With the Quebec Folk Festival (the Internationale de Musique Folk de Quebec) in full swing and culminating with some great shows this weekend, this seems as good a time as any to tell you where to find traditional Quebecois music in Montreal…
To understand traditional Quebecois music, a (very brief) look at the provinces’ history helps. When Quebec was under French rule, its inhabitants inherited France’s tradition of song and dance, which combined with that of their new neighbours, the Irish immigrants, whose Celtic cultural traditions were thrown into the mix. A perfect example is La Bolduc, often considered to be Quebec’s first singer/songwriter (often called a “chansonier” from the French tradition), who became popular in the 1930s by combining these two rich cultural musical traditions.
There’s not nearly enough space to here to run through all the important musical names in Quebecois music, but all you need to know, regardless of how French-fluent you are, is that going to see this music live is not just an important peek into this history of Quebec and Montreal, but a heck of a good time. Here are a couple places to check it out….
Les Pierrots Boite a Chansons: Since 1974, this club in Old Montreal is the best place in the city to find Francophone music. Every Friday night from 8:30pm-3am, the place is jumping with some of the biggest names in French music. A lively, interactive (don’t go if you’re shy) way to immerse yourself in French music, culture and joie-de-vivre.
104 Saint-Paul St. East, H2Y 1G6, 514-861-1270
La Boîte A Marius: Like Les Pierrots, this spot takes its name from the term “boîtes à chansons” (“song box,” loosely translated), which was the name given to the small venues in the 1950s where up-and-coming Quebec chansonniers started out. This relaxed spot in the largely residential Rosemont area has live music every Thursday-Saturday and some decent pub food to go with the great music.
5885 Papineau Ave, H2G 2W5, 514-274-9090
Vices et Versa: A relative newcomer to the scene, Vices et Versa has great traditional Quebecois music, led by fiddler Pascal Gemme, every Wednesday night (starts up again in September). On top of that, they’ve got a ton of Quebecois beers on tap and one of the best patios in the city. A Quebec gem in the heart of Little Italy.
6631 St-Laurent Boulevard, H2S 3C5, 514-272-2498