This year’s Jazz Fest is now over, but in its place comes not only more music but barrels of laughs alongside every funky beat and magical melody. Much of it for free too! Wild parades – Just For Laughs puts on more than one and Montreal’s Caribbean community struts its stuff – high-flying circus shows, live music from around the world, and, of course, outdoor dance parties are basically par for the course here in July…
(free to be funny) The Just for Laughs outdoor events start with the colourful bang of Pinkarnaval, a 1600-person parade on Saturday, July 16, followed by the “Striped Ball” on Sunday at Place des Festivals, where everyone is encouraged to wear stripes as an homage to designer Jean Paul Gaultier! The next week, July 21–24, street art and theatre has its day at Place des Festivals too, with music, dancing (Victor’s Follies Cabaret & Le Grand Bisou has something interactive in store), World-Record breaking ukulele playing, and a little something from the world’s best knife thrower, The Great Throwdini (I’m seriously not making this stuff up, people). And the final JFL weekend, July 28–31, sees stars of Quebec comedy on the outdoor stage, plus Saturday’s Parade of Twins – yes, real life (and some not-so-real-life) twins, triplets and quadruplets, dressed up, in a parade. Only at Just For Laughs, and only in Montreal…
(crazy town) The lovable black sheep of Just For Laughs, Zoofest takes us on the off-beat path with the Local Montréal program – free tours (in English and French) of many of Montreal’s strange and artistic nooks and crannies. Also, not quite free, but if you do the math and go to, say, 10 or more Zoofest shows, then their $39 festival pass works out to you getting to see all those shows for pretty much free. (This kind of math is why I don’t do my own taxes anymore, just fyi). And, since many a Zoofest performer has gone on to notoriety, you’ll have the added bonus of getting to say you saw ‘em first.
(park life) Every summer, Parc La Fontaine becomes a relaxing and jovial respite in the middle of one of Montreal’s more happening residential neighbourhoods (and, hey, it’s near La Banquise – poutine in the park never hurts). Théâtre de Verdure adds to the simple joys of sitting in the park with a full roster of entertainment. On July 10 at 4 p.m., they bring in the Orchestre Métropolitain, directed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and on July 18 at 7:30 p.m., Alain Trudel directs some of the best young musicians in Canada through some of the classics of classical music. There’s also the contemporary dance stylings of Louise Bédard Danse, July 9–13, films under the stars all month long, plus music and more.
(flying trapeze) If spectacle is what you’re after, look no further than Festival Complètement Cirque– alongside the circus festival’s many indoor shows, free outdoor programming pervades for almost all of July. Down at the Quays of the Old Port see the acrobatic feats of Cirque Carpe Diem every afternoon and evening (4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.) – and try out the trapeze yourself! The Minutes shows in the Latin Quarter (St-Denis between Ontario and Ste-Catherine) happen throughout the fest too, with acrobats and clowns popping up here and there, sometimes when we least expect it. And on July 10, 12 and 17, see Varia, a show of equestrian feats from the Innocenti Family and their nine horses, at TOHU.
(island paradise) The famed Carifiesta parade turns downtown Montreal into a blocks-long party on the afternoon of July 9 – Montreal’s Caribbean community is in fine form and proves it with teams of dancers, marching musicians, colourful floats and, of course, many a carnivale-requisite scantily clad and brightly feathered lady. Meanwhile, over at the beautiful Parc Jean-Drapeau on June 9, the Caribbean isle of Jamaica comes to Montreal with food, music and fun for the whole family. The park’s Weekends du Monde series continues every weekend of the month with entertainment and edibles from Latin America, China, the Mediterranean, Cuba, and beyond.
(dreams of africa) Festival International Nuits d’Afrique takes over Place des Festivals in downtown Montreal from July 21–24, beginning with a free outdoor show from “Africa’s dancefloor king” Meiway and Le Zo Gang at 9:30 p.m. On July 22, see Zal Sisskho on the kora and singer Hakim Salhi, and on July 23 it’s the stars of Soukous, and on July 24, see Burkina Faso percussionist Dramane Koné. But it’s not all about music appreciation: check out a photography and poster exhibition, learn some essential capoeira and samba moves. Consult the full schedule for all indoor and outdoor shows from over 57 artists from 32 countries at the fest.
(urban paradise) Montreal history museum The McCord Museum has somehow managed to grow what they’re calling an Urban Forest, right in the middle of downtown Montreal – the landscaped area takes over Victoria Street (from Sherbrooke to President-Kennedy Avenue) and offers respite from the traffic and noise of the city. Dutch landscape architect Paula Meijerink brings her vision to the pedestrian zone, paired with lunch-hour activities from Tuesday to Saturday, the launch of Spacing Magazine on July 20 at 6:30 p.m.
(unity in diversity) At the end of the month, comes Divers/Cité, July 25–31, a celebration of LGBT pride in Montreal. A feast of outdoor entertainment begins on July 28 with the longest-running cabaret variety show in Quebec: 1, Boulevard des Rêves, featuring 16 artists, including Misstress Barbara, Elisapie Isaac, Marie Carmen and Joey Arias (in his homage to Klaus Nomi). On July 29, welcome the Friends for Life bike riders as they roll in from Toronto at 3:30 p.m., followed by music from New Society dance party DJs until midnight. Saturday night brings on Mascara: La Nuit des Drags, a three-hour singing and dancing drag queen extravaganza – followed by a dance party, of course. Rounding out the weekend on Sunday is Le Grand Bal, where disco, pop and techno fill Parc Émilie-Gamelin.