Anglophone bands back on roster for Fête nationale

Two anglophone bands from Montreal that were cut from a concert on the eve of St-Jean-Baptiste Day after a flap over language issues are back on the roster, the show's organizer said Monday afternoon.

Two anglophone bands from Montreal that were cut from a concert on the eve of St-Jean-Baptiste Day after a flap over language issues are back on the roster, the show's organizer said Monday afternoon.

"The Fête nationale is for all Quebecers, regardless of their language or political affiliation," Chantale Trottier, the organizer's president, said in a release.

Last week, Lake of Stew and Bloodshot Bill were in the lineup for the L'Autre St. Jean concert in the borough of Rosemont but were soon after uninvited. 

On hearing the latest decision, Bloodshot Bill told the Montreal Gazette, "if they want me to play, I’ll play. If not, I won’t. My feeling [when I first heard I couldn’t perform] was, ‘Oh, that sucks. I really wanted to play.’"

Mario Beaulieu, president of the committee for Fête nationale in Montreal and president of the Societé St-Jean-Baptiste, said there were hundreds of complaints over participation by anglophone bands.

"Of course, when you talk about linguistic issues, it's always delicate in Quebec, because French is in decline, and we say French is the official language, but that is not what is applied in the public service. So many people reacted against the occurrence of an English Fête Nationale in Rosemont/Petite-Patrie," he told CBC News.

Emotions affected

Nationalist feeling runs high around the Fête nationale, the Quebec holiday held every June 24, and the festival should be held exclusively in French, he said.

Beaulieu said the main organizer, l'Association culturelle Louis-Hébert, said it would pull out if anglophone bands took to the stage.

The local organization that planned the concert, scheduled for June 23, had asked an independent producer, C4, to create a lineup for the event.

"What happened, in fact, was that the producer tried to impose some songs in English to the organizer, but they decided they wanted to go with their initial project," Beaulieu said.

C4 had touted the diversity of the lineup, which includes francophone artists such as Malajube, Vincent Vallières and Marie-Pierre Arthur.

Lake of Stew is a strings-based bluegrass band and Bloodshot Bill is a hillbilly rock 'n' roller. Both are from Montreal. They were selected as the kind of smaller Quebec act that might not get a chance to play a Fête nationale concert.

Earlier, Richard Rigby, banjo and mandolin player with Lake of Stew, said the band was disappointed to be left out of the lineup for L'Autre St. Jean festival.

"We were asked to come play at this large festival, and we were excited to play for such a large audience with an amazing band like Malajube and with our buddy Bloodshot Bill, and we were really excited about it," he told CBC News.

He said the band does have French songs and had planned to sing them that night. Bloodshot Bill had also promised to address the crowd in French between songs.

"The barriers that have been built up between English and French — we're starting to see through them, they're starting to crumble," Rigby said.

Rigby said the band got emails and messages of support on its website and on news stories about the issue, including many from francophone supporters.

"We know that people in Quebec, especially in the music scene, are warm and accepting and interested in what people do. It doesn't matter what language that we speak," he said.

Beaulieu expressed concern, however, that there could be rowdyism or violence if anglophone bands played.

"The association wanted an event with no problems, no confrontations," he said.

With files from CBC's Daybreak, Canadian Press