I made absolutely no secret of how crushed I was, Internets, when I missed Le Vent du Nord’s Oregon show this past November. And I was quite disappointed as well when the symphony show in Vancouver was cancelled.
But tonight, I am thrilled to report that the show at Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria, BC, completely and utterly made up for both of these things. It was short but tight, and a truly intimate little show. And OMG YOU GUYS, Dara and I managed to snag a table right smack in front of the stage!
Clickie for the in-depth show report goodness!
Ah, but I get ahead of myself! So let me back up and start with the part where Dara and I ambled over to the venue–well okay, Dara ambled. I totally boinged into the place, which proved to be quite cozy. Lots of tiny tables, dark wood panelling on the walls, and posters of various jazz musicians as well as instruments for decoration.
Also, a note of important context: I had with me the woolly mammoth I’d bought in the gift shop at the Royal BC Museum the day before. Dara and I had been amusing ourselves carrying the mammoth around all day and taking pictures of it everywhere we went. So it was crucial therefore that I bring the mammoth to the show for potential photo op amusements!
So when we came in and I offered up my tickets for the people up front to take, they not only pegged me pretty quickly for the fangirly type–Dara and I WERE some of the younger people I spotted in the room–they were also mightily amused by the mammoth.
And then we got UP FRONT, YES B’Y–ahem, no wait, wrong band! I mean, UP FRONT YÉ!
The great part about getting that table? It wasn’t even our first choice! We snagged a table at the corner of the stage first, at which I was all prepared to be all Eddie-Izzard-y and “I shall do WELL here”. Except then the waitress asked us if we wanted the table in the center. Because hi yeah big glowing BONSOIR JE SUIS UNE FANGIRL sign over my head or something!
So we snagged the hell out of that table, ordered cider and what turned out to be the last of the chicken BBQ pizza from the kitchen, and started cheerily conversing with the ladies at the tables to either side of us.
And while the audience was getting all settled in, band member #1 to start making the rounds: Olivier Demers! Who lit up with a big sunny smile at the sight of my mammoth and bid it bonjour! Which of course absolutely required that Dara ask him to hold that pose for a pic!
Then Olivier pointed out that I should meet “the polar bear”–which was the other stuffed animal in the audience, accompanying a woman our age or maybe a little younger, sitting behind us! A pic of Polar Bear Meets Mammoth was also promptly taken, while the bear’s companion explained that her bear goes with her everywhere, including to all the concerts. I told her I’d just gotten the mammoth and was taking name suggestions. Her best one: naming it after Réjean Brunet! I told her I had in fact already thought of Ti-Jéan as a possibility, simply because of all the members of Le Vent du Nord, Réjean does have the biggest hair.
So that was all delightful, and I then had to explain to the nice ladies to my left who were all full of ?! at Olivier addressing me by name that yeah, the band did sorta kinda know me. I gave the ladies a short version of the Le Vent Gives Dara and Mevs and Bai and Me an Encore story, and added that I follow them on Facebook in my capacity of Boisterously Enthusiastic Fangirl. In that selfsame capacity I warned the nice ladies next to me that I did know some of the words and would be singing them.
And drinks showed up once we discovered that the venue stocked Growers Cider, because yum. And food showed up. And Réjean popped out briefly to test his bass, and Nicolas briefly swung by our table and double-taked and grinned at the mammoth. He didn’t stop long enough or else Dara would totally have gotten that pic too!
An older gent came around to light the candles at our tables, and between that and the food I had to move the mammoth to my lap. And the same dude we’d seen at the swag table came up on stage to introduce the band and got us underway with the first set!
I was a little uncertain what the first number was going to be once Nico started in on the piano, since the run of notes wasn’t quite familiar–and then it hit me, and I lit RIGHT up. Because they were opening with “Manteau d’hiver”, about which I have much previously documented swooning. <3 But I’ll absolutely happily say it again: I love this instrumental to bits. I love the opening delicate piano strikes and the first intro riffs as Olo’s fiddle speaks. Then Réjean on accordion and Simon on guitar come in while the tune picks up layers, and the first strike of Olo’s feet finally sets the tempo. Great tempo on this performance of it, fast enough to be cheerful, but in a relaxed and groovy kind of way.
Réjean did lead on “Le Souhait” next and he was in good strong voice. No intro on this, but Réjean went on to tell us afterward that they would be playing old music in contemporary style and contemporary music in old style and that yeah well, they’d be generally all messed up. “Very clear!” Nico commended him.
Simon took over the lead with “Toujours Amants”, and that’s always worth your time. Though by then, three songs in, I’m bouncing the mammoth in my lap and seriously wishing that the table wasn’t in my way. Not enough room to podo-stomp without stepping on the feet of my neighbors! But yeah, this one is fun, lots of upbeat tempo and accordion and really, I’ve got to learn these words.
After that Simon shifted over to the bouzouki, and once Olivier started in on the story about the band being stuck in Belgium, I knew what was coming: “Le dragon de Chimay”! “In English, ‘Le dragon de Chimay’,” the band helpfully pointed out. And there were jokes as well about the chateau the boys were touring having “dragons in the basement”, possibly due to all the beer. You may be assured that we all also issued the obligatory “oh DARN whatever did you DO” when the band explained how they’d been stranded for a week in a region that makes the best beer and cheese in the world.
But oh my yes. If “Manteau d’hiver” is my favorite instrumental from Tromper le temps, this is easily my favorite song. (And possibly my favorite Le Vent song of all of them, though it’s fighting hard with “Rossignolet”, “Vive l’amour”, “Lanlaire”, and “Cré mardi” for that particular honor!) I highly commend this one to Anglophones unfamiliar with the band, not only because it’s got an awesome story behind its writing, but also because the song itself tells an awesome story. With DRAGONS in it. You can stream it off of Bandcamp right over here, and the lyrics are translated, too!
The next song also had what’s become a very familiar intro to me at this point–“Le cœur de ma mère”. This was pretty much the same intro that appears in this video, though with bonus Nicolas making jokes about how “a guy who’s in love with a woman” being so traditional it’s almost boring. Cue audience giggles, and Nico chiding the rest of the band not to rag on it, since hey, “even if it’s stupid, it’s ours!”
Anyway, he went on to inform us that the woman in the song was the “queen of bad”, and cue Olo’s deadpan “We told you it was not a good song to translate.” And Nico gets into it. Tell us about the guy who kills his mother, and how he starts regretting what he did, and how he starts running and drops the heart. And Réjean and Olo both mime trying to see where the heart rolled to. Of the entire situation, Réjean also opined, “It’s a bit weird…”
“That’s because it IS!” Dara yelled.
Undaunted, Nico reaches the part of the story where he’s asking the audience if we know what it’s like when a heart looks like it wants to say something. “I hope you don’t know that!” Réjean adds. We’re all cracking up at this point, and Nico admonishes us, “Stop laughing, it’s disgusting!” Aaaanyway, after that, the song itself was excellent!
An instrumental was next–because really, after “Le cœur” and its awesome intro, a change of pace was entirely required. This turned out to be the only tune in the entire performance I didn’t instantly recognize, and that’s only because it hasn’t been in my regular play rotation: “Le cœur en trois”. I had to grab the name of this off the set list between sets, though really, I should have seen this coming because of the very video I link to above! Not to mention “Le cœur” in both songs’ titles. Their thematic connection, let Le Vent show you it.
Next up–oh my. I was waiting for this one, since I’d been tipped off by Susan the Awesome that it had been added back into set rotation, and so when Nico stepped up forward to the front mike without any instrument at all, I braced for harmony impact. Because the other boys joined him up front, right in front of me and Dara, and they unleashed “Le retour du soldat”.
And now here’s the thing. My powerful affection for strong harmony is very well documented; I’ve posted many a time about the mighty STEAMROLLER OF HARMONY that is Great Big Sea when they tear through “General Taylor” or “River Driver”. Le Vent does not quite match them for sheer thundering power, mostly because while Réjean can hit some good rumbly low notes, as near as I can tell, he’s not actually a bass. I think he’s a low baritone.
(A brief tangent: I’m given to understand by people who know more about these things than I do, HI KATHRYN, that whether one is a bass or a baritone or such depends less upon what ranges you can hit and more upon aspects of your voice like timbre and resonance. Réjean does carry the low end of Le Vent’s harmony, but he doesn’t open his mouth and have thunder pour out like Darrell Power or Murray Foster can do.)
But. What Le Vent lacks in sheer roaring power in their harmony, they make up for in astonishing tightness. If Great Big Sea’s harmony is a steamroller, then Le Vent’s is a knife right in the ribs. (I told Dara this on our way out of the show, much to her amusement, and she told me my analogies were getting better and that she’d make a supervillain of me yet.) And “Le retour du soldat” is an amazing example of this. The boys don’t have this one streaming on Bandcamp since it’s old enough that it’s on one of their albums that pre-date the current membership lineup–so I encourage you to find it on YouTube. I’ll be sharing an appropriate video as soon as I find one!
(Sufficiently astute readers should be able to extrapolate my reaction to having that harmony going on right in front of me. You’re smart people. You’ll do the math, I’m sure.)
After that, back around to stuff that’s actually on the new album, and it was no surprise to get “Lettre à Durham”. Good intro on this, particularly helpful to Anglophone audiences who are much less likely to be familiar with the history of Quebec, all about Lord Durham and his infamous Durham Report, essentially proclaiming that the French settlers in Quebec should all be integrated into English culture since they had none of their own to speak of.
Not terribly surprisingly, this didn’t go over well. And as “FUCK YOU, STRONG LETTER TO FOLLOW” statements go, “Lettre à Durham” is excellent. As I posted when I first got the album, this one grabbed my attention hard as an opening track. It works splendidly in concert as well, starting slow, then ramping up and opening for goddamn business before finally ramping down again.
And hee, Réjean remarked of this song as well that “we wrote a letter to him. We’re still waiting for the answer, but sometimes Post Canada is slow.”
Last but not least the boys pulled their sound guy Francois up on stage to join them, so he could take over playing the bass while Réjean jumped to accordion. And what they hit us with to close the set was the most excellent “Octobre 1837”. This is another strong song in the category of “Full of References to the History of Quebec”, and as such is one of the more challenging ones, lyrics-wise, to dig into if you’re an Anglophone like myself.
Music-wise, however… damn. This fired up with an opening salvo out of Olivier that I didn’t quite recognize until he really got going, and then of course everything clicked. And as I fully expected, Olo took us right back out again. I’ve admired the hell out of how he slices his way through descending riffs on the closing measures of this song before, and I did it again with this show’s performance of it. A splendid way to close the set!
Then, set break! During which, it must be noted, I got another brief chance to chat with Olivier and told him that I was taking suggestions for names for my mammoth. “Mamut,” he proposed, and added that it more or less meant “playboy”. I HA!d and told him this was why I liked following them on Facebook. I’m learning all the interesting words.
And I boinged back to the swag table to get a T-shirt as well, at which point I met a lovely lady named Ginny who’s seen me in my loud fangirly capacity, and we had a lovely conversation about the various other bands from Quebec that I like. Words like “De Temps Antan” were mentioned. And words like “Harrison Hot Springs” (which is IN British Columbia and which therefore may actually be in range of an Anna who is QUITE willing to journey a little for the sake of an awesome concert). And I may well have amused her with getting that gleam in my eye that indicates Plans That Must Be Strongly Considered, Oh My Yes.
She asked me too about which of the songs by the boys I’ve learned so far and so I was happily able to bubble about that a bit: in short, a couple of tunes, and the lyrics to various things, all of which are about to be mentioned further down this post.
Back at our table, I jumped up briefly on stage to sneak a pic of the set list, just so that I could in fact confirm the aforementioned “Le cœur en trois”. And when I saw what was coming in the second set, I perked up all over again. Because I saw some favorites on that list, oh my yes.
The second set fired up with “Mamzelle Kennedy”, off the previous album. I’m partial to this one just because it’s got exactly the sort of rhythm chords in it that I think of when I throw around phrases in my books like “the full-throated chime of the bouzouki”, because yeah, Simon’s back there jauntily chording away on his zouk on this. (Clickie over to Bandcamp to hear what that sounds like! Hear those rhythm chords in the first few opening measures? That there’s a bouzouki, people!)
Next after that: “Les amants de St. Laurent”, another with a long giggleworthy intro. This is the one where Olo and Nico do the “Hurdy-Gurdy 101” schtick, with Olo playing guileless and asking “What is your machine?” Cue Nico’s mini-lecture about where the terms “hurdy-gurdy” and “vielle à roue” come from, and then grinningly inquiring of the audience if we’re all over 18 before he flashes open the panel on the hurdy-gurdy to show us its innards. And THEN, a heaping helping of hurdy-gurdy solo goodness before they finally kicked into the song.
And then… oh god, “Rossignolet”.
I’ve almost gotten this one learned, people, and oh god it was hard to NOT sing along with it. But I kept my voice back, because it was imperative to make sure Nico and Simon could be properly heard on this one, and I’m NOT inflicting my shaky French pronunciation onto anybody else’s ears yet. But I did sit there quietly mouthing the words. Because I couldn’t not do that much.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: oh, this one is haunting. And that knife of harmony I mentioned up above is not the slighest bit less powerful when it’s only Nico and Simon’s voices delivering the blow. It’s almost more painfully sweet when the two of them are doing the harmony here than when the band’s in full vocal force, and how they’re pulling that off, I have not yet managed to figure out. (Clearly, I have to expand my sample set of concerts. Further field research is required!)
And the other thing I like about this one is, of course, what Réjean and Olivier are doing in the background while the vocals are going on, weaving that shivery little tapestry of sound behind them on the bass and on the fiddle. Olo in particular hit some piercingly beautiful notes taking us out, hitting me as only a well-played violin can. Damn.
After that, another change of pace! “Adieu Marie” was next, along with another positional shift to bring all the boys back to the front of the stage. “Everybody SHIFT!” I chirped, which made Réjean announce, “We are too far from you!” I was really rather charmed to see Réjean singing over Simon’s shoulder all throughout this song, and eventually we started singing along on the bits that didn’t have words. <3
And then–WOOOOOO! “Lanlaire”! I’d been waiting for this one all damn night, because I know the “we will need a little help” schtick well at this point, and was quite prepared to express my readiness to sing in French. Mind you, they were only initially asking us to sing “LANLAIRE!” Though I noted this time that Simon ALSO threw us “Va te faire Lanlaire, va te faire Lonla!” I threw it right back at him. So did Dara. This is what happens when you get people who can sing on the front row, and when one of the people in question has been playing this song practically daily ever since she got a hold of it. ;D
I don’t know this one all the way through yet, but I DO know several of the response lines, and I can even almost pronounce them properly. So hell yeah, I sang! And goddamn, that was fun.
One fun thing I didn’t see coming in this performance of “Lanlaire”, though–they changed it up on me! They had Réjean doing a whole solo on the mouth harp, just before the final verse where Simon finally comes back in with the lyrics he muffles on his mike. Bitchin’.
“Thank you beaucoup!” Olivier told us, after. “Merci very much!” added Réjean. To wit: lol. Yes, guys, we see what you did there.
“La soiree du hockey” was next, complete with Olivier’s lament about how the CBC cancelled Hockey Night for French broadcasts, and so he wrote “a protest fiddle tune that doesn’t change anything”! The schtick at the end with Réjean’s accordion riff and Simon hockey-swinging his guitar got the obligatory giggles!
Last but oh my definitely not least–“Au bord de la fontaine”! Another one I have been playing the hell out of, and aggressively trying to learn. I damn well sang the responses on this one, and I did in fact accomplish my mission of being perhaps one of the few voices in the room who could in fact produce “Pierre mon ami Pierre” on cue. Go me! \0/
That said, we WERE still an Anglophone audience, so um yeah, one thin little alto up front wasn’t enough to forestall the “Okay, try this: LA LA, LA LA LA LA LA” plan B. Still though: huge, HUGE fun.
And we got an encore! More importantly, we got an encore that started off with “Vive l’amour”! Which Nico identified as a song perhaps only seven people in the room would know, and four of them were in the band, hee. And which, I happily reminded Dara, was the encore we’d gotten the year before, and which I ALSO not only happily sang along to, but got up and boinged around in front of the stage with Dara when the band urged us all to get up. Bonus: Dara was the one that got ME up, not the other way around! <3
ETA: I believe this was also where there was a tiny bit of accordion Fail, in the sound or something, since we caught the boys giving one of Réjean’s squeezeboxes their Dubious Faces. “We didn’t like the accordion anyway,” was the laughing observation. “It’s always the accordion,” Dara agreed from our table.
Not much room to dance there though, so it did eventually wind up being La Danse Verticale in truth as well as spirit! But hey, that’s what I was there to do to begin with, and the only reason I hadn’t done it at any point before this in the show was because the alleged dance floor turned out to be non-existent. And I’d heard something from the folks around us about the club not actually being “licensed for dancing”. And besides, since I had a seat right there by the stage, I wasn’t budging from that table for anything short of fire or earthquake or zombies. Or all three. Maybe not even then.
Then, of course, we got “Écris-moi”. Which was a beautiful thing to sit down again and listen to, and everybody at least within earshot of me happily started singing quietly along on the final wordless choruses. Lovely, lovely closer to the show!
And for bonus glee, the band did in fact hang around a while after the show, signing CDs for several eager audience members who came up. I was thrilled to see that I’d convinced the ladies to my left to buy Symphonique, after plugging that one as arguably my favorite of all of Le Vent’s albums (flute section represent!). I myself did not actually ask for anything to be signed, in no small part because I already owned every CD they were selling–and because I’d forgotten to bring the copies of the physical CDs I do actually own. Doh. *^_^*;;
But that was okay. Because for one thing, the boys have already signed a poster for me. And for another, I had the much more critical agenda to carry out of getting Dara to do THIS.
The good Monsieur Demers was extremely sweet and patient about that and was happy to let Dara futz with her camera a bit to get that shot and another one as well. And he kindly let me babble at him about tunes practice and how I really wanted to learn “Manteau d’hiver”, and how I was working on learning one of Réjean’s as well (“Maison de glace?” Olo said, to wit: yikes, SOMEBODY actually IS apparently at least sometimes reading my Facebook updates ;D ). And he also told me to ask him if I had any questions!
(Internets, would anybody believe me if I claimed I only LOOK like I’m about to die of swoon in that picture and that I’m really enacting a cunning plan to slurp tunes out of Olivier’s brain by proximity? No? Good. You’re all still paying attention!)
ETA: It’s also worth noting that I wryly informed Olivier that I’d been fangirling Great Big Sea for 13 years now, and now it’s Le Vent’s turn. (Ha, they’re warned now. 😉 ) And that I needed pics for the obligatory show writeup post, you know. He readily proclaimed of GBS that they are a good band. And this is the part, Internets, where I pause for momentary collision of fandoms in my brain as I add this in! And if you’re now thinking I am totally imagining Anna’s Dream Concert of Le Vent du Nord AND Great Big Sea, then yes, you are, in fact, paying attention.
But that wasn’t all the chatting Dara and I got to do, either!
To Simon, I got a chance to ask how he tuned his bouzouki! He said GDAD–and those of you who know my and Dara’s musical preferences know we like our zouks in GDAE. (You may also even know that if you’re one of the couple hundred people who’ve read Faerie Blood!) So we chatted a bit about that. And Simon modestly claimed he’s not actually that good a bouzouki player. Dara and I would like to call affectionate bullshit on that, as we have just spent an entire show watching that boy play.
To Nico, Dara actually drove the chatting–because she overheard somebody saying something about Nicolas having been in a metal band, which he did in fact confirm! Which made Dara’s hearing metal influences in his hurdy-gurdy solos make a lot more sense. He seemed rather approving that Dara picked up on that too. And he grinned when I told him Dara had previously used the words “bitchin’ metal hurdy-gurdy solo” of his playing.
And, entirely unprompted by either of us, Réjean started geeking out at us about his mouth harp, which was unexpected and awesome, because that was the first up-close look I’d ever gotten at one of those. Réjean told us he was trying to break in a new one and that it’d been giving him some trouble. Dara and I, in our capacities as “people who do actually own and play instruments”, were certainly appreciative of the trials of trying to break in a new musical toy. Plus, I was just intrigued seeing how the thing works and hearing Réjean describe the different ways he had to breathe to make it make noise. It winds up kind of a percussion instrument and kind of a tonal/drone thing.
For those of you who’ve been with me since the Three Good Measures days, y’all may remember that we had a Jam Report back in the day that lamented about sound mixing problems that sounded exactly like Godzilla playing the mouth harp. Which prompted this piece of art from Dara:
I’d just like it stated, categorically and for the record, that in a mouth-harp-off I feel Réjean could totally take Godzilla.
Dara even got to chat with Francois–and I was somehow not surprised to find the two of them deep in geekery about mikes and sound equipment. This is what happens when my supervillain, who has her own little home studio, gets a chance to talk to another sound engineer! Most of what they had to say was beyond me–I don’t do anything with the equipment Dara has–but I was thrilled she got to have that conversation too!
Last but not least I got to chat again with Ginny, and express my chagrin about the cancellation of the symphony show in Vancouver–about which, apparently, the band were not even properly informed as to why the cancellation occurred. I’d give that my disapproving face except that the delightful news arose that Le Vent is booked to do a symphony show next year in Victoria.
Here’s the really fun part of that conversation too. While I was talking with Ginny, a complete stranger came up to chat with us. I thought she wanted to talk to Ginny, but she apparently wanted to talk to me! She said she’d seen me posting, presumably on Facebook, and wanted to say hi. She told me I’m a queen.
To which I’m all wut wait when did I become enough of a BNF in Quebecois music fandom that complete strangers are starting to come up to me after just two concerts?! I got to that point in Great Big Sea fandom, but even then I had to ramp up. Am I seriously the most boisterous Quebec music fangirl on Facebook these days? At least among the Anglophones? Wow. 🙂
When we finally took our leave so the nice folks who owned the place could close up (and the band could go and do something wacky like oh, I dunno, sleep or something), the swag/promoter/MC guy laughingly pretended to snog my mammoth. Dara and I cracked up at this, and I told him the mammoth would remember this night for the rest of its fuzzy little life.
Dara promptly tweeted this:
And somehow neither of us were surprised when this got her followed by @leventdunord. ;D
Internets, I think this is the part where we start singing “This was a triumph / I’m making a note here, HUGE SUCCESS”.
Only, maybe, y’know, in French. Parce que Le Vent du Nord! Les gars et aussi Genevieve, si vous lirez cet poste, merci beaucoup! Merci à mille fois pour une grande soir! Vous avez été super!