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Everything’s Great in Guelph — Unless You Ask Sainkho Namtchylak

John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Fred Frith and Dave Lombardo were waiting in the wings, ready to cap off the 2001 Victoriaville festival, with the 25th show of outside instincts in five densely packed musical days. Before they came onstage, intrepid founding artistic director Michel Levasseur suddenly interrupted his introductory comments to apply a red clown nose-double takes all around. It was a startling moment, coming from the normally soft-spoken director, but not an undeserved impulse of giddiness. This was, after all, the most successful festival in its 18-year history, and also an artistic triumph over an alleged aesthetic midlife crisis.

There is no other festival on the continent quite like FIMAV (Festival International Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, aka Victo), which has always celebrated improvisational and otherwise experimental artists from jazz, rock and classical camps, as well as outsiders with no card-carrying idiomatic affiliation. In recent years, some festival watchers have assailed a presumed stodginess, clamoring for a change in focus-more representation of the surge in experimental electronic musicians, for instance, less of the old guard of the avant-garde. Somehow, Levasseur pulled off a hat trick with this year’s program, satisfying varied customers and even establishing new resonances among unlikely sources.

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