When 12,000 fans assembled at Timmins Ontario’s Hollinger Park to launch the first day of an ambitious eight day Stars & Thunder music and fireworks display, they were anticipating a strong French-themed lineup, understanding this was also June 24th, Ste Jean Baptiste Day. The majority knew local gal Cindy Dore (one half of Scarlett Jane) and they were also probably aware of the classic rock credentials of headliner Michel Pagliaro. But know one was anticipating the tour de force impact of Franco-Ontario unit, LGS (Le groupe swing).
Exploding on stage in a frenzy of activity, group members, guitarist/vocalist Michel Bénac, multi-instrumentalist Jean-Phillippe Goulet, drummer Andrew Lamarche, turntable /break-dancing wiz, D.J Mars and fill-in guitarist Nathan Da Silva literally ripped the place apart, leaping and jumping around, cajoling a willing crowd into action with a musical style that’s virtually indescribable.
Call it Cajun/Acadian folk/dance/electro/punk, LGS’s music is all over the map yet the end result is totally contagious. It came as no surprise then that they were the festival’s only none-headline act before Johnny Reid on Canada Day to earn a legitimate encore; “CB Buddy.”
Never one to compromise, Bénac remembers recording that first album in 1999 with original LGS co-founder Bobby Lalonde. “Nobody wanted to touch us, they thought we were very different and they couldn’t categorize us. So we decided to take care of everything we do ourselves from recording to touring to management. Because of this, we fit in better these days. This is an era when musicians don’t have to be so predictable.”
Growing up, Bénac was always rubbing against the green. “I was never that perfect student,” he explains. “I was that kid who was smart but the sentiment was; “Holy Shit, how are we going to get him out of this school.”
It’s this rebellious nature Bénac takes on stage with him. “It’s all about feeling it, feeling the crowd. Every night we try to throw a party. We try to make our music fun.”
For a band which sings predominantly in French, you would think the Quebec market would embrace LGS but Bénac says it’s just the opposite. “Because I am the front guy and I’m from Ottawa, I am not a Quebecer so it is very difficult for is to cross over. Our records get played on Quebec radio and we occasionallly get selected to play major festivals but overall, Quebec tends to be very patriotic and you have a harder time getting accepted if you are not from Quebec.”
But with an estimated one million francophones outside Quebec, LGS have enjoyed performing all over Ontario (their strongest territory), the Maritimes and even Manitoba as well as establishing a strong European base. The duo of Bénac and Goulet, along with D.J Mars, have also enjoyed great success performing to Francophone children.
“We obviously censor ourselves but we play basically the same material we play to adults,” informed Bénac. “These kids don’t listen to French music on radio or television but we connect with them and they get a feel for what it’s like to experience a real rock concert in French.”