This post originally appeared on Vanier Now.
The jukeboxes may have been removed from Fontenelle years ago, but this Saturday (February 16), 1960s French pop is back. From the well-known to the obscure, Vanier-born DJ Mimi la Twisteuse is bringing her vinyl collection of French yé yé to Après-Snow at Fontenelle, an evening component of Vanier’s Winter Carnival. Having hosted the always packed monthly Franco-dance party Zoï Zoï in the mid 2000s at The Boat in Toronto, and now the co-host of Montreal’s weekly radio show MondoPQ, dedicated to French pop, rock and soul of the 1960s and 70s, Mimi is excited to DJ in her hometown – and for the first time ever in the Ottawa / Outaouais region.
Born in Vanier, and having grown up in Papineauville, Mimi grew up with music – crediting her father for having the latest sound system and gadgets, at home and in the car (attention dads out there!). Then, through the owner of Le Pick Up, the record store where she worked, Mimi discovered the likes of Jacques Dutronc and the vast repertoire of 60s French pop. By 1994, she made her radio debut with the CISM program “Dans le garage,” and by 1999 made Volume 10 in the series of cult compilations, “Girls in the Garage.”
We asked Mimi to think back to one of her best nights as a DJ. She recalls living in Toronto in 2005, hosting Zoï Zoï at a club in Kensington Market with DJ Soju. The Francodelic nightswere such a huge success that the Toronto Star deemed the parties in the “Top 20 Toronto cultural events.” Amazed at the interest others showed towards Quebec artists like Renée Claude, Michel Pagliaro or Les Sultans, Mimi reflects, “We had television crews come in, line ups at the door, a write up in the Toronto Star, celebrities attending, radio and TV interviews… Those are great memories for me.”
Her favourite records today? Mimi notes a soft spot for a couple, including the Baroque inspired pop songs of a 19-year old French girl, Clothilde, on a 1967 EP. In particular, she points to Fallait pas écraser la queue du chat – and to the near pop perfection produced by Germinal Tenas. She also points to a Brit rock influenced 1968 single, Helga Selzer by little known French artist Bernard Chabert. So taken by his work, she blogged about his music, only to receive a response from him – now working as a well-known reporter in France.
For what is “quite possibly one of my favourite songs ever,” Mimi suggests Patrick Coutin’s 1982 J’aime regarder les filles – pointing to the “outstanding guitar build-up and growing intensity that make this song a classic.” Best of all? “Someone finally posted it on YouTube!”
“I see myself as someone who’s here to say ‘listen to this!’ and to pay tribute to these artists.” And this weekend, the music is on at Fontenelle. With the diner – one of Vanier’s oldest, open in 1949 – open for breakfast and lunch, the doors will be open from 7-10 pm exclusively to host the evening cocktail party, with drinks and small bites on hand from local restaurants including SushiME, Todric’s, Mitla and Hearty Bakery. And, of course, Mimi promises a “lounge, laid-back set, with a good dose of French, American, British and international pop… I go with the flow, depending on the crowd’s reception. If people suddenly feel like dancing, I’ll be ready for them!”
Until about 10, that is. After all, it won’t be long before the early morning crowd arrives for Fontenelle breakfast, served from 4am, 7 days / week.
PS: Special thanks to Montreal artist, Mathieu Trudel, who first introduced readers to Mimi la Twisteuse through a comment on this post in December. Trudel himself produced a fun little promotional video for MondoPQ, Mimi’s current radio show co-hosted with Sébastien Desrosiers.