Linguistics controversy ends with firm gig for Lake of Stew

It's been a strange, confusing roller-coaster for Montreal's Lake of Stew, but it appears the strings-based bluegrass band will be playing at the L'Autre St. Jean concert.

Online threats of disruption after anglophone bands cleared to play

It's been a strange, confusing roller-coaster for Montreal's Lake of Stew, but it appears the strings-based bluegrass band will be playing at the L'Autre St. Jean concert on the eve of Quebec's Fête nationale after all.

Lake of Stew is one of two anglophone acts caught in a linguistics flap over the past two weeks after being asked to play in the concert, scheduled for Tuesday in the Montreal borough of Rosemont.

Lake of Stew and rocker Bloodshot Bill were invited to the concert by producer C4, then uninvited by Fête nationale organizers who said it was inappropriate for anglophone bands to play.

An outpouring of support from their fans in Quebec, however, and internet posters across Canada appear to have turned the tide again.

"We're going to be there. We're going to play — about 20 minutes," Richard Rigby, banjo player for Lake of Stew, said in an interview with CBC News. "We've spoken to Bloodshot Bill about playing two songs together."

Being at the centre of a media storm over language has made for a confusing couple of weeks for the band, he said.

"We weren't expecting this. We've played to a lot of French audiences in Quebec and we've got really good feedback. For this to happen, it's been really strange," he said.

The City of Montreal has promised increased police presence at the L'Autre St. Jean, after sovereigntist sympathizers pledged to disrupt any performance by anglophones.

In online debate about the concert, some posters threatened to create enough noise to drown out the band.

Four of the band's members are Quebec-born and raised ,and the other two are longtime Montrealers, originally from Ontario. They came from backgrounds in punk and electronica until they started jamming together in 2003 and discovered they liked creating an acoustic folky sound.

Rigby said the band was "disappointed" by the idea that they could be barred from participating in a show on the eve of Quebec's national holiday because they were anglophone.

But the reaction to news stories about their plight has been overwhelmingly supportive, he said. Hits on their MySpace page have soared to 600 a day, about 10 times the previous level.

"Then we got a lot of amazing support from people all over Quebec — people sending us emails, people's comments on the various articles that are around.  There were some virulent posters who wrote some unkind stuff, but 80-90 per cent of the comments have been really positive," Rigby said.

The band plans to play some of its French songs at the concert, but Rigby wouldn't reveal the playlist.

The band thinks of itself as part of an "inclusive" Quebec and believes the controversy has been driven by a few people who cling to old ideas about language, he said.

"It's a new Quebec now. The old-fashioned idea of putting the French language into a crystal box so we can look at it being preserved, it's over now," Rigby said.

"The only way you're going to preserve your culture — and language is only a single aspect of culture — is by sharing your culture and by teaching people about your culture."