagazan, who, like so many before them, got their start by playing some of the smaller outdoor stages at Les Francos. You never know!

What do you think Les Francos will look like 35 years from now?

I don’t know if I’ll still be here in 35 years, but I’m absolutely positive Les Francos will be! I think that year after year, the festival helps inspire new generations. It gives new artists the urge to write and sing in French, and it shows them that anything is possible. I have no doubts at all about that. As long as there are artists here singing in French, Les Francos will be here to showcase them and bring sweet music to the heart of the Montreal summer.

Francos de Montréal
From June 14 to June 22, 2024