Les Rats d’Swompe with special guest Claude Plamondon

MORRISBURG – “Incredibly entertaining!” “Full of fun!” “High energy performers who make you want to sing and dance.”

Praise for Les Rats d’Swompe, five very talented singer/musicians from Northern and Eastern Ontario, proud French Canadians, follows them everywhere. Clad in their signature plaid lumberjack outfits, they explode on to the stage and audiences love them. Les Rats won the Country Music Association of Ontario 2020 Francophone Artist/Group of the Year. It was no surprise that they were nominated again in 2021. And on Saturday, March 2, at 7 p.m., they will be bringing their wonderful show to Upper Canada Playhouse as part of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage season of great music.

Band members include Yvan Leduc (vocals, acoustic guitar), Patrick Pharand (violin), Martin Rocheleau (bass), Brandon Girouard (electric guitar), and Simon Joly (drums). Highly accomplished musicians, and vocalists, Les Rats d’Swompe bring the music of the traditional violin, call and response songs, and the energy and joys of yesteryear to their songs. However, as Brandon Girouard also explained, in a February 20 interview with The Leader, “We like to say our music is a combination of traditional and rock n’ roll. Our energetic and distinctive style, I think, grows out of rock, but also out of our Francophone cultural backgrounds. Metal, blues, country, western, folk – they all influence us. And audiences of all ages really seem to love our sound.”

Why they’ve even coined a great new term – “Rat ‘n Roll!” “We want people to get up and dance at our concerts,” Brandon said. “We try to be very dynamic and lively on the stage. Frankly,” he added, laughing, “we claim that every show is like a good workout.”

Making a strong musical connection with their audiences is very much a characteristic of these artists. “We love to be close to an audience,” Brandon explained. “We feel that together we create something powerful and meaningful as we perform: there is just no other feeling like making that deep connection with the people listening to us. We love this about music and live audiences.”

I asked him about some of the themes and ideas that characterize their music. “We like to write about life, and about life experiences,” Brandon said. “Yvan writes many of our songs. He was raised with a strong connection to the outdoors, and to the traditional songs and styles of Francophone music. Our first big hit was called “To Live in the City,” a song that made it clear that we are really meant to live in the open, to connect with nature. While Yvan often creates melodies with his lyrics, all the members of our group are very hands on, together creating that final product. It seems to work,” he laughed “because a lot of our fans wear what they call their ‘Swamp Shirts’ to our shows, tying in to our ‘Lumberjack’ look, and moving to the music.”

The group’s appeal extends outside their home country. They did five live shows a day for five weeks at Epcot Centre in Florida, where the big crowds loved them. Les Rats are in fact returning to Epcot this summer to “bring that taste of Canada to our US neighbours.” For their Morrisburg concert, Les Rats d’Swompe are bringing their violins, their joy, and their adrenalin-rush musical talents: they look forward to a lively, fun-filled concert where the crowd will almost certainly “Rat ‘n Roll!” “We’re going to have a lot of fun at our Morrisburg show,” Brandon said. “We actually love playing in smaller venues because you can really feel that powerful connection with the audience as we perform. Morrisburg is going to be great.”

And to open for Les Rats d’Swompe is going to be one of South Dundas’ own musical greats, singer/composer Claude Plamondon, who will be accompanied at the March 2 show by Claude Clement and Claude Champagne. “There will be harmonies and more instrumentation in our set,” Claude Plamondon explained. “I love playing with others. I love that groove that musicians hit.”

An artist who has performed at many local events, and at the SLAS, Claude grew up “playing old country songs with my father” then took to Rock n’ Roll with the Village Guilt. Then he teamed up with Bob Flynn and got “a good dose of Southern music which was very influential for me.” Toss in two years playing with a bluegrass band in Japan, and a bit of finger picking “…and Voila! That’s where my music comes from.”

He, too, loves that powerful connection between a musician and his audience. “The silence when you know people are listening to the words, the vocals, the harmonies, that moment when someone comes up after a concert and says how a song meant something to them. I also love when audiences participate in a song. We’ll be performing some songs from other gigs, some new pieces. It’s all music. And I hope the audience enjoys our songs.”
March 2, at Upper Canada Playhouse, don’t miss music at its finest, with Les Rats d’Swompe, Claude Plamondon opening.

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