English connection hits sour note

Two Montreal English bands may be dropped from a St-Jean-Baptiste concert after one of the backers threatened to pull out over language issues.

MONTREAL — Two Montreal English bands may be dropped from a St-Jean-Baptiste concert after one of the backers threatened to pull out over language issues.

The about-face comes days after the concert’s producers announced the show, billing it as an indie band alternative to the huge official musical bash featuring French-Canadian superstars, as well as a celebration of the Quebec’s cultural diversity.

But the idea of a bilingual concert celebrating Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a public holiday in Quebec dedicated to the province’s French-Canadian culture, proved too much for one of the organizers.

The event — dubbed L’Autre St-Jean — was to be held on June 23 in the up-and-coming and majority French Rosemont neighbourhood.

But in an email sent to organizers on Thursday, the production company says one partner informed them they disagreed with the show’s “philosophy” and that, because the French-language is under constant threat in Quebec, they refused to endorse the programming and may block its financing.

Further, the partner threatened to protest to the event.

The two English bands involved — acoustic string band Lake of Stew and hillbilly rock n’ roller Bloodshot Bill — were then told they may be cut from the lineup they were originally to share with Quebec artists like Malajube, Vincent Vallieres and Marie-Pierre Arthur.

Bloodshot Bill says he was happy to be invited to the party and that the subsequent series of events left him confused.

“It sounded fun, an outdoor show, you know,” he said, but the press conference last week offered some portent over what was to come.

“All the questions were concerning this language thing,” he said.

“I think it’s silly. People can’t understand what I’m singing anyway — it’s rock n’ roll.”

Besides, he would have addressed the audience in French between songs, he noted, and may have thrown in a French tune or two.

The St-Jean-Baptiste Society president Mario Beaulieu, partnered with the Louis-Hebert Cultural Association that contracted the C4 production company to produce the show, says C4 snuck the English-speaking acts in at the last minute without prior approval.

It’s not the first time English musicians perform at Fete nationale festivities, he noted, but if they sing in English, they do so in anglophone neighbourhoods.

“It was presented as a bilingual event in a very French neighbourhood,” Beaulieu said.

“We have no problem with bands that perform in English, but on the day of the Fete nationale, we think French should be given precedence.”

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