Beautiful weather combined with Montreal’s many festivals means June is a month packed with free events, especially when it comes to live jazz, folk, classical and rock music, along with theatrical performances and outdoor activities in all corners of the city…
(blue-sky jazz) One of the most anticipated festivals of the year, the Montreal International Jazz Festival begins at the end of the month with all manner of indoor shows from Pink Martini, Holly Cole, Xavier Rudd, Belle & Sebastian and many, many more, alongside hundreds of free shows on several outdoor stages, starting with an opening concert by Feist on June 28. Free afternoon, evening and late-night shows – everything from traditional jazz to hip hop – continue until July 7.
(music on the water) Pack a picnic and bring a blanket to Montreal’s 6th annual Folk Fest on the Canal, where free outdoor shows, on a stage next to the tree-lined canal waterway, fill the afternoons and evenings of June 15-16. On Saturday, the music starts at 1pm with Maxime Lefebvre, Lakes of Canada, Black Twig Pickers, Claytones, Will Driving West, Old Man Luedecke, and, leaving the night on a high note, The Sadies. On Sunday, hear the Americana of Dylan Perron et Élixir de Gumbo followed by The Franklin Electric, The Once, Ladies of the Canyon, and Quebec’s Catherine Durand.
(theatrical enthusiasm) Affordable, small-scale theatre and dance shows are at the heart of the Montreal St-Ambroise Fringe Fest, but there’s plenty of absolutely free entertainment to go along with that. Most of the free events take place at Fringe Park, which doubles as the unofficial Fringe Fest headquarters (and official beer tent), at the corner of St-Laurent and Rachel. Every Thursday to Sunday during the festival, catch live music, community-focused workshops, comedy shows like Confabulation (an unrehearsed storytelling competition), the Drag Races (drag queens in lively competition!), and June 23 is a day of entertainment and activities just for kids. Electronic music mainstay Piknic Electronik sets up on June 15 during the day and Cult#MTL takes over at night with live music from Bad Weather, Émily Rajotte and Laurel Jackson, following that up again on June 20 with The Damn Truth and other locals, while music fest Pop Montreal brings in Sea Oleena, Carpet, and Maica Mia on June 22, and more music on June 23.
(open-air classical & french) A morning walk along the promenade in the Old Port might lead you to a free outdoor concert by the Orchestre Métropolitain – the orchestra begins its summer season with Musical Brunches, free chamber music concerts at Place Jacques-Cartier in Old Montreal, 11 a.m. on June 15–16, 22–24, 29–30. A walk along car-free Ste-Catherine in the Quartier des Spectacles any time from June 13 to 22 yields a bounty of music care of Les FrancoFolies, where French-language music – rock, country, hip hop, folk and more – from Quebec, Canada and around the world plays on several outdoor stages, including a free evening show on June 13 by popular Quebecoise singer-songwriter Ariane Moffatt.
(art and the city) Montreal’s urban ways get a bit of a makeover as public art project Mural Fest makes its mark on the city June 13-16 in various locations. The festival welcomes 35 local and international artists to create 20 murals in any and all colours along St-Laurent Boulevard, which will be closed to car traffic. While artists complete their murals on walls around the city, several other events will go on: make art with collective En Masse, known for their black-and-white live painting installations; turn cast-away furniture and other objects into art; paint with your feet; build a kite; go on an art-centric bike tour. Visit the McCord Museum’s Urban Forest, a tree-filled natural retreat in the heart of downtown, and also one of nine locations for Montreal’s new food truck project. The Phi Centre shows intriguing recent works by painter Joe Becker, as part of The 8 Day Week of Renata Morales project. And on June 21, DHC/Art opens the first major Canadian exhibition of Brooklyn based artist Cory Arcangel, whose art directly engages with and is inspired by open-source computer culture and social internet technologies.
(birthday time) Details have yet to be unveiled, but every year Quebec throws a party on June 24 to celebrate Fête Nationale du Québec. This year marks the province’s 179th birthday, and as usual, everyone will be celebrating with BBQs, neighbourhood parties, events at bars and clubs, and Le Grand Spectacle, a great big party with top Quebec bands, comedians, circus acts and more starting in the evening out at Parc Maisonneuve next to Olympic Stadium, which hosts free, family-friendly events all day outdoors on the Esplanade on June 23, and the Montreal Botanical Garden, where the Mosaïcultures Internationales Montréal horticultural sculpture competition opens on June 22.
(outdoor sights) Beginning closer to the end of the month, see some of the best fireworks displays the world has to offer at International des Feux Loto-Québec, taking place at La Ronde amusement park at Parc Jean-Drapeau, but visible over central Montreal – the competition begins on June 22 with a 30-minute spectacle from Australia, followed by England’s showing on June 28, and more throughout July. Also over at Parc Jean-Drapeau, watch the colourful, fast-paced action of the 11th annual Summer Splash Dragon Boat race at the Olympic Basin on June 29. And Théâtre de Verdure in Parc Lafontaine, close to downtown in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood, hosts the opening day of its summer events series, with a cultural picnic starting at 7 p.m. on June 26 with the premier of kid-focused Hansel & Gretel, produced by Théâtre La Roulotte. And when in doubt, throw your own picnic in any one of Montreal’s many parks, from Parc Lafontaine to Parc Jeanne-Mance and Parc Mont Royal.