New Year’s Eve in Montreal provides ample opportunity for old acquaintances not to be forgotten or never brought to mind. From Crescent Street to Saint-Laurent, from downstairs jazz clubs to skyscraper-high dance clubs, and from comedy to cabaret to food to live music, ushering in a NYE in MTL is fraught with nothing so much as possibility. Consider these your keys to the city, and more importantly on December 31, the party…
We’ll begin with one of the epicenters of New Year’s Eve partying in Montreal: the Sir Winston Churchill Pub Complex, which is comprised of three popular spots on bar-and-nightclub-clustered Crescent Street. For their part, Winnies Bar will ring in the New Year with the help of singing DJ Sandy Duperval spinning house – advance tickets are available for only 20 bills and include champagne.
The adjoining Karina’s Club Lounge and piano bar steps things up a notch, offering a five-course meal accompanied by a live piano and a dance party hosted by DJ Tag. Their $79.95 ticket also comes with a glass of champagne at midnight. And in the Sir Winston Churchill Pub proper they’re promising the “ultimate” NYE courtesy of DJ Jeff Lauzon, who will be spinning Top 40 club hits, old school R&B and house. For a limited time only tickets are $20 and include, of course, champagne.
Are your end-of-year appetites hungering for lively jazz and blues and an equally exciting menu? If you decide on the perennially classy Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill, you’ll be picking a winner that makes a regular habit of picking its own winners. To wit, Upstairs has again this year invited Dawn Tyler Watson, a six-time consecutive winner of the Quebec Lys Blues Award for Best Female Artist to provide the sultry soundtrack for your good time. And while Watson takes care of your cerebral needs, the Upstairs grill will gratify gastronomic imperatives with a three-course meal that is included in the $134.95 ticket price. It all gets cookin’ at 8 pm.
Not to be outdone, Montreal’s House of Jazz dinner club (formerly the storied Biddle’s, a mainstay for many top-shelf Montreal jazz players of yore) is offering a five-course spread, with dinner followed by dancing courtesy of the Carolyn Fe Blues Collective featuring special guests Graham Chambers and Daniel Prévost. This soulful soirée goes for $114.95.
If you fancy a pub crawl, popular Crescent Street brew pub Brutopia will be celebrating the passing of 2012 with Montreal five-piece Kebeko who, in the band’s own words, “well-illustrate the cultural diversity of Montreal with a mix of rock, world music, Quebecois folk and a lot of groove.” The $10 admission includes party favours and a burst of the bubbly at midnight. MTL’s self-proclaimed oldest Irish pub, The Old Dublin is no stranger to a party, and on Dec. 31 will play host to old-school rock’n’roll outfit Flashback. It’s all covers, but without the cover charge. And the Irish Embassy Pub and Grill is, oddly but engagingly, offering a Mardi-Gras themed New Year’s party with live music courtesy of The Jack.
Speaking of Mardi Gras, as well as odd and engaging, Cirque de Boudoir – who specialize in unique thematic events that cater to the senses, mixing and matching elements of circus, burlesque, electronic dance music and fetishism – bring a New Orleans theme to their Carnavalesque 2013 New Year’s brain burner, which takes place at Bain Mathieu, an old public pool converted into a multipurpose arts and party place. Tickets are $60 (free drinks until midnight) and $85 (for open bar all night). Things get wonderfully weird beginning at 9 pm.
Montreal’s two principle comedy clubs – Comedyworks and The Comedy Nest – have got the funny for your money on New Year’s Eve. The Comedy Nest features The Late Show veteran Jeff Caldwell in their special New Year’s show (“which always sells out”), which boasts special comedic guests, party favours, a champagne toast at midnight, a light buffet and goes for $49.50 and gets underway at 10 pm. For their part, Comedyworks has two shows featuring much-loved Montreal comic Mike Paterson (who captains weekly stand-up nights on every Tuesday) at the helm of a cast of some of Montreal’s best hilarity-makers. Each show is a $20 ticket, and following the second show the party will move downstairs to Jimbo’s pub where there will be DJs and dancing and carefree carousing.
If serious is more to your taste, as in serious partying, then many of Montreal’s premiere dance clubs are stepping to the fore once again. As would be expected, Circus Afterhours is going big with an international lineup of top-tier DJs, including Orjan Nilsen, Leon Bolier, Jay Lumen, Koen Groeneveld and Uppercut. Tickets are $60 in advance and $85 at the door, which opens at 10 pm. Arena Rendez-Vous NYE 2013 (located in the former Montreal Forum) plans to let the genies out of the bottles a bit earlier, with open bar from 8-11 pm, followed by a “huge” balloon drop, party favours and a live countdown from Times Square on the big screens, all for only $30. And finally, rising U.K. dirty house and soulful techno DJ Nicole Moudaber returns to Stereo to anchor their NYE dance floor.
While the term “high” certainly has relative applications as it relates to clubland, when it comes to Altitude Club 737, atop Montreal’s distinctive 47-storey Place Ville Marie building, high is simply about location, location, location. And sadly for fans of the sky-based bar, this NYE party begins the countdown to the end of the club which, after 18 years, officially closes on Jan. 1 following the expiration of their lease. Starting at $55 a ticket, all attendees can avail themselves of VIP treatment from 8-11 pm, and arguably the best view in town all night, for one last night.
Sister venues Casa del Popolo and Sala Rossa – located directly opposite one another on Saint-Laurent – provide affordable New Year’s support of first resort for the city’s indie scenesters again this year. At Casa, DJs Mark Slutsky and Raf K bring their no-pressure cooker back to both rooms for their annual spectacular. Across the street, perpetual-motion hip-hop/funk/soul/jazz collective The Goods – conceived a decade ago by DJs Scott C and Andy Williams – will put dance in the pants of all comers commencing at 10 pm.
And for those who like to put their hair up, two legendary punk bands from both near and afar will be moshing in the New Year in Montreal. Indefatigable L.A. skate punksNOFX, who celebrated their 30th (!) anniversary in 2013, will play a “New Year’s Heave” show at the Olympia Theater with similarly awesomely elderly Brit punks Snuff, The Creepshow and The BCASA. Local punk scene legends Ripcordz continue with a tradition of their own making in the form of the Ripcordz Annual Punk New Years Eve featuring special guests Ab Irato, Sale Gauloise, Talk Sick and Bastard 86 at Café Chaos. Get in the holiday spirit of things by wearing your best and brightest Christmas tree studs. Tix are only 10 bones, and the show blows off the doors starting at 9 pm sharp.
They call themselves Montreal’s “best open bar party,” and for the past 14 years they’ve certainly been a contender for that title. Featuring 10 bars arrayed around Club Soda in the Quartier des Spectacles, the annual Fluid party offers a “leave your wallet at home” policy, meaning that in addition to all drinks, even tips are covered with your entry fee, which ranges according to how much attention you need: tickets start at $84.99 (entry, coat check and tips covered) and go up to a whopping $1,999.99 (a 10-person package that includes full bottle service, champagne all night, and a promise of absolution from whatever higher power you observe). Dance music will be provided by DJ Yo-C, David A and more. Lift-off at 9 pm.
Also competing for best open bar party is New Year’s XS Celebration. And if size matters, New Year’s XS may have the edge at an anticipated 6,000 partygoers filling what remains of the old Montreal Forum. Billing themselves as the “biggest all-inclusive party in Montreal history,” New Year’s XS features 12 international DJs spinning R&B, house, hip-hop, Top 40 and more in five themed rooms, 50 bartenders, midnight champagne, circus performers, body painters, a laser show and a “super-secret countdown surprise.” A one-way ticket to crazytown is $79, or $159 for a ticket and hotel.
And last but definitely not least, the Grand Bal in Montreal’s historic Old Port is one of the most-anticipated highlights of the holiday season. The Bal’s now expanded form includes numerous activities, but the main event (which is free to attend) on New Year’s Eve itself has youthful pop-rock-reggae outfit Raffy warming up the crowd in the central Place Jacques-Cartier from 10 pm until 11:59 pm, at which time the annual countdown will take place. At midnight the Telus “Fire on Ice” musical fireworks display will boom in the New Year, kicking of an outdoor dance party that will go until 2 a.m. If your outdoor winter activities don’t include the shaking of the booty, the Quays Skating Rink, with its own DJ, will stay open until 1 am on this special evening.
All of the aforementioned New Year’s parties merely scratch the surface of everything that happens in a city that takes its celebrations seriously. So please, if you know of an event that didn’t get a mention here, please post all the pertinent details below in the comments section.