I have it on good authority that Genghis Khan would have been a huge Slayer fan. Galloping double-bass drums and furious riff-based thrash seems like a natural fit for the Golden Horde charging through the steppes of Central Asia. Just add booming Mongolian throat singing and horsehead fiddles that sound like a blade being drawn, and you have the perfect recipe for an incredible live performance.

The crowd at Foufounes Electriques got a taste of that Friday evening, when the Nomadic Folk Metal Horde known as Tengger Cavalry charged into town at the end of their North American tour with Incite.

Tengger Cavalry with FTB before the show
Tengger Cavalry with FTB before the show

These guys aren’t just fronting about the whole horse thing, either. In addition to using folk instruments like the Igil, Shanz, Morin Khuur and Throat Singing, Tengger can ride too.

“Yeah, I’m okay on horseback,” muses Nature Ganganbaigal (Guitar, Vocals) at the beginning of our pre-show chat. “One time, I went to the Mongolian grassland and I had to stay on a horse’s back for one hour because he ran off from his owner. I got the bridle on, and I can gallop no problem…I’m more comfortable playing guitar, but I can make a horse go, too.”

Alex Abayev

While experimental genre-defying music is always exciting, it’s unfortunate that a lot of this blending of traditional music with contemporary styles can be seen as a gimmick, or attempting to cash in on the novelty of “look at us, we combine The Monolythic ‘Old’ with The Monolythic ‘New!’”

The obvious workaround is authenticity and commitment to what the artist is creating as a performance that creates something new, unique, and hybridized instead of just two distinct styles – see Canada’s A Tribe Called Red, and Chile’s Matanza for examples of groups who do this well. Tengger Cavalry does this spectacularly in the studio, but live it’s even more impressive.

Nature Ganganbaigal

Tengger Cavalry presents a fascinating live show because these musicians focus their stage presence into capturing the sonic rush of stampeding cavalry as opposed to attempting to shoehorn sacred Mongolian traditions into popular contemporary music.

“When you travel a lot, and play from place to place, you’re already living a Nomadic lifestyle,” says Alex Abayev (Bass). “And since we’re all together, it’s like a Unity we can all feel,” chimes in Josh Schifris (Drums). Alex continues that with their music, “we can make people feel connected to the Steppes, even if they’ve never been there.”

To paraphrase from the acclaimed Coeur d’Alene author Sherman Alexie, writers from Indigenous cultures are often better off treading lightly on hallowed ground. Writing about sacred traditions and exhibiting them for public consumption outside that cultural group is an invitation for people searching to give themselves cultural capital via conspicuous consumption of “the other” (“look at how cool and open-minded I am, I saw a ~~Mongolian Metal band~~ last night”).

“When I was in high school, I listened to a lot of metal, which meant I listened to a lot of Scandinavian bands bringing traditional music into their sound,” explains Nature when I asked about the genesis of the band. “I thought, ‘well, why can’t I do this with my own culture? Why not create something brand-fucking-new?’”

Josh Schifris

The band tells me that “talks are happening” about a future tour in Turkey and Central Asia. “We get a lot of messages from Istanbul, with fans telling us that we are their nomadic brothers.” This current tour has been a blast for the band, and despite weeks on the road, they show no signs of fatigue; if anything, they’re coping with post-tour depression now that the constant gigging has finished.

Canada has treated them well, with some of their favorite shows taking place in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Josh has asked me to include a note to Neil Peart shouting out Rush (and the Great White North in general) as major inspirations to this band.

“The most important thing is about what’s in your music,” says Nature. “We see ourselves as combining cultures, not combining genres. We’re all from different backgrounds, but we’re all in this band.”

Nature Ganganbaigal

The band would like to express their sincere appreciation to the tour’s sponsors, Kay’s clothing (UK) Killer B Guitars, Rock N Roller, Reunion Blues, Sinister Guitar Picks, and Strukture.


Photos by Cem Ertekin


As we drove away from our loyal campsite and back onto the cross-state highway, my last glimpse of the Gorge reminded me of Sasquatch’s isolation. Surrounded by the Columbia River, amongst wine fields and thousands of untapped acres, exists an annual festival bringing together music fans of all walks of life.

From the endless Canadians taking the weekend off to head south, to the Midwesterners travelling multiple states only to reach the nearest major summer festival, to the local Washingtonians road tripping to the other side of the mountains in their Subaru Outbacks, the long journey creates an atmosphere of collective celebration.

Since 2011 represents my first (and hopefully not last) year as a member of the press for Sasquatch, my experience naturally differed from years in the past. Re-entry, free snacks and Red Bull, no lines, and the opportunity to mull around in the photo pit for the first three songs of most acts, all culminated in a strong feeling of gratitude for such an amazing privilege.

Most of the journalists and photographers seemed to have business on their minds, thinking only about how to capture every little incident just right, so that maybe they could have something to attach to their portfolio to help snag the next gig on the ladder to Rolling Stone. But Matt (friend, photographer) and I saw things differently; we approached Sasquatch the way it deserved: as fans.

Not much could have been altered to make me more content with my Sasquatch adventure ” and that’s the sign of a festival that is doing something right. The lineup is not composed of aging rock stars and Teen Choice Awards winners. Instead, Sasquatch boasts local artists, cult legends from the 90’s, and groups worth a listen because of their music, not their publicists.

When I break down my favourite acts of the weekend, they all fit within the latter category, probably the highlight of the entire festival, put on a performance I won’t forget next time they swing through town. Washed Out, Gold Panda, and Flying Lotus all put on inspiring shows in the dance tent, formally known as the Banana Shack. And Aloe Blacc, along with Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, whipped out high energy, attention-commanding old-school soul revues. If any of those names are new to you, I highly recommend you give them a listen” or better yet, attend one of their shows.

Oddest of all, the three groups that I felt left the most to be desired had the fest’s most fervent fans. Hundreds of cars made the trek to the Gorge only to witness Sasquatch’s closing-night headliner, Wilco, and when Jeff Tweedy took the stage, all the fans looked like the kids from Jesus Camp. Same with Trailer Park Boys ” the crowd was yelling in adoration so loudly that all the members’ banter was nearly inaudible. And Guided by Voices came off poorly from up on the nearly empty hill overlooking the main stage, but apparently were amazing when wedged between the diehards in the pit.

But those three just go to show the inherent subjectivity of music. And really, three unexceptional performances out of the roughly one hundred or so that I could choose between are not bad odds.

Sasquatch offers such a diverse selection of talent in the unrivaled king of festival venues, that I cannot imagine any attendees walking away unsatisfied. I caught more than a handful of memorable shows, spent solid time with good company, and got a tank-top sunburn in the process; all of which are must-haves at any festival worth its salt” and I fully expect all the same next year.

See more photos by Matt Shanafelt from Sasquatch! 2011 via facebook.

I’ve been granted a press pass to the Sasquatch Music Festival taking place this weekend in Washington State, and I couldn’t be more exhilarated. Why? Because Sasquatch has recently emerged as one of the premier festivals in the United States, and with its impressive 2011 lineup, maybe worldwide.

What makes Sasquatch unique amongst what seems to be an endless list of oddly—named music festivals is, undeniably, its location. Situated in the middle of Washington State, with no meaningful civilization for miles, Sasquatch takes place atop the Columbia River Gorge.

In case you’ve never heard of the Gorge, please take a moment to acknowledge the amazing idea of having a music festival on the edge of a breathtakingly gorgeous, four-thousand-foot deep canyon. The main stage literally looks over the edge, and audience members spend just as much time watching the beauty around them as they do the bands.

Maybe it’s because everyone is fresh off of a road trip (Quincy, WA is at least two and half hours away from any major city), but in general, Sasquatch-ians seem more elated and just stoked to be in attendance, compared to the attendees of most other high-profile festivals.

As a veteran of Coachella and Bumbershoot, I can safely say that the overall vibes and atmosphere at those festivals doesn’t even begin to compare to Sasquatch.

And that’s all without even mentioning the musical entertainment, which is top notch. In fact, this is Sasquatch’s ten-year anniversary, so they’re celebrating in regal fashion. For the first time, Sasquatch has expanded to four days (May 27-30), and the likes of Wilco, the Flaming Lips, Ratatat, and many more will be taking to their stages.

Due to previous plans in New York, I’ll be missing Friday and experiencing just the final three days. But that’s no big loss, because those days are loaded, and I’ll still see a great selection of the roughly 100 artists spread out from Saturday to Monday.

In fact, there may be too many artists, because my mind is swirling with conflict mania. I have a few days to work out my schedule, so I’ll give you a better idea of what I’ll be checking out in my next preview, but there are several acts from Quebec (e.g. Sam Roberts) and Washington (e.g. the Moondoggies) that I’ll be sure not to miss.

In my next preview: I’ll give you my complete schedule, provide transcripts from a few interviews, highlight key artists, and provide a bit more insight into the journey I plan on taking.

Ratatat – Wildcat by rabbitron

Festival photo from festivalcircuit.wordpress.com
logo photo from http://three-colours.blogspot.com/

What happens when you open your heart to yourself and take time to listen to your spirit? Can you actually do that without losing yourself? Is it possible to let the dead lay at rest? Sure is and seeing Jenn Grant perform last Thursday, February 24 at Le Divan Orange reminds you that, it’s okay…it’s okay to be happy, cheerful and enjoy everything around you. And like popish music (okay, I’ve admitted I like..love popish music. I blame Simon Cowell and the Spice Girls).

Jenn Grant is the type of performer who’s sweet charm and corresponding melodies make you feel like you’re in a live music dream. A really pretty dream that you feel from the tips of your baby yellow, painted toe nails to your black stained mascara eye lashes. Her music is just so, so pretty. And her live set makes you want to go cloud jumping.

A packed venue is always a good sign that this performer is wanted and this performer will deliver. I’ve watched numerous videos of Jenn Grant live, heard concerts via radio2.ca and have been longing to see her for a couple of years. As she sways back and forth, singing her enchanting and memorable tunes, you realize that no other medium of her music can come close to her live set. She sounds exactly the same live as she does recorded (very rare). She’s clever, cute and endearing. If you were there you could probably agree that you heard her sweet folky, pop melodies pour from her little mouth, filling Le Divan Orange with a sense of Valentine’s Day love.

Playing a mixture of her old favourites and new songs like Dreamer and Baby’s Been Away, the whole set was musically balanced and gave you a little dose of everything you wanted from her. Everyone seemed to have their eyes locked to the stage. Jenn’s someone you can’t really take your eyes off of, she’s the perfect example of the girl next door – and you love it.

Of course, you’d have to see her sweetness and hear her dove-like songs for yourself. Good thing she’s on a nationwide tour promoting her new album, Honeymoon Punch. If you enjoy pretty music sung by a pretty girl than book her in – it’s a well worth dose of melancholic love and hope, along with dreams of future fun.

TAKE NOTE: David Martel

If you like folk, pop mixed with heavy instrumentals check out David Martel. He was on stage before Jenn Grant, and he blew me away with his live act. He engulfed my ears with a familiar east coast sound that I miss. He’s amazing live. His voice takes to the walls of the room, pulling everything in, leaving you feeling as though you’re the only one in the room who’s seeing all this happen. If you’re claustrophobic, then he breaks down the walls, opens the room and fills it with endless possibilities of exits doors that you hope he’s behind. I prefer him live versus his recordings (live just has more life).

Cool beans.

Lots coming up in the next two weeks. We’ve got We Are The City and Rah Rah, plus Canadian Music Week in TO. Oh man, it’s all gonna be awesome.

Indie Montreal hosted Jenn Grant live @ Le Divan Orange. The entire line-up worked well, complementing each other’s sound. Make sure get in on that Jenn Grant action and check out David Martel.

Photos: Chris Zacchia

For more photos of Jenn Grant’s live set check us out on facebook.