I’m going to do an entire post about Memoire et Racines, because I am here to tell you, Internets, that deserves an entire post to itself even if we only made it to one day’s worth of awesome!
And this is going to get long, so this is getting a fold!
Which turned out to be surprisingly fun as the Greek dude who ran the place spent quite a bit of time chatting with us, and he was a rather colorful dude in general. He wound up giving us a free platter of smoked meats after we finished our primary lunch. And the drive in general was lovely, even given that we only glimpsed bits of Quebec along the highway. Once we got into Joliette, though, we got to see a bit more of the town itself, and certainly the small downtown core of it seemed lovely, as did the park when we finally arrived! Actually getting Em a ticket was a bit of an adventure as we actually bought the wrong ticket for her, but oh well, it got settled once we actually reached the festival site, and we got in with no problems.
First musician of interest I spotted, pretty much as soon as we got into the festival site: Réjean Brunet of Le Vent du Nord! The man’s got some very distinctive, very fluffy hair, and I saw him go by and only noted him from the back. My brain went HEY and then YAY!
The festival area wasn’t large, but it was very well attended, and when we got in the first thing we saw was this tent where a guy who makes clacker spoons was set up. This man’s name was Richard Cyr, and he makes some beautiful spoons! He quickly settled us in for a demo, and we discovered that good spoons, proper spoons, are very awesome. Dara made off with a pair and proceeded to spend most of the rest of the day investigating various amusing ways to make noise with them!
Also extremely (and I DO mean EXTREMELY) relevant to our interests was the presence of a small area where people were selling instruments. I was disappointed to see that nobody had flutes, but one guy had some very cool old violins. None of which I picked up, since I was nervous about handling instruments of such obvious age, but I did admire the carved heads on a couple of them; one had a lion, and the other had the small head of a man, who might have been Beethoven, I don’t know.
The instrument area was right in front of a small building with a big open room inside, though. I poked my head curiously in the door of that building, just to see if anything interesting was going on in there (like, say, sale of more instruments)! At which point I discovered zomg surprise Olivier Demers! He was in there with his fiddle out, talking to a couple of people, and so I ventured over into his general vicinity, waited for him to finish the conversation he was having, and then asked him if he remembered me from Vancouver! I told him both Susan Moseley and Dejah Leger had asked me to say hi, and that I was there for the festival for the day, and he hoped I’d have fun. Then I scampered off to leave the man be so he could rehearse.
The first actual musical event that we listened to featured the third member of Le Vent du Nord sighted during the day: i.e., Nicolas Boulerice and his Hurdy-Gurdy of Mightiness. He was in on a round-robin with four other musicians, including the legendary André Marchand, and everyone was trading off with their various instruments and giving little demonstrations and singing things. M. Marchand had a guitar and made a charming self-deprecating joke about his rare and unusual instrument. ;) And M. Boulerice was great fun, though I noticed that when the aforementioned Hurdy-Gurdy of Mightiness isn’t amped, it’s a lot more subdued than I expected! I was charmed, though, when he whipped into an instrumental that I immediately recognized as “La soirée du hockey” from Tromper le Temps.
Also notable in the lineup though was a gentleman from Vasen, the Swedish band who’s toured around with Le Vent some–he had his nyckelharpa out and THAT was cool. It sounded violin-like but with a strangely remote sound to it, like it was a violin in a huge empty room.
After that was the first big thing I wanted to hit that day: Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer! I am STILL kicking myself that we had to miss their main stage show the following night, you guys, but oh man getting to hear them in their smaller tent show was still amazing. :D They did several things off their newest album, but I perked RIGHT UP when they belted out things off the live one, most notably “Au diable les avocats” and “Prenez plaisir à m’aimer”! The one minus of their performance was that we were right out on the edge of the tent crowd in front of one of the speakers set up for the sound system, and the speaker kept cutting out–so I couldn’t hear them as well as I might have wished. But what I did hear, oh my. I’m very, very happy to have gotten to hear them in person, but now I REALLY want to hear them do a proper full stage show!
(Here’s a bit of what I missed from their stage show–some kind soul did in fact post it to YouTube. And this IS one of my very favorite Charbonniers songs, “Dans la ville de Paris”!)
After that we had some open time, so we wound up wandering around through the vendor tents and looking at stuff in general. As was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY AND REQUIRED, I went to the CD table and was amused to note that yeah, I pretty much already had about 3/4ths of what was on that table. Which of course prompted Dara to make jokes about my only needing to buy 1/4th of it! I explained to the nice folks that I was trying to learn French from Quebec trad music (and I did get to use one of my reliable sentences I can actually say, which is, “J’aime la musique traditionelle du Quebec!”), and they got one of their guys to give me various recommendations about the discs I didn’t recognize. I immediately leapt on the album by Bernard Simard et Compagnie, since hearing M. Simard was very high on my priorities for the day. AND, when the nice young fellow identified “L’album blanche” by Les Mononcles, and noted that they were actually three of the Charbonniers only with instruments, I could say nothing to that except “SOLD!”
It was at the CD table as well that Dara’s carrying around her bouzouki netted her the Important Information that post-concert jams were likely to break out that night and that we should stick around for those! And that was one of the great things about hanging out at this festival, you guys–being around people who actually knew what a bouzouki was. Hee!
We went into the general crafts tent, too, where I got some lovely-smelling soap and admired some really bitchin’ hats that I did NOT get. ($100+ was a bit more than what I wanted to spend on a hat, especially with limited luggage space!) Dara reported later that on a solo expedition through that same crafts tent, she had language adventures–when one of the vendors sounded like she was asking another if she had any English, and Dara’s brain went OHNOEZ and punted to Japanese! Which confused the vendors, until Dara managed to reset and blurt that yes, she did have English, and how much were the cards? *^_^*;;
As the afternoon wound on we swung back over to the instruments table–where we discovered a mini-session had broken out! This of course required IMMEDIATE ATTENTION, so Dara whipped out her zouk and I whipped out Norouet, and we proceeded to try to twiddle along with what the musicians were doing. Dara did it better than I did and she actually got called up to the front row of the session by the others, which was awesome. She also impressed people by doing her Mystery Tune on her zouk, and even though nobody could identify it for her, the fact that she actually played a tune on her zouk went over very well. So that was eighty-nine kinds of awesome!
Em, in the meantime, kept snapping pics of us and she got this one of me and Norouet!
Spotted M. Marchand again coming out of the building next to the instruments, along with fellow Charbonnier Normand Miron!
There was dinner to be had after that, before the main stage shows started–and it was at this point, I believe, that we spotted the final member of Le Vent du Nord, Simon Beaudry, not far away and yakking away with folks. I ALSO happened to spot Jean-Claude Mirandette (for a total of 3 out of 5 Charbonniers observed all over the festival outside actual performances) and Olivier Demers again during the general ‘Everybody rush to get dinner’ hour, and I’m here to tell you guys, it was wonderful and strange to see all these musicians wandering around, people who I normally see as pics or videos on my computer. Even better to hear them actually PLAYING! I’m bummed we didn’t get to see Le Vent perform as a group–their stage show had been the night before–but still, it was awesome to see all of them present at the festival in one capacity or another.
(I didn’t actually go up and say anything to anybody aside from the one brief spurt of bravery to greet Olivier Demers, though. Because um hi yeah shy and stuff and nervous about trying to use my baby French in a place where people actually use that language on a regular basis. *^_^*;; So I was pretty much in ‘be quietly fangirling over here and not bothering anybody’ mode. Maybe if I get to go to another Memoire et Racines, next time I’ll be braver? We’ll see!)
Anyway, last but most assuredly not least, we got to the stage shows! There were four of them, all in a row, and while we might not have had the unmitigated forged-steel awesome of either Le Vent OR the Charbonniers, we still got some incredible acts.
First up was La Banda Latira, who went over very well by expressing their identity as coming from a region with a lingual minority (in their case, Asturias in the north of Spain). I quite liked this group, especially given their combo of a big whompy bass drum, a bari sax, and bagpipes! Also points for general stage presentation!
Next was the big thrill for me: Bernard Simard et Compagnie! \0/ I was already excited about hearing M. Simard, given that I knew his voice from early Le Vent du Nord as well as very early La Bottine Souriante. I adore Le Vent’s current membership configuration as you all know, but I have a very strong respect for M. Simard’s vocals and I wanted to see what he could do.
My interest shot up astronomically though when I saw who his Compagnie actually comprised! I spotted Frédéric Beauséjour from La Volée d’Castors, playing standup bass! And André Brunet breaking out his fiddle! And OLIVIER DEMERS ALSO BREAKING OUT HIS FIDDLE! Seriously, I’m not entirely certain it’s legal to have that much awesome fiddle in one band, but as soon as I spotted M. Demers up on that stage I lit RIGHT UP. The only member of the group I didn’t recognize was the guy they had on saxophone–and WOW he was good, alternating between different sizes of sax and whipping out some amazing solos. That guy also impressed Dara mightily–at one point Dara even shot out of her chair for a standing ovation on a number, before I did!
Bonus massive fun here to see M. Demers not only play fiddle while standing up (since he’s usually in a chair with Le Vent) but ALSO breaking out an electric guitar! I knew from reading up on him that he had guitar background, but this was the first time I got to see him actually demonstrating it. Very, very fun!
And of course, M. Simard’s vocals were lovely, and it was huge fun to hear them get the call and response going. I’ve since listened to the album I bought of theirs, which turned out to not be nearly as lively as the stage performance–and I’m REALLY hoping they’ll do another album that captures that same energy. (And since M. Simard actually started following me on Twitter, if he or any of the Compagnie wind up reading this, messieurs, un CD, s’il vous plait? J’ai l’argent pour vous!)
After that lovely, lovely performance I was dubious that the next act would be able to compare. I was pleased to discover that this was not the case! The Celtic Umbrella Ensemble out of Cape Breton was next–a quartet of young women who might have been considered an oddity as an Anglophone group at a Francophone music festival, but they went over really well with the crowd! They had great stepdancing to go along with their vocals, and it was fun as well to see them trading off on intros and see who was comfortable enough with French to address the crowd in that language, and who wasn’t.
(And speaking as one of the Anglophones in the crowd, it was actually a bit of a relief and a mental break to have an Anglophone act up there for a bit–though Em, it must be said, was a rock star translating as much in-between song banter as possible for Dara and me! Merci beaucoup, Em! \0/ )
The Celtic Umbrella Ensemble kept getting called out for extra encores at the end of their set, too. Like I said, they went over REALLY well!
The final act was a group called Belzébuth, who I had already also previously discovered–I have two of their albums, thanks to having learned about them from @ChroniquesTrad on Twitter! They were also huge fun on stage, especially given how they kept pulling out various members of La Volée d’Castors to perform with them! Given that VDC has gone on hiatus, it was particularly gratifying to see members of that group performing at the festival as well!
Dara and Em and I stayed in our seats (well aside from boinging up pretty regularly for standing ovations), which was not the optimal place to be–by the time the last act took the stage, the dancing area over to the side had filled out nicely and there was plenty of La Danse Verticale going on! Which was gratifying to see, and certainly proved that a Francophone crowd can get suitably lively. Still, even from the seats, it was huge, huge fun to see all four of these groups!
Em reluctantly informed us after the stage shows were done that she really did have to get back so she could go to work in the morning–so we didn’t get to stay for the post-concert jams after all. But that was okay. I REALLY want another shot at this festival–and preferably, next time, for the whole weekend! Not even getting lost on the way back to Montreal and having Em’s car make alarming clanking noises at us could really detract from it all, either. We still had a great big full day of awesome music, and my first exposure to Quebecois trad music on its home ground was a smashing success!
And when Em and Dara both have pics available, there WILL be pics coming from this festival! Links when I have ’em!