June. As if there isn’t a better month in Montreal for free stuff? Seriously, June is where it’s at for no-money good times – namely because this is when festival season kicks into high gear with all kinds of free outdoor music shows at the Jazz Fest, FrancoFolies and the Fringe Festival, world-class fireworks displays every week, and an all-day party celebrating Quebec culture…
(razzle jazzle) By now, most people know that the Montreal International Jazz Festival, June 25 to July 4, pushes the conventional boundaries of jazz – or just points out that maybe there were no boundaries in the first place. This year’s free outdoor shows at Place des Festivals alone demonstrate the broadness of the jazz spectrum: starting at noon and going well past dark, we’ll see The B-52s, Misteur Valaire, French sensation Ben l’Oncle Soul, New Orleans’ Soul Rebels Brass Band, Louisiana jam band Galactic, pianist and composer Laïla Biali, singer Nadja and many many more, plus new late-night shows at Metropolis with The Unsettlers, Shaolin Temple Defenders and Nomadic Massive. The one constant when it comes to jazz at the Jazz Fest is a laid-back atmosphere, crowds or no crowds, rain or shine.
(french kiss and tell) Maybe you’ve come to Montreal specifically for the one-of-a-kind international festival of French-language music, Francofolies, June 9–19 – or maybe you had no clue such a thing existed. If you’re in the latter camp, the festival, now in its 22nd year, is a low-risk way to get into the Franco-groove, especially with over 180 free outdoor shows on 7 stages at the Quartier des Spectacles. Catch homegrown acts like Tricot Machine, Alpha Rococo, Damien Robitaille, The Planet Smashers, Grenadine, and Géraldine, as well as music from much further away, like Congo’s Ngâbo, France’s Nkonda and amazing Malian guitarist Habib Koité. Live and learn (French)!
(fringe benefits of street fairs) The streets are alive with the sound of thespians. And they will act on demand at the Montreal Fringe Festiva, to June 19. While most of the shows can be had for a nominal fee, music shows at the Fringe Park (corner of St-Laurent and Rachel) coincide with the St-Laurent Street Fair on the weekends of June 9 and June 17 – The Unsettlers break the ice on the first Friday, followed by a Saturday of delightful programming from ukelele-lovin’ Indyish and Sunday’s music curated by Centre St-Ambroise. And because they’ve got their finger on the pulse of cool, Pop Montreal gets to takes over the whole next weekend!
(birthday of a nation) For those who know little of Quebec history, it might seem odd that the province’s “birthday” is called Fête Nationale. It’s also called St-Jean Baptiste Day, to add to the confusion. And it’s not really a birthday, but rather an appointed day to celebrate French culture and in Quebec and Canada. So with all this talk of politics and religion mashed together in one day, what really goes on every June 24th? Mostly parties. Along with Halloween and New Year’s Eve, St-Jean completes the (un)holy trinity of Most Fun Nights Ever in Montreal. No pressure. Start slow with a giant parade at 1 p.m. – it stretches along Sherbrooke from Fullum to Parc Maisonneuve (at Pie X), where family friendly activities go on all afternoon, followed by an outdoor concert from Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Robert Charlebois, Éric Lapointe and more!
(fire and water) Cool off for free on June 18 at Parc Jean-Drapeau’s two watering holes: the island’s man-made beach and even more manlier-made aquatic complex are open to all from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Also over at Parc Jean Drapeau, in the La Ronde amusement park, the Montreal International Fireworks Competition starts on June 25 and continues every Saturday and Wednesday until the end of July. See the show from anywhere in the park (the fireworks perfectly, if not purposefully, coincided with Arcade Fire’s performance at Osheaga last year – it was awesome) or from the city, whether looking skyward from the Old Port or closer to the Jacques Cartier bridge.
(art of joys) The sun can’t shine all the time, not even in Montreal in summertime, and sometimes we just have to choose culture over nature – art can be like a breath of fresh air anyway, right? Of course, leave it to Montreal to host an outdoor art fair… Festival International Montreal en Arts, June 29 to July 3, sees artists skipping the gallery and selling directly to the public, along Ste-Catherine E. between St-Hubert and Papineau. Moving indoors: from June 16, The Darling Foundry, in Old Montreal, shows films from Pierrick Sorin and sculptural work from Kristina Lee Podesva and Alexander David, while Dazibao shows new photographic work by Frédéric Lavoie. And at the end of the month, DHC/ART opens a seriously provocative duo show with Belgian sculptor Berlinde De Bruyckere and American painter John Currin – Currin also gives a free talk at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on June 28, 7 p.m.