Don't let the presence of a flowery banjo, feathers, and sparkly drums in a farmers market in the small capital of New Brunswick lull you into false, calm, folk pretences about Les Hay Babies, "qui représentent Moncton, New Brunswick." On a bitter cold night near the end of the festival, the plaid flannel, dinosaur t-shirt, nose ring, and matching tattoos on stage gave more away about the attitude to expect from the forthcoming set.
Following a raucous set by Mo Kenney's trio and fleshed out to a sextet, the band quickly had the stage vibrating with their heavy playing and aggressive stomping. While garnering buzz elsewhere, it had been a long time since the Maritime-bred indie folk trio played a Fredericton stage. Having each grown up in separate small Acadian villages in New Brunswick, Les Hay Babies (who formed nearly five years ago and released their debut Mon Homesick Heart in 2014) have unsurprisingly found more success in French Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium than at home. And while the band has racked up recognition at Music New Brunswick and the East Coast Music awards, one might attribute their success elsewhere to a stronger connection amongst larger French-speaking populations.
Katrine Noël quipped early on that she hoped the crowd understood French, but their raw energy transcends translation. Reminiscent of sets by groups like Les Cainailles and Les Hôtesses d'Hilaire at similarly Anglophone-centric New Brunswick festivals, Les Hay Babies' music transfixes, while onstage decisions to alternate instruments and show off coordinated dance moves undoubtedly entertain.
The group eventually ended their set with a traditional dance of the cold and a scorching cover of Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" — celebrating member Vivianne Roy's birthday, and cementing a spot in the hearts of their home province.