Le Vent du Nord

Une Belle Soirée

I should tell you about the best concert ever.

Now, I don't know exactly how this happened. I listen to music from every single genre I can find and there's something I like about all of them. But over the last few years, I've grown a distinct predilection for two genres: folk music and space music. I listen to a lot of Celtic folk music and, when I'm not listening to that, I am literally tripping on space music. Ambient and space music is like a drug to me. I have real hallucinations while listening to it. But the best part is the hallucinations go away as soon as I turn it off, and there are no side-effects other than a desire to listen to more space music later on.

There's an Internet radio collective I frequently use to feed my musical addictions and that's SomaFM. They've several radio stations to choose from, each playing their own genres and styles, but my go to stations are Drone Zone for space and Thistle Radio for Celtic folk. Thistle Radio might sound familiar to you if you ever listened to NPR and happened to catch a show called Thistle and Shamrock with Fiona Richie. Fiona is the host of the show and the driving force behind Thistle Radio on SomaFM. She did me the small service of introducing me to my favourite band, a Quebecois folk group called Le Vent du Nord.

Translated from Quebecois, Le Vent du Nord means The North Wind and they play classic and original Quebecois folk music, some of which dates back to the 1700s. However, this is no sleepytime folk group. No, these guys are into life, rhythm, and the pursuit of happiness by way of their music. Their songs are full of energy and their performances are the kind of thing where you'll swear they lost five pounds by the time the concert is over. Their lead singer absolutely rocks a hurdy gurdy.

Quebecois folk is unique in a couple of ways. First there's frequently a person in the band wearing tap shoes and tapping out a rhythm. They're the percussionist for the group and, often, the violin player too. Second, there's a call and response dynamic to the songs because many of these songs are meant to be sung by groups of people, especially at parties. The idea is that everyone can join in on the music. Given that Quebecois originates from France and the old word for France is Gaul and from Gaul we get the Gaels and from the Gaels we get the Celts... Quebecois traces its genealogy all the way back to Celtic folk, which is why it showed up on Thistle Radio one day.

This band pops up and I'm instantly hooked. In the span of one song, Le Coeur de ma Mere, I went from "these guys are good" to "I must hear everything this band has ever recorded." I speak just enough Quebecois to get into a bar-fight in Montreal, but I can get along with the music regardless. Either way, I fell in love with their music, their style, and their energy.

I started following their touring schedule back in Arizona and, sure enough, they don't go anywhere near the place. They occasionally play in California, but not often. They tend to perform more on the East Coast, around Canada, within the UK, Ireland, and Europe. And on September 28, 2019, they performed in Bloomington, Indiana.

Le Vent du Nord in Bloomington, IN.

Because things aren't as spread out on the east side of the country as they are in the west, you can get to interesting places in a reasonable amount of time around here. A six hour drive takes you to Nashville, Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinatti, Charlotte and, in the case of this concert, Bloomington. They city hosts a folk festival called Lotus Fest, and I found out a couple of months beforehand that Le Vent du Nord would be there.

I never bought tickets to something so quickly.

We headed to Bloomington and found a town square just as lovely as Bowling Green's. The two cities have a lot in common as neither of them are big, but they're both college towns. We arrived at the festival and wandered around the area. Lotus Fest features their big performances in large tents and venues all over the area, and I wanted to find where Le Vent du Nord was performing so we'd know where to hang out. After a five minute walk, I found what I thought to be the right place.Some of the gear was already there, and I could kinda-sorta make out their logo on one of the cases, but I wasn't sure. Then I look up and straight into the face of Nicolas Boulerice, the lead singer.

Yeah, this is the right place.

Two beer flights from The Tap in Bloomington, IN.
Everything was good.

I caught my breath and we ambled off to find The Tap, a superb, independent pub with a fantastic selection of local beer. After getting slightly twisted on the local brew, we paid the tab and wandered back out to the street. I heard their music and realised they were running soundcheck! In a tent that is wide open, and anyone can go in! I did, and got to watch them perform with only their audio engineer as the other member of the audience!

Magical.

They broke afterwards and went to get something to eat. We took some time to check out a few of the many beautiful local shops, including a bookstore down the block and across the street. Half an hour before the concert we headed back to the tent and we were the first ones there. Bloomington Brewing Co., set up shop outside the tent, selling a variety of their beers. I grabbed a Ruby Bloom Amber and Cathi had herself a Kirkwood Cream Ale. I highly recommend both to anyone with a penchant for ambers and creams. The band was there along with their audio engineer and they were getting things ready when someone, who had no idea who these guys are, approached Nicolas and asked him about the hurdy gurdy. Well damn, I need to hear that and, besides, Nicolas has a fantastic Quebecois accent to his English, which he speaks fluently.

Nicolas Boulerice, the lead singer of Le Vent Du Nord.
I walked right up to the front of the stage, where they've got things fenced off, and this lady, her kiddo, and I get a private lesson from Nicolas on the history of the hurdy gurdy, its role in Medieval music, how he learned to play it, and how it plays a role in Quebecois folk. Imagine, say, getting a twenty minute private conversation with Billy Joel and he's talking about his thoughts on pianos.

It was seriously like that.

Thing is, when he was done, there was maybe ten minutes to concert time.

And I'm down in the front. Ten feet from the band.

Did I mention it was freaking magical?

Le Vent du Nord.

Nicolas had an epic hurdy gurdy solo which, I know, sounds weird, but this man has his instrument hooked into electric guitar pedals and can add effects to the sound as he desires. Within a tent, in a standing room only audience, at a folk festival in Bloomington, Indiana; I had the pleasure of watching the best concert ever by my favourite band. And whenever they come back within that six-hour driving radius, I will absolutely go see them again.