‘The Best Band in the World’ Plays Asheville

The nine-piece band La Bottine Souriante plays the Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place on Sunday, February 11 at 8pm. This astounding ensemble from Quebec plays unbelievable, wild and raucous weavings of Cajun, Acadian, Celtic, pop, folk, jazz, big band brass, swing and traditional styles on acoustic and electric bass, piano, accordion, mandolin, fiddles, guitar, harmonica, saxophone, percussion, flute, clarinet, trombone, and trumpet.

Two years ago, when the Irish-Canadian ensemble Leahy was departing North Carolina after their fifteen standing-room-only performances across the Tar Heel state, they were asked that, if they had to recommend one and only one group to bring to North Carolina for a similar tour experience in the future, whom might that be.

Without a moment’s hesitation, nine folks with the last name of “Leahy” exclaimed in unison –“La Bottine Souriante!”

Not long afterward, the not-for-profit network of NC performing arts presenters, NC Presenters Consortium, Inc., issued an invitation to LaBottine Souriante. The answer was affirmative –and the time has come for NC audiences to reap the reward.

Beginning February 8, and continuing through February 17, the Quebec band praised as “the best band in the world” by Dirty Linen Magazine, will appear in a total of eight concert performances from the mountains to the coast to include their February 11 stop in Asheville.

The music of La Bottine Souriante frequently takes traditional Acadian-French repertoire steeped in the culture of Quebec, interpreted ina contemporary fashion and played by a dynamic nine-member group with such an energy that audiences are left breathless and spellbound. Although their recordings are often found in the “folk” section of music stores, calling La Bottine Souriante strictly a “folk” group stretches the definition of the entire genre.

“La bottine souriante” translates into “the smiling boot,” a reference to the worn-out soles of a working man’s footwear. From the audience response this colorful ensemble repeatedly generates in appearances aroundthe globe, the name might also translate as “oneof the most talked-about musical groups on the world music scene today.”

The February tour across North Carolina by La Bottine Souriante will precede a return visit by their fellow Canadians, the Ontario familyphenomenon “Leahy” who perform the Diana Wortham Theatre on April 4 and 5.

La Bottine Souriante first appeared on the Quebec music scene in 1976. Today, the LBS members are living legends of French North American roots music. They have sold more than a half-million albums, won dozens of awards and headlined festivals around the globe. The group and their explosive sound have crossed borders the world over and left exhausted,enchanted audiences in their wake. Critics revel in descriptions of the turbulent energy that La Bottine Souriante continually seems to sweep its rapturous public.

As ambassadors of Quebecois culture, they are helping preserve and expand Quebec’s musical heritage, yet at at the same time, taking it in almost countless new directions. You hear Celtic influences flavored with NewOrleans swing, overlaid with pop, jazz and traditional styles that make categorization utterly impossible. Instrumentation includes acoustic and electric bass, piano, accordion, mandolin, fiddles, guitar, harmonica, saxophone, flute, clarinet, trombone, trumpet – and feet. If you are percussionistMichel Bordeleau with La Bottine Souriante, you are not playing drums, but playing your feet instead, leaving your hands free for your mandolin, fiddle or guitar.

La Bottine Souriante is a household name in Quebec. Now, with their recordings released internationally, the group is poised to move from being the best-kept secret of world music aficionados to being one of the most popular artists in world music. During the past year alone, they have appeared at Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD festival in London, the Jazz and HeritageFestival in New Orleans, the Summer Stage Festival in Central Park in NYC and the Chartier Festival in France. They have been special guests on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” and taped a PBS special withBeauSoleil. Their annual New Year’s Eve performances in Montreal are the most sought-after tickets in the city.

The statewide tour itinerary for La Bottine Souriante is as follows:

  • Feb. 9: Carolina Theatre, Greensboro
  • Feb. 10: Stevens Center, Winston-Salem
  • Feb. 11: Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville
  • Feb. 13: Reynolds Theatre, Duke University, Durham
  • Feb. 14: Irish Cultural Society, New Bern
  • Feb. 15: Thalian Hall, Wilmington
  • Feb. 16: CoMMA, Morganton
  • Feb. 17: Walker Center, Wilkesboro

Tickets for the February 11 La Bottine Souriante performance are currently on sale at the Diana Wortham Theatre box office. Tickets are:

  • Adults, $22
  • Seniors & Students, $20
  • Children 12 and under, $10

The Diana Wortham Theatre Mainstage Series is supported by a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, a state agency, and from the Asheville Area Arts Council with funds raised through the annual Asheville Area ArtsCouncil Fund Drive. The Mainstage Series media sponsors are the Asheville-Citizen-Times, WCQS Public Radio, and WLOS-TV. The RenaissanceAsheville Hotel is the Official Hotel of the Diana Wortham Theatre.

To obtain more information on the La Bottine Souriante concert and other Mainstage Series performances, call the theatre’s box office at828-257-4530 or visit the theatre’s web site at www.dwtheatre.com.