All roads lead to the Victoriaville Festival

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It opens big and closes big, with a range of ensembles filling out the four-day festival in typical “Victo” style – bold and eclectic.

The 31st Festival International de Musique Actuelle opens May 14, and thanks to a sparkling lineup of improvising musicians, will draw fans from across North America to this quiet town, 160 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

Opening night turns the spotlight on Montreal-based musician/composer Jean Derome, leading 20 of the city’s top improvisers in Résistances.

The festival closer is French symphonic rock group Magma, an octet led by veteran drummer/vocalist Christian Vander. His style seeks to combine the drama of Wagner, the spirituality of Coltrane, the soul of Gospel, and the energy of rock. He’s
touring with three vocalists who sing in an invented language called kobaian.

Burning Bridge, on Thursday, is a world-jazz octet of Chinese and Western instrumentation. Chinese American composer and violinist Jason Kao Hwang combines experts on the traditional erhu (two-stringed violin) and pipa (four stringed lute) with avant jazz trombonist Steve Swell and bassist Ken Filiano.

Slovenian duo Laibach on Friday is anything but laid back: with a driving industrial beat, it takes on the heavy hitters of the political world, with subversive music, visuals, and performance art.

Hans Tammen’s Third Eye Orchestra blends strings, reeds, keys, vocals, guitars, electronica and vocals playing compositions that straddle the spectrum from contemporary music to avant-jazz.

Top-ranked guitarists headline Saturday night shows: Marc Ribot, a mainstay of several John Zorn’s groups, leads a trio with percussionist Ches Smith and electric bassist Shahzad Ismaily. Ribot then teams up with Nels Cline for a seven-piece version of Singers Unlimited.

Sunday gets underway with cellist Erik Friedlander, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, and Ikue More on electronica, another group of Zorn collaborators, playing his 2011 Claws and Wings, a suite on death and rebirth.

Joshua Abrams follows with National Information Society, described as a “post-everything” septet. He’ll be playing gimbri, the three-stringed rectangular lute from Morocco, alongside master percussionist, Hamid Drake.

Sunday night, the avant jazz duo of pianist Satuko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura link up with Lille-based drummer Peter Orins and Christian Pruvost in Kaze, Japanese for Wind.

Info: 1-819-752-7912,

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