Quebecois Music

Festival du Bois 2016: Dara and I make noise!

This year was the third one that Dara and I have made it up to Festival du Bois in Coquitlam (previous visits having been in 2012 and 2014). We have grown rather fond of this cozy little festival and hopefully will get to start attending yearly rather than every other year!

Day 1: Saturday

This time around, we had a lovely lineup of acts I wanted to check out, two of which were familiar to me and one of which was not. My main point of interest was the power trio of Le bruit court dans la ville–who, of course, were the most excellent musicians who were my draw to Fiddle Tunes this past summer, Lisa Ornstein, André Marchand, and Normand Miron. But also quite noteworthy was Maz, who I’d already become aware of; I have both of their albums. I had not to date had a chance to see them live, though!

And last but not least was ReVeillons!, who came highly recommended by a few of the folks in our local session crowd. I wanted to check these guys out in no small part because they include Jean-François Berthiaume, who I’d already known about courtesy of his being the percussionist for Galant Tu Perds Ton Temps.

We did get to see all three of these acts, and I am pleased to report that they were all excellent. But as it turned out, this time around Dara and I actually got in some time getting to play ourselves!

Our local session crowd includes the ladies of the band Podorythmie, and they were sponsoring the informal session that parked in the Sugar Shack at the festival–where maple candy is made and sold. Dara and I jumped in on that action, and while we still had to work to keep up with the people who actually knew what they were doing, still we did actually clue in on some stuff and that was quite satisfying. I played guitar mostly, but also periodically broke out my little carbon fiber in D.

And y’know what’s fun? Playing in a public session at a music festival. 😀 We attracted considerable attention! I spotted Normand Miron stopping by to give us a listen as well. And, when I got up to take a bathroom break and then get Dara and me some of the maple candy, the candy guys actually gave us each one for free since we’d been playing. To wit, AWESOME.

Also awesome: our session being joined by fiddlers Jocelyn Pettit and Richard Forest of the aforementioned ReVeillons! Both of whom are excellent fiddlers, and M. Forest in particular whipped out a very badass tune of his own. Once I heard that I had to lean over and go “so which of your albums is that on?” (And I went and promptly bought that album in the main performance tent later, along with a festival T-shirt.)

We did “Maison de glace” during this jam–that being a) one of the few tunes I can reliably play, and b) a thing by Réjean Brunet of Le Vent du Nord, so I am partial to it! Dara realized to her startled pleasure that she actually knew that tune too, after hearing me play it in practice at home. So she was able to jump in confidently on that one.

Seeing ReVeillons! (the exclamation mark IS part of their name) on stage was fun too. Some of their Saturday set was taken up by Jean-François doing some dance calling for the crowd; he’s apparently quite renowned for this, and after seeing him action, it was clear why. He was very good at it! Dara and I did not participate in the dancing, but it was fun to watch nonetheless. Even though the problem I always have watching square dancing is that I keep expecting Bugs Bunny to jump out and start calling!

Saturday evening we left the park just long enough to have dinner with our friends Geri and Rob and Angela, but this was at a sushi place right across the street from the park. Convenient! Turned out to be very tasty sushi as well with generous portion sizes. So if you’re ever in Coquitlam and you’re on the hunt for good sushi, go to Sushi Buzza.

Maz was the final act of Saturday’s lineup and it was very cool to see them on stage. They’re almost entirely instrumental, but they also needed the most sound support, so it was pretty clear why they needed to be last. They also did an excellent job filling the dance floor! Stylistically they were the most musically intriguing of the acts we listened to, since they’re doing some jazz-influenced and electronica-influenced things to trad tunes. Dara liked them well enough that she actually doublechecked with me about whether I had their albums yet. I’ll be sharing their music with her.

Saturday night session

Just as things were winding down on Saturday, Dara and I ran into Michelle who we know from the session crowd in Seattle–and who ever so helpfully clued us in as to where Saturday night’s session action was going to be! Turned out it was at a different hotel than the one we were staying at, but it wasn’t far away, so we headed over there to see what was going on. We ran into the aforementioned M. Forest again on the way in, and a couple other musicians as well who were hunting down where the music was going to happen.

We were in a little nook in the back of the first floor, close to the kitchens. And we were not allowed to have alcohol in the place where we were playing, though the folks who were running the session did clue us in that beer and wine were being shared in one of the rooms up on the third floor. So people went in and out of the session to go fuel up as they wanted.

Dara and I did more of the “we don’t entirely know what we’re doing so we’re going to hang out on the edge of this and see if we can try to follow along” thing. But! This session contained Lisa Ornstein, so I got to see her in action in a full-blown session. Which was awesome. Jocelyn showed up again and took lead on one set while Lisa played backup for her, and I had some fun just listening to some of the interesting things Lisa was doing on her fiddle.

I mostly stuck to guitar since I already know I just can’t keep up on reels I don’t know, and I’m a bit better at picking up stuff faster on guitar than I am on flute or whistle. And I did learn something doing this: i.e., how to start recognizing a tune in B minor and what I need to do for chords for that key. (Which is to say: B minor, A, D, and E.) What I need to do to follow up on this is figure out better chord progressions. I know some really basic ones, but I have considerable room for improvement. And after hearing the srs bznz guitar that Sue Truman and Julia Derby from Podorythmie can whip out (I hear them play in session frequently!), I can see where I need to shoot for.

Learned something flute-wise as well. The group did play “La fée des dents”, which of course is one of the things by André Brunet that I know pretty well at this point. But I know it slow, since I’m used to playing along with the recording. The session played it faster and I could not keep up with that. So I have some homework to do practicing playing it that way too!

Dara stayed in stealth mode while we played, and by stealth mode I mean she actually sat on the floor, more or less under the table where the water bottles were, mostly out of sight. But that let her noodle around on the mandolin and experiment with learning from what everyone was doing.

Got a hug out of Lisa once we finally took our leave around midnight, when I saw Dara being very sleepy!

Day 2: Sunday

Sunday was pretty much round 2 of everything we did on Saturday! I wound up buying a second ReVeillons! CD, and all that kept me from buying all three of their discs was that by the time I got back to that table, they’d sold out of the third album.

I also wound up buying a couple of books from the children’s table, since they had one title that was actually on my wishlist, and another that was the paperback of something I’ve already bought in ebook–but the paperback was only 99 cents, so I went ahead and scarfed that up! The books were Naïla de Brume and Gaïg tome 1 : La prophétie des nains (this one being notable to me because it’s got a female dwarf protagonist).

I got greeted by both Normand Miron AND André Marchand, so yay! M. Miron does not have much English, so my exchange with him was mostly him patting me on the shoulder in passing, and me piping “Bonjour!” at him. M. Marchand on the other hand came over and chatted with Dara and me since he does have good English, so I took the time to introduce him to Dara. Told him I’ll be attending the house concert this week in Seattle that Le bruit court dans la ville will be doing!

The one new thing that we did on Sunday that we hadn’t done before was investigating the tent that had a nice little historical recreation of a Maillardville post office (bureau de poste) from the 1800’s. And a gentleman in costume was giving a nice little bilingual pitch about what they were doing to visitors who came to the tent, giving a bit of story about the figure he was portraying, and how some of that gentleman’s grandchildren had reached out to him to share family history and help him basically polish up his presentation of this little chunk of Maillardville history. So that was cool. I particularly liked seeing a snapshot of what looked like a town record of some kind–maybe an early version of a police blotter?–recording some citizens’ complaints about their houses being broken into. One complaint was recorded in English and the other was in French.

While we were watching the bands in the big tent, I did wind up getting a small number of pics which are now up on my Flickr account over here. And here are thumbnail versions!

Maz had the final act on stage again, so not long after they finished their set, Dara and I got on the road for home. All in all, a lovely little weekend and a renewed reminder of why we definitely will need to come back to Festival du Bois again! Highly, highly recommended for anyone in the Pacific Northwest who enjoys Francophone music!

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