Posts Tagged ‘quebec music

About French Music at the Bell Center

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My friend Vince is one of those prototypical couch jocks who’s whole lives revolve around NFL football, hockey playoffs and three-day NHL ’08 marathons.  Amazingly, Vince also finds time to get some work done between his ultra-realistic and complex online baseball league simulations. He’s a very successful disc jockey who’s been rocking dancefloors since way before he was legally allowed to even be in the clubs.

For the last three years Vince has also been working as the DJ at the Bell Center during the Canadien’s hockey games.  Up there on the gallery with the best seat in the house for every single home game and 25 000 cheering Habs fans below, Vince is as close to heaven as he’ll ever be if lust, gluttony and sloth are indeed deadly sins…

Since last May, however, some bad vibes have been drifting up to his happy place.  Nothing major.  Just a very persistent controversy about the amount of French and Québec music that is being played at the Bell Center.

The debate started with an online petition by publisher Michel Brûlé demanding that the Bell Center respect the CRTC requirements imposed on French commercial radio stations and play at least 65% of French music.

The Bell Center is a private business, not a broadcaster and that idea got very little support.  The debate about the amount of French music and local artists played at the Bell Center, however, lived on and today, just like Bob Gainey, Carbo and the guys on the ice,  Vince is discovering the joy of hearing people second guessing how he does his job on TV and in the papers.

Vince is very lucky to have his job, but he absolutely deserves it.  Before he was drafted by the Canadiens, he was the Expo’s DJ at the Olympic stadium.  Not many people know this, but before hockey games on Saturday nights Vince is at the Université de Montréal stadium playing music for the college football team Les Carabins.  He doesn’t need the money.  They can’t afford him anyway.  Vince is just really intense about sports and music.

Ever since Vince first appeared at our school in the fourth grade with his strange and cool breakdance LPs under his arm, it’s always been about the music, and the music could only be about what we were, French-speaking kids from this place called Québec.  Singing in English or changing your accent made you a poser and earned you our sincere contempt.

Vince led the way for the rest of us white kids into the then-scary world of Rap or deep into his dad’s collection of old Offenbach, Harmonium and Charlebois records.  He can say he’s battled Kool Rock of the first ever Québec Rap crew Mouvement Rap Francophone (coolest band logo in Québec music history) way back when you and your dad wouldn’t even acknowledge Hip Hop as music yet.  Fifteen years before the Cowboy Fringants, Vince played the drums for for Trad Rock band les Pères Verts, and wrote the lyrics for their nationalist anthem Racines (Roots).

Later, with his band Phénomen, Vince recorded two crazy eclectic albums, one of which was nominated as best Hip Hop album at the Gala de l’Adisq, the Québec equivalent of the Grammy’s.

Speaking of the Gala de l’Adisq, this year’s edition was held last sunday at, precisely, the Bell Center and I watched the gala with Vince at his house. He’s not going to like me telling you this, but when Luc Plamondon payed homage to Québec’s most successful artist ever, recalling Céline Dion’s rise from Charlemagne to worldwide stardom, her sincere loyalty to the Québec public and how she never stopped recording in French, Vince cried.

A few minutes later another legend, Claude Dubois (the guy the CBC edited out of it’s broadcast of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame along with all the other francophones artists) sang Si Dieu Existe.  Vince cried again.

I very seriously doubt that in it’s 100 year history the Montreal Canadien has ever had an employee who is more passionate about Québec music and culture.

The average hockey fan watching the game on TV, however, doesn’t actually hear much of the music played at the arena.  The “music” during the game is really just a quick succession of 5 and 10 second snippets: “We will, we will, Rock You!”,  hand claps, an organ riff and face off.  If you listen to any sports event from anywhere in the world, you will quickly notice there is a very small cannon everyone seems to be working with: Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll part two, I Love Rock and Roll by Joan Jett and… that’s about it.

Vince makes it a point of playing Québec artists that he likes during intermissions, when he actually gets to play the whole song.  The TV viewing crowd, sadly, is watching beer commercials or game “analysis”.  Montreal already does have it’s hometown classic sports anthems, although they are getting a bit old: Illégal by Corbeau when the other team makes a nasty hit and Éric Lapointe’s Les Boys or Rocket (on est tous des Maurices Richards).  In fact, I seriously wonder if you’ll hear as much properly ‘local’ music at any other NHL’s team home games…

Smarter artists, Loco Locass to name one, understood this and instead of calling for legislation or quotas, went to work and did their jobs and recorded a hockey song for Vince. (Btw, les Locos, Vince aimerait bien avoir un .wav…)

And let’s hope they keep doing it and keep putting out high impact rocking anthems Vince can play during Hockey games.

If they can come up with the beats and the chants, they’ve got a very good friend up there.

Written by angryfrenchguy

November 16, 2008 at 7:07 pm