1 May 2016
By La Grande Christine
Translation Nancy LaPointe

FestiBlues Saint-Bernard-de-Michaudville

Festiblues de St-Bernard-de-Michaudville
In the heart of the Monteregie, in a small welcoming town, the first edition of this blues festival is in full swing. The organizing team led by Mélanie Bouclin, is well established and everything is going smoothly… like a well-rehearsed sermon!

The church’s nave has been converted into a community centre and is furnished with tables and chairs for everyone, a cloakroom, a very affordable full bar and a well-stocked canteen that even serves hot-dogs!

The organisation has spared no expenses and invited an amazing duo composed of Dawn Tyler Watson and Paul DesLauriers, the talented Guy Bélanger and his musicians as well as the feisty Riot and the Blues Devils.

Let the show begin!

The brilliant duo of Dawn and Paul, established for many years and acknowledged by the Montreal Blues Society (MBS) in 2012, knows no substitute. As a matter of fact, they were selected to represent the province of Quebec at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, Tennessee. From the start, the people of St-Bernard-de-Michaudville were moving to the steady sound of Paul’s guitar while “piously” listening to Dawn’s bewitching voice. This complicit duo made a game of challenging each other, each using their own mind-blowing instrument (voice/guitar). This particular 90 minute performance set the bar very high as well as the tone for the remainder of the evening.

During intermission, we met up with Dawn and Paul for a photo and autograph session, brilliantly spearheaded by Christine Langelier, one of the organization’s volunteer.

A bag of chips in one hand, a soft drink in the other, here I go to watch the arrival on stage of Guy Bélanger and his musicians.

Guy Bélanger, a man proudly wearing his harmonicas on his belt! With my good friend Irène Ippersiel, MBS’s former president, singing his praises, and having heard him play with Steve Strongman, Paul DesLauriers Band, and Monkey Junk, and at the Toronto Maples Blues Awards where he won the Best Harmonicist award in 2015, I had sworn to myself that I would not miss this performance of the man and his musicians.

And what a performance it was!

Generous to a fault, Guy humbly shared with the crowd his passion for his small wind instruments with sensitivity. His version of the blues is tinted with soul, gospel, urban, country 
and rock sounds as well as his own compositions for film soundtracks produced by his brother, Louis Bélanger (Les mauvaises herbes - 2016, Gaz Bar Blues - 2003). Supported by 
his guitarist and musical partner of the last ten years, André Lachance, he makes us vibrate to the sounds of his guitars and grave voice. His personal technique of sliding is captivating. The talented Marc-André Drouin lends him a hand with his bass guitar and his Pete Townshend look (The Who) as well as the amazing percussionist Michel Roy who sings backup for Guy and André.

We can't help but dance!

After his set, a smiling Guy comes to meet with his fans with simplicity and modesty. What a beautiful soul!

Sadly, because they were leaving for Quebec City, his musicians could not come to the photo session. I did however manage to grab a hold of André Lachance, the guitarist, long enough to ask for (and get!) an autograph and to tell him that his style and voice reminded me of Paul Reddick.

Eleven thirty, equipped with a bottle of water, I am ready for a different kind of blues, rockabilly. From the first notes, under the spell of Riot and his Blues Devils, the audience starts to move the chairs to make the dance floor bigger. There’s a party going on at the church!

Riot points out how welcomed the FestiBlues has made him feel and thanks Mélanie Bouclin for the buffet and refreshments. He also takes this opportunity to sing to her a heartfelt “Happy birthday”, as did Dawn, Paul, Guy and his musicians earlier.

With Riot’s charisma, you can tell he was born for the stage; he is one the most appreciated performers in the province. With each song, the audience is enthralled by his stentorian voice, his shining guitars vibrating to his particular touch. Expertly supported by his Blues Devils, Big Papa Mike on bass guitar and Laurent Saint-Pierre on drums (replacing Mark Di Claudio who is currently in China), these two devils accompany Riot for a thrilling performance!

Everyone was more than ecstatic with the first edition of the FestiBlues de St-Bernard-de-Michaudville. As for myself, I cannot wait for next year’s edition, this little festival is well worth a visit.

Bravo Mélanie, you have made this a resounding success!


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