Erik Mongrain

posted 12 Jan 2010, 09:29 by Harry Cooke

Fibbers, York

11th November 2009

by Jonathan Wilcox

Montreal-based guitarist
 Erik Mongrain returned to Fibbers recently having cancelled his last scheduled gig and following an appearance on the Jools Holland show on the telly. For those who don’t know he’s one of those “virtuoso guitarists” in the vein of Michael Hedges and Leeds’ very own Jon Gomm.


For this gig several tables have been put out in front of the stage for some reason, which resulted in a bit of a scrum to see Erik sat on the low stage. Not to worry, a bit of neck-craning from the side of the stage meant I didn’t miss too much.

Erik’s a softly spoken chap and much of his on stage banter was lost on the crowd due to the din coming from the back of the venue. It seems a bunch of people had decided to use Fibbers as a regular pub and talked loudly and drunkenly between themselves, paying no attention to what was happening on stage. Hugely annoying when you consider the delicacies of Erik’s playing. Not sure if they had been there to see the support act who I’d unfortunately missed (Erik was on stage by 9pm) but even so, a bit of common courtesy for the man himself and those who had paid to hear him not them wouldn’t have gone amiss.


Anyway, onto the music! Erik’s mainly famous for his lap-tapping playing style, several examples of which have huge hits on Youtube but there’s very much more to him that this. Drawing mostly from his new album “Equilibrium”, he kicked things off with “A Ripple Effect” which displayed his unique talent combining finger picking, harmonics, tapping and percussion to dazzling effect. Sometimes you swear you can hear two or even three guitars being played at once with the way he move around his fret board. You could see a lot of open-mouthed people when he was being especially clever – one girl was very much “lost in the moment”!

He’s occasionally joined onstage by a fretless bass player who brings a different dimension to some of the compositions, particularly “Alone In The Mist”.


Erik’s ramblings managed to raise several laughs – especially his crack about his disastrous internet relationships – but I got the feeling he was a bit disappointed by the vibe in the venue. The constant chatter from outside the huddle of people watching him was very distracting. Despite this Erik was very entertaining and requested that if we wanted to have an encore we’d actually have to clap for it – not one of this false encore business. We duly did and he ambled back on stage to perform his “hit” "Airtap!" from his first album “Fates”, which he’d done on Jools Holland a few nights earlier. It was as awesome as last time I saw him do it and really displayed what this guy can do with a guitar. A friend who was with me commented that he probably should have done a bit more of this as those who are not totally familiar with his work may have found that the gig dragged a bit, with the constant re-tuning and quiet tunes. A good point, but again I suspect the atmosphere of the gig may have sapped a lot of his enthusiasm. I hope I’m wrong but if Mr Mongrain comes back to York I hope he gets the crowd he deserves or plays a more intimate venue.