Victoriaville, PQ’s annual experimental music extravaganza kicks things off this week, celebrating thirty years of music, from all genres and from all around the world. You know that old free jazz crowd that shows up at all the experimental shows at Sala Rossa? Chances are they have probably left town a couple of times in the last decades to head east for the small yet charming town of Victoriaville. Sun Ra Arkestra with Sun Ra? They’ve seen it there. John Zorn and Yamatsuka Eye doing Naked City? Yeah, that too. Thurston Moore and Keiji Haino shredding together? Oh, that as well. The FIMAV is quite a unique festival that has managed to bring out some of the most renowned experimental musicians to the province throughout its history. Giants from free jazz, avant-garde, experimental rock, and noise have passed by the festival, as have the ‘hottest’ bands of the moment. Looking through the archives of the festival, one can’t help but wish time travelling was available already. Let’s now look forward and see what is happening this year in Victo.
The festival should be off to a great start when it begins with the first-ever FIMAV visit of legendary vocalist and composer Meredith Monk. Monk will present work from her catalogue with the help of vocalist Katia Geissinger. Meredith Monk has not visited us all that often, do not sleep on it. It will be followed by what should be a truly festive and out-there odyssey with Marshall Allen, bandleader of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Allen will perform a tribute to Sun Ra with the Montreal free jazz big band Ratchet Orchestra. The Orchestra features some of the best players in Montreal, including clarinet mad scientist Lori Freedman and the heavier-than-thou saxophonist Jason Sharp. Ending the first day of the festival will be Ava Mendoza‘s power trio Unnatural Ways. Unnatural Ways is one of those free jazz bands with a rock edge that continuously keep you on the edge of your seat, with headbanging temptation running high. Fans of Marc Ribot or Nels Cline will be pleased.
2014 might well be the year of big bands as Rimouski’s very own free improv troop GGRILwill perform pieces by Robert Marcel Lepage, Jean Derome and the GGRIL’s bassist,Éric Normand. Two fully-functional ears will be needed to hear all that the band has to offer sonically. Jerusalem in My Heart will follow the GGRIL with its maelstrom of sounds and images. The project of Hotel2Tango’s Radwan Moumneh, Jerusalem will feature film projections by Charles-André Coderre, while Moumneh will perform solo with a whole bunch of acoustic and electronic gear. Quebec franco rockers Gros Mené are also playing FIMAV on friday. While Gros Méné usually plays pretty straight ahead heavy rock, they will be joined for the first time by legendary avant guitar player René Lussier. It should be quite interesting to see what kind of guitar fireworks the somewhat reclusive Lussier will bring to the stage. One of the bigger acts of 2014, the all-star band of Keiji Haino, Merzbow,Yoshida Tatsuya, and Richard Pinhas will bring the noise in Victoriaville’s arena. Even though it will be their first performance, the noisy quartet will probably be as explosive as you can imagine they would be. As if eardrums needed any more of it, UFOMAMMUT will bring its heavy riffs to concertgoers right after Haino. The sludgy experimental metal band is only playing in North America for the second time in fifteen years.
Day three of the festival will feature six concerts that are all quite different yet seem to work well together. Opening the day will be François Carrier and Michel Lambert, a free jazz drum and sax duo that has toured a lot and who displays quite a strong chemistry. Next will be BC’s Gordon Grdina with his large ensemble Haram, which presents free improvisers exploring the sounds of classical Arab music. Next willl be Russian noiseniks Astma. Described as a mix of noise, free jazz, and psychedelic music, the duo should theoretically be a sure hit for concertgoers. The last three shows on Saturday showcase some of the biggest names active in experimental music. First off will be the two legendary British improvisers Fred Frith and Evan Parker, who are both long-time regulars of Victoriaville. If Frith can be hit-or-miss, Parker usually delivers the good with his unique sax work. Following the duo will be American saxophonist Ken Vandermark, who will present hisAudio One ensemble. Chicago heavy hitters like Jeb Bishop, Dave Rempis, MarsWilliams, and Jason Adasiewicz will join Vandermark onstage, along with five other musicians. It’s a Vandermark show, there should be plenty of shronk and a healthy dose of sweat. What happens when you bring together the three heaviest guitar players alive? You get Nazoranai, which features Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi, and Stephen O’Malley. The catch is that O’Malley and Ambarchi become a killer metal rhythm section on bass and drums, offering doomy background for the shredding of the Japanese legend. Earplugs mandatory!
Opening the last day of the festival will be two Arcade Fire family members, Sarah Neufeldand Colin Stetson. The couple has been working on music together following shows performed solo. Evan Parker will play his second set of the festival with an outstanding band that includes Ikue Mori, George Lewis, Ned Rothenberg, Peter Evans, OkkyungLee, and Sam Pluta. That septet will be paradise for free improv aficionados. Up next will be Maja Ratkje, who has performed some serious noise in Victo in the past with Fe-Mail and Spunk. Her solo set will focus on voice and electronics. For a dose of Quebec folk, stick around for Michel Faubert, a conteur and singer from la Belle Province who will mix his more traditional material with a musique actuelle band. Fred Frith, like Parker, will play with a large ensemble that will present the music of his classic album Gravity. The show promises to be an interesting mix of dance music and experimental rock. Before going back home, Montreal noisy punk rockers Duchess Says will bring the festival to an end with their spazzy rhythms and absurdist vocals. Annie-Claude Deschênes is arguably Montreal’s best frontperson and she will no doubt impress the Victo old-timers.
Let’s hope we all get out of Victo alive and make sure you stay hydrated.