Regulars to Whitewater Wednesday Jam Night might remember that during the summer, Alex Poitras played wild traditional Québec songs that got the audience (the French section anyway) singing along.
Since then, he acquired three housemates who have become bandmates.
Before coming to Whitehorse, Poitras played in a French band in Yellowknife. “They needed someone to play djembe and I hadn’t ever played one before. But before I knew it, I had four shows in five weeks.”
Poitras now plays a wild djembe while Gabriel Alexandre Gosselin sings and plays guitar, Alexandre Gendron plays lead and Guillaume Theriault joins in on guitar and vocal.
Gendron, Gosselin and Theriault met at a canoe camp in Portneuf, Québec, where Gendron and Gosselin were co-counsellors. “When we found out we both played guitar,” Gendron explains, “we formed a team right away.”
Theriault remembers, “Every week each team had to come up with a new cheer. Alex and Gabriel always had the best one. Everyone said they should make a CD.” Gendron says, “Usually, the other teams made up their cheers based on existing songs, but we decided to do a new cheer each time, with a good melody and a guitar solo.”
The three met Poitras on their second day in Whitehorse. Poitras, who had been in Whitehorse since the summer, happened to be looking for three roommates. “The fact that we all played musical instruments,” Gosselin says, “made us really connect.”
Poitras encouraged his new friends to come to the jam nights and play along. “We were shy,” Gosselin says. “We waited two or three weeks before we got the courage to play.”
Theriault usually joins in with a wild drinking song by Les Cowboys Fringants. “I’ve only been playing guitar about three years, so I’m not nearly as good as these guys. This is one of the songs I can follow along with. I’m also the only one who knows all the lyrics. It’s a great song and there’s plenty of room between the lines to shout things and swear.”
“When we arrived in the Yukon,”Gosselin says, “we found out there were more French people here than we thought and they’re so happy to hear French songs.
“Even the people who don’t speak French and can’t understand what we’re singing like the energy of the music.”
Gendron agrees that there’s really no language barrier. “People can feel that we play from out hearts.”
Gosselin enjoys the relaxed atmosphere of Whitewater Wednesday. “This is a big place for people to play music and just have fun. You can’t do this Montréal or Québec. There, you have to be a professional to have a chance to play music on stage.”
“I know of one open mike in Québec City,” Gendron points out, “but it’s full of professional musicians and music students from Laval University. No one there just plays for fun.”
The quartet say they have don’t intend to get serious and become a band, but they don’t need to. As the packed dance floor testifies, their enthusiasm for high-energy French songs is highly contagious … and still the perfect cure for a winter Wednesday night.
Five things you should know about Gabriel, Alex, Alex and Guillaume:
1. They’re a seven-legged band (although Guillaume Theriault has three in his car).
2. At times they all play with their eyes closed.
3. Guillaume Theriault says he’d often hear music, guitar or harmonica coming from a tree, but it would just be Alex Gendron playing in a tree.
4. They have a jam party with friends and food every Saturday night.
5. Alex Poitras likes a tight djembe.