Marie-Annick Lépine: Live at Francos de Montréal

Marie-Annick Lépine

Team GDW were long overdue for a return to the annual Francos de Montréal festival, and with both of our regular Ontario summer festivals postponed for 2024, we had no excuses to miss out this year. Running across nine days in the heart of the city, given that we are only afforded so many vacation days, we could only catch part of this event (Friday through Tuesday) – but certainly caught music from many of the Québecois artists whose music we have embraced closing in on almost two decades or so. 

With our dates locked in, once the full festival lineup and performance dates were announced, we quickly went to work circling must-see names to catch (over the many stages) during our stay. Arriving on the Friday afternoon, the name Marie-Annick Lépine jumped out from the pack – not only because we are long-time fans of Les Cowboys Fringants, but following the tragic news last year of the untimely and unexpected death of her spouse and bandmate Karl Tremblay – let’s just say that our hearts insisted we be there. 

Marie-Annick Lépine

Finding ourselves a great spot in the second row of the Bell Stage area adjacent to Place des Arts, the crowd grew significantly as we approached the official show time, many sporting Les Cowboys Fringants gear and memorabilia. The city mourned the loss of Karl Tremblay with a huge gathering and outpouring of love during a tribute concert at The Bell Centre back in November, and for many, this summer event was likely the first opportunity to reconnect with Marie-Annick and the music once more. 

Welcomed to the stage with a rousing ovation from the crowd (the depth went back as far as the eye could see – and likely beyond that), Marie-Annick (multi-instruments/vocals) was accompanied by Daniel Lacoste (guitars), Jean-Sébastien Chouinard (bass), and Pierre Fortin (drums) – and joined also (added bonus) by Hauterive, the popular folk duo of Catherine Durand (guitars/vocals) and Mara Tremblay (multi-instruments/vocals). With a well curated selection of both solo works and Les Cowboys Fringants material, the music was as outstanding as expected, and the atmosphere from the crowd equally intoxicating and full of enjoyment and emotion.  

Hiding a carefully withheld ace up her sleeve, never in our wildest dreams could we have prepared for the emotional blow that Marie-Annick would deliver halfway through her performance – inviting out good friend and fellow ‘cowboy’ Jean-François Pauzé – turning an already memorable show into one that will go down in the annals of history as a true ‘you had to be there’ moment. 

Marie-Annick Lépine

Les Cowboys Fringants fans rejoiced as those on stage worked through plenty of popular material, delivering “Quand tu pars,” “Oktoberfest”, and “Quand je r’garde.” Yet, it would be the moments that followed that hit everybody the hardest – with performances of tunes from the band’s latest album, released posthumously this spring, that likely had never been experienced live, until now. The sense of being part of something much bigger than oneself, and so emotionally charged is almost impossible to describe – of being caught up in a collective moment of admiration for a fallen hero lost way too soon, gone, but never to be forgotten. 

As “Loulou vs Loulou” progressed, the euphoric sensation was fully charged by an uncontrollable beating from spasms in my chest, the combined trembling and numbness moving through my legs, and the fighting back of tears as the marching rhythm and chanting crowd intensified around us. We’d always wondered what it would have been like to experience Les Cowboys Fringants live in person, and know that this ship has long sailed following Tremblay’s passing, but for ONE BRIEF MOMENT on a Friday night in downtown Montréal, Marie-Annick Lépine gave us a fleeting glimpse of that world – leaving us both satisfied to have sampled something so special, yet equally saddened knowing it will likely never happen again.  

An outstanding outpouring of love over the course of an hour – Francos de Montréal was officially underway – and would provide many more opportunities for those once-in-a-lifetime experiences during our excursion. Stay tuned.  

Set List: 

  1. Les cheveux gras 
  2. Le monde est beau pis laid 
  3. Le coeur battant 
  4. Quand les outardes reviennent 
  5. Tu veux rester 
  6. Quand tu pars 
  7. Oktoberfest 
  8. Quand je r’garde 
  9. Loulou vs Loulou 
  10. Merci ben! 
  11. Les cheveux blancs 
  12. Les étoiles filantes 
  13. Ma jolie blonde 

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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