Quebecois folk group brings audience to its feet at Hop

by Katherine Tai | 1/8/12 11:00pm

by Katherine Tai and Katie Tai / The Dartmouth

The three band members Eric Beaudry, Andre Brunet and Pierre-Luc Dupuis first met and combined their talents while performing in a different band, La Bottine Souriante, a 10-piece ensemble that is one of Quebec's most prominent folk music bands. Brunet and Dupuis used to be principal players and lead singers of the band, while Beaudry still performs with both La Bottine Souriante and De Temps Antan.

Brunet is a master fiddler having won top honors at the Grand Master Fiddling Competition in August 2008 Dupuis is talented on harmonica and accordion and Beaudry is a virtuoso on a number of stringed instruments, including the guitar, mandolin and bouzouki. The band's members were all inspired by traditional Quebecois music, the genre on which the three were raised, Dupuis said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

"The music, it's genetic," Dupuis said. "It's an arrangement of everything you hear in your life."

The band often derives inspiration from Quebecois tunes, from which they have found arrangements or made their own. In addition, De Temps Antan supplements their repertoire with their own folk compositions, which are a blend of traditional elements and other musical styles including bluegrass and Cajun music. Performing traditional folk music has allowed the band to spread their heritage outside of Quebec, according to Brunet

"It's fun to make people know our culture, our music," Brunet said.

Eight years ago, the three whose camaraderie is more than apparent formed De Temps Antan as a side project and performed gigs in the off-season of La Bottine Souriante. The band's name much like its music looked to the French language for inspiration, according to Dupuis.

"De Temps Antan is a play on words," Dupuis said. "Because it sounds like de temps en temps,' which is an idiom that means from time to time, but also antan means yesteryear."

Notably, all three band members contribute vocals, and the band relies on the contrasts between their vocal tones to establish the correct mood of a song. The band's music ranges from plaintive and soaring to delightfully dance-like and rapid, with a distinctive tone that is a little wild in rhythm and that borrows palpably from history and traditional French folk music.

De Temps Antan has been on a worldwide tour with "Les Habits de Papier" translated as "the newspaper suits" for several months now. Decked out in white jackets printed with French crossword puzzles, the band took to the Spaulding stage with Beaudry's nostalgic strumming of the opening of "La Ruisseau Francais." A purely instrumental, easy listening piece with a steady beat, it was a fantastic start to the show.

It was nothing short of amazing to watch Dupuis and Beaudry switch rapidly between instruments during or between songs, and all three members utilized an electronic floorboard in an almost tap-dance fashion that served as their drum. De Temps Antan credits a "fourth band member" Sebastien Rivard, the sound engineer and technical director, for this distinctive function, according to Dupuis.

The next song "La maison renfoncee" featured Dupuis on lead vocals, who had more twang and rasp in his voice than either of his band mates. During this performance, it became apparent that perhaps Spaulding with its rows of neat but confining seats was perhaps not the correct venue for such a show.

De Temps Antan's lively variety of folk music lends itself more to dancing than sitting, but the constricting Spaulding Auditorium seats limited most of the audience to simply tapping their feet and nodding their heads.

"Don't be shy to dance," Dupuis announced between songs during the concert. "There's plenty of room in the aisles, in the front, on stage."

A couple of people rose from their seats to dance in the aisles for "Roma au lac Bell," but the next two songs "Jeune et Jolie" and "Les habits de papier" were perhaps the highlights of the first half of the show. These were slower, more hauntingly melodic and melancholy, and the dancing petered off while the band performed them.

"Sometimes we get a high energy show, sometimes the crowd is more listening," Brunet said.

Beyond the notable exception of "Adieu Marguerite," filled with heartrending minor harmonies, and the instrumental "La fee des dents," which featured a beautifully affecting fiddle melody, the tempo of the songs in the second half of the concert were faster.

The up-tempo final songs were mostly set in major keys but punctuated with chromatic elements. The audience again rose to their feet during these songs, and a couple dozen people even began an impromptu dance party on stage to the surprise but warm welcome of the band members.

"Now, everybody swing!" Dupuis said to the audience toward the end of the show.

The aisles were filled with dancing audience members by the final song. People in every row swayed in their seats, tapped their feet and clapped along with the music.

After the show's intended conclusion, with the quick-paced "Petipetan," the entire audience stood for the band's exit and remained standing and applauding for nearly two minutes. De Temps Antan conceded at last, performing a final encore of three songs.

Two of the songs were satisfyingly up-tempo, perfectly balancing the line between frantic and comfortable. To finish, De Temps Antan attempted to calm its audience down with a poignant love song, which they performed a capella. The melody's refrain was beautifully clear and nostalgic, perfect for a folk music band.

While De Temps Antan's proficiency in English might be lacking, their music is more than sufficient. Carried by their charisma, humor and virtuosic musicianship, De Temps Antan showed that music transcends the boundaries of nationalities and cultures music speaks its own language.