by Emmanuelle Walter
Un Blonde: pronounced the English way, don’t try to understand, Jean-Sébastien Audet himself is not even too sure of its meaning, the name of his band: “Maybe it’s because my guitarist and drummer are blond?” Un Blonde, then, in the rich and hallowed ambiance of the red-roofed Anglican church on Kennedy, sets the tone for a hypnotic concert. Moments that are one-of-a-kind, where you can forget everything and lose yourself in a hushed and total communion.
Un Blonde, that night: a magnificent young singer-songwriter-pianist, draped in his long orange wool coat, in spite of the sulfurous evening, a gospel choir, a trio of violinists and a cellist, a pedal steel guitar player, and his two loyal blonds, one on drums, the other on guitar, all working the folk-jazz-soul vibe of this young Québecois-Albertan prodigy.
Un Blonde/Jean-Sébastien Audet, born in Gatineau, raised in Calgary, today lives in Parc-Extension, a neighbourhood whose “deep culture” and warm sense of community he extols, even if the police sirens sometimes drive him batty. Montréal? “A vibrant city with social openness, where it’s easy to do whatever, cheaper, with support for the artists”. His world is spiritual – “I grew up going to a Catholic church” – and gospel permeates everything. “The lyrics of my songs are not religious, but the art, energy and spirituality make a whole for me,” says Audet. His vision, more specifically, “Elevate oneself out of the environment but to care about this environment.” When asked about politics, he responds, “Being a person of colour in music and art is a political move, whether I like it or not.”
Un Blonde has that jazz-like ecosystem onstage, where the musicians have a (seeming?) liberty to improvise, songs of varying lengths are played, where the pushback against formalism is ever-present, and this being, on his feet, bent over the piano, that stops every now and then to tie back his hair, moves to the middle of the stage to give a few cues during a number, drinks from his bottle of San Pellegrino. Effortless. Or so it seems. But this incredible trance that he creates and that we can only understand by feeling? He masters it. Completely.
I fell back asleep
dreamt through the eyes of another
how I’d hate to feel and see things from the ground; in the box
like the sun rises and leaves;
I’m Free, from the album Good Will Come to You, Egg Paper Factory