Dispatches from Northern Lights Festival Boréal, day three (Saturday)
Saturday at the Northern Lights Festival Boreal drew big crowds with four stages of music to choose from. Seeing Medhi Cayenne perform again was a priority, this time under the open sky. I noticed many folks from Medhi’s show the night before back for more. As well, many young folks were enjoying the show, dancing with abandon. That is the effect of Medhi Cayenne!
Richard Inman played the main stage with a stylish country band composed of musicians from Alberta (fiddle and guitar/pedal steel) and two local pros (bass and drums). They delivered a collection of mostly original country tunes driven by Richard’s rich soulful voice. Stories shared through Richard’s easy stage banter and several sorrowful ballands told of ranch work and lost loves, both fulfilling yet grueling endeavours. Richard’s songwriting is fluid yet grounded in classic and new country. He travels the prairies and ranches with a visceral longing that he shares with listeners. As trapping as the stories he tells would seem, Richard soars across Canada and down into the U.S. singing his favourites and embodying the soul of the country outlaw archetype. The lingering ear worm, “New Year’s Blues,” lives within, along with a mental picture of the band sitting at the Laughing Buddha bar, turning it momentarily into a dusty saloon.
An unexpected treat was enjoying the Saturday evening main stage hosting of Teilhard Frost from Sheesham & Lotus & ‘Son who took the main stage audience on tiny detailed tours through musical obscurity. One magical rabbit hole was a hypnotizing history of the jaw harp, equipped with a visual array of multiple harps, mostly from Asia. Fascinating as well was the story of gathered dried camel bones to use percussively in the traditional Mongolian way. Watching the pair play the percussive patterns was a suspended moment in time, full of curiosity and humour. I will follow these fellows for sure!
The Fembots brought their revitalized indie rock outfit from Toronto to the main stage of Northern Lights. The five piece band offered steady rhythmic tunes, guitar driven with very satisfying vocals and intermittent doses of organ. Lead singers Dave MacKinnon and Brian Poirier sounded strong, with their individual passion and tones integrating, anchored and soaring. Catchy tunes that took alternative courses of musical action made a fan of me, and I am heading soon to listen to their three albums.
I had left the main stage for a moment when my co-conspirator in this coverage, Robin, texted and said, “You need to get back here.” On quick return, I had to squeeze through the dancers that had come out of nowhere! That was the effect of Ottawa’s Angelique Francis and her very hot band, a Francis family affair, with Angelique on lead vocals (such an understatement) bass (stand up/electric) and harmonica; sisters Kharincia and Kira on alto saxophone and
trombone respectively, and their father, Kiran, on drums. The sisters also sang back-up. Dave Williams, also from Ottawa, completes the band on lead guitar. Experiencing the caliber of this outfit was a rare treat. The musicianship and performance were as good as it gets, with no explanation needed for the Juno Award and two Maple Blues Awards Angelique recently won. Watching Angelique is a thrilling look into a being so full of talent with fierce work ethic and direct access to ageless musical spirits and charms.