Thursday, 5 December 2013

Daniel Belanger

Daniel Bélanger  |  Corona Theatre

             PHOTOS  |  MIREILLE JEAN

November 21, 2013 - Upon entering the Corona Theatre, the vibe was palpable−it felt oh so very friendly and light hearted. It was warm physically and metaphysically, filled to capacity, nice, genuine, with a pint of nostalgia on the side. It felt like home−everyone was there to see a dear, old friend do what he was born to do. I know that sounds lame, or makes you want to sing ‘The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music’…but it wasn’t and here is why:

And there were four. Daniel Bélanger on vocals, obviously, and miked acoustic guitar; Michel Dagenais on electric guitar; Ben Caissie on drums; and Richard Gélineau on upright bass (in my mind’s eye, or higher cognitive process if you prefer, steel guitar was miraged in as well, but I don’t trust it, and neither should you!). 

The playing was succinct, solid, and sprinkled with Daniel Bélanger’s vocals, like the finishing touches of powdered sugar gently tapped over a cake. I love when singers use pedals on their vocals; when wonderfully done, it means that they intimately know their instrument’s limits and capacities of being able to re-create their muse’s whimsical infatuations. 

Balance−purposefully and intricately layered so that it clearly became the sum total of the night’s parts. Daniel Bélanger is proof that you can have a really high tenor voice range with beautiful vibrato and still make cool ‘rock’n’roll’ (without grating on your nerves like Robert Plant for instance). His comfortable singing range sits higher than most and sounds angelic at its highest. In contrast, the electric guitar stayed on a much lower register, counterbalancing and uniting the discrepancy in octaves so seamlessly, tastefully, handsomely…  

Enchantingly, Michel Dagenais played electric guitar as only real blues (i.e. Memphis, R.L. Burnside) can do−an amalgam of staccato picking, slides, and when strummed, big, fat, full, rich, steely, resonate chords. The electric guitar has many musical responsibilities, but its most important role in this context is one of gracious, instrumental orator, spinning intense and crafted stories from the human experience and riddled with the Yin &Yang pastedGraphic.pdf of it all; whose propos never had a beginning and will never have an end, only recycle. And, whose wisdom and soul intrinsically know its role is that of healer: if one is chained, we are all chained!

Humans are animal Homo-sapien and non homo-sapien torture specialists. Random example blindly plucked out of a sad sea of cruelty and brotherly monstrosities. McGill University’s website (idem for most universities) has managed to almost completely skirt the issue in black and white at least, except I found this: 


2.2 Animal anatomical waste (carcasses, body parts, organs)

3.3 Non-anatomical waste which includes:

 3.3.1 Sharps contaminated with animal blood, biological fluids or tissues (must be in a sealed rigid container before disposing)

 3.3.2 Tissue or microbial cultures, and material contaminated by such cultures

 3.3.3 Live vaccines
Biomedical waste must be segregated according to the above categories and disposed of frequently. If your laboratory is located in the Stewart Building, your waste must be brought to the loading dock cold room that is designated as “Biohazard Waste” room (N3/19B).  You must record your waste into the designated book at the Biology Stores and ask the storekeeper to hand you the key. If your laboratory is NOT located in the Stewart, you must follow your own building instructions.


Daniel Bélanger’s music has most decidedly paved the way for the current renaissance of French speaking, québecois music, that most take for granted in today’s musical scene. He has proved and continues to prove that québecois artists don’t have to sing in English in order to establish and maintain an evolving musical career and still be able to eat 3 meals everyday, and generally subsist. He has steadfastly promoted the richness of modern, unilingual French rock, despite its popularity or lack there of. How many francophones don’t understand a word of Getty Lee’s vocals, but still fanatically LOVE Rush? So, why can’t it be the same the other way around?
In short: yes, my friends, it’s come to that. I am amazed, awed, intrigued when I run across seemingly normal, consciously living, purposely peaceful, calm choosing, and sincere present moment living musicians. We mere, working class, low paid mortals wouldn’t survive a day in today’s corporate working environment if one were to cultivate and condone the ego as do an overwhelming amount of ‘artists’. 

My theory is money; spawned from ownership’s worst nightmare. Seriously, you think Dali would have been as pompous after he became surrealism’s outspoken, outlandish poster boy had he had to at least work 20 hours a week at 10$ an hour in order to survive? I think ALL first world citizens must, by order of law, be forced to spend 1 week in a third world country, and not hunkered down sipping martinis in first class hotels if they have the means to do so, but with the average worker, side by side, everyday. And, at least 1 week on a Canadian, Native American reservation as stipulated above.

ALL politicians and persons who possess 1 million dollars and over should be mandated by law that they spend 1 week in 3 different third world countries with the stipulations above, then 3 weeks in 3 different Native American, Canadian reservations, and finally 3 weeks side by side with a family, financial supporter who makes minimum wage, 10.00$ an hour, and 12.00$ an hour in that order. And I will leave safe havens alone for now.

Inevitably, the musicians that I think and hope are still your average person intact with human values prostitute their music out to Budweiser (an American company to boot!) or Apple in order to sell their newest, wasteful, almost identical I phone 50 they have for sale every other day. But I know, I hear it EVERY time I open my mouth about commercials’ and musicians’ incestuous bed buddy relationship. Can you guess what it is? Pause here for dramatic effect…

But, if they don’t sell their music to multinational, American corporations that ruthlessly plunder and steal from their workers so that the company’s top 1% get 99% of the spoils, then they can’t continue to be musicians. And I purposefully prefer spoils, because profit is stolen from those companies’ bread and butter: millions of indecently, low paid, hard workers that can’t even enjoy that LAST vestiges and semblance of the most important, family holiday in the States anymore. They now have to gulp down their Thanksgiving meal, usually around 15h00 or 16h00, participate in practically no social and family bonding, and zombie on out to their 10.00$ an hour Wal-Mart job. It is sick, twisted, and psychopathic.

We urgently need artists such as Daniel Bélanger who, by choice, exist outside societal live and die by the dollar, feudal, yes feudal, I Phone addicted norms. True story, I was recently speaking with a smart, sweet, passionate musically versed 22 year old who has his own music blog and a tattoo of poignant and beautiful lyrics from a Cœur de Pirate song who literally didn’t know what the concept ‘sell-out’ was. I had to explain it to him, but of course he didn’t agree…  


To wit−it wasn’t easy giving props including names to the band members. I was disheartened, not only by how many rocks I had to turn over to find their names, but also that they do not seem to be anywhere on Daniel Bélanger’s website (I truly hope I am wrong about this). Out of respect for their outstanding musical abilities alone we should see names, not just ‘the guitar player’, etc. It’s like when you go to a production of Verdi’s ‘Requiem’, for example, there can be over 100 choir members involved, but you will still always find every musician’s name easily. On the other hand, I was heartened to see that they all seem to be from Québec? 

As often happens when you sit on your high horse, life is all like ‘oh really, no you didn’t’! and just like that, what you perceived as disheartening leads you to a place that had you known, you would have really wanted to go and are stoked and thankful of the out come, which never would have happened if you weren’t disheartened in the first place! I think they call that serendipity?

Want some more serendipity? 

As I was scouring Daniel Bélanger’s website for his band members’ names, I ran across some interesting information. He recorded his newest album, CHIC de VILLE, at the Black Bird Studios in Nashville, TN. As I was reading on about this I suddenly noticed that the Stray Cats’ ‘18 Miles to Memphis’ was playing (and I had nothing to do with that record choice as I usually write with no music because my brain just blocks it out anyway). Next, I stumbled upon this description on the website:

"Cet univers musical, dont les racines plongent au cœur de l'Amérique, se prêtait à merveille aux histoires simples que souhaitait raconter Daniel Bélanger, scènes de vie où tout se colore ou se fragilise: les départs nécessaires (Domino), les temps solitaires (Traverse-moi), l'autre et les doutes à calmer (Je t'aime comme tu es)".

Which in turn gave me two detailed and interrelated flash images from Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Mystery Train’, my personal favorite, when Joe Strummer is sitting at a table in a bar in Memphis listening to none other than ‘18 miles from Memphis’ while drowning his love sorrows in beer. 

As soon as that image flashed, then image #2 took its place: a young adult, Japanese couple, who are Nashville music maniacs and have just arrived in Nashville, speaking not a word of English. Dazed, confused, and culture shocked, they jointly, slowly, tediously carry a suitcase with a stick running through the handle so that one holds the stick in the front and one in the back. 


Merci beaucoup aux francophones d’Amérique pour avoir su resister à l’anglais malgré les difficultés, the ups & downs, trials, tribulations, discrimination, jubilance, separation scares that comes with the territory! ‘’C’est la vie/Such is life’’  

     In closing: 

‘’Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road”

- Jack Kerouac

‘’Nous nous trouverons une voiture, nous partirons à l'aventure’’

- Daniel Bélanger

‘’Live the life you have imagined’’

- Henri David Thoreau
‘’Rever mieux’’

- Daniel Bélanger

‘’It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop’’

- Confucius

‘’ Rien ne pourra plus jamais nous arrêter’’

- Daniel Bélanger
‘’The prime time of your life, do it, now, live it, gonna do it, don’t wait, today’’ 

- Daft Punk
‘’La vie est un court voyage…jour après jour…je poursuis mon bonheur’’

- Daniel Bélanger

‘’Thought is a kind of opium; it can intoxicate us, while still broad awake; it can make transparent the mountains and everything that exists’’

‘’Opium dans le ciel…la terre pivote et autour d'elle…des âmes flânent
une âme espère et l'autre rêve…des âmes planent’’

- Daniel Bélanger

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace” 
‘’L'échec Du Matériel… Il ne nous reste pas d’options intéressantes’’

- Daniel Bélanger

‘’There is no law that declares the human species to be immortal’’

- Richard E. Leaky
‘’La fin de l'Homme ne sera pas la fin du Monde’’

- Daniel Bélanger

“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness”

- Leo Tolstoy
‘’La beauté dispose
et n'a besoin de personne’’

- Daniel Bélanger

“As if you were on fire from within. The moon lives in the lining of your skin”

- Pablo Neruda
‘’…Car mon coeur quand vient la lune
Se trouve seul devant lui-même…’’

- Daniel Bélanger

‘’…elle n'était pas trop modeste, mais elle était si émouvante…’’ avec ‘’…une vanité un peu ombrageuse…’’ et  ‘’…née en même temps que le soleil’’

- Antoine de Saint Exupéry

‘’ton soleil m'est suffisant, Mais un peu de soleil 
voici qu'on la voit se transformer 
orgueilleuse et bien jolie’’

- Daniel Bélanger

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