As spring begins on a particularly warm and summery note, Montreal’s Quartier des spectacles, the centre of downtown’s arts and cultural district, becomes the hub of Montreal’s many festivals and free outdoor shows, and a welcome gathering space for Montrealers and visitors alike…
The fun starts on May 17 with a free, all-day outdoor party La Fête de Montréal, celebrating the city’s 371st anniversary with even more entertainment – and food! – in its third official year. Beginning at 11:30 a.m., enjoy performances from internationally acclaimed circus troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main, rousing folk-rock band Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir, choreographer-dancers Jocelyne Montpetit and Manon Oligny, artist Armand Vaillancourt and more. Never go hungry with gourmet food trucks on hand throughout the day – everything from lobster rolls to pulled pork, duck confit poutine to tacos – and happily imbibe at a happy hour cocktail party at 4:30 p.m., followed by a DJ set by Vincent Lemieux at 7:30 p.m., and a multimedia musical event at 9:30 p.m., with state-of-the-art visuals by five Montreal studios teamed up with musicians Ariane Moffatt, Yann Perreau and Jérôme Minière, Louis-Jean Cormier, Plaster, and Poirier with Boogat.
From there on out, the Quartier des Spectacles is action-packed with music, comedy, dance, theatre, circus arts, culinary delights, family and social activities and more. Sainte-Catherine Street will be a pedestrian-only zone from Bleury Street to Saint-Laurent Boulevard until September 1, and until June 2 along de Maisonneuve Avenue, make collaborative music simply by hopping on a swing at the 21 Swings installation.
Public art festival Escales Improbables presents 160 classical musicians in two free outdoor concerts on the Esplanade of Place des Arts, May 11-12 at 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., while on the weekend of May 18-19, check out the pop-punk Pouzza Fest stage at the corner of Clark and Ste-Catherine from noon until evening, and on the eastern edge of the Quartier des Spectacles, the Place Émilie-Gamelin summer program begins May 30, featuring giant chessboards, street furniture, flower stalls, and every Thursday at noon, choose lunch from among six different food trucks while watching an original performance.
Of course, this being Montreal, it’s the festivals that truly reign the Quartier all summer long, beginning on May 22 with Festival TransAmériques, an amazing, cutting-edge international festival of performing arts – this year featuring an outdoor show staring 47 dachshund dogs! – and continuing into electronic music and art festival Mutek, May 29 to June 2, at the SAT and other venues – and next door to the SAT at Parc de la Paix, go to free evening concerts and films every Wednesday and Thursday evening, July 3 to August 29.
French music fans flock to Francofolies, June 13-22, right before the city’s famed Montreal International Jazz Festival begins on June 28 with a free outdoor show by Feist and much, much more until July 7. Hot on its heels comes not only comedy fests Just for Laughs and Zoofest, but street performances by top circus acts from the Montréal Complètement Cirque festival. Also in July, sit on the grass and listen to the sounds of the Festival Nuits d’Afrique and partake in the diversity of culture at the Montreal First Peoples Festival. In August, see Montreal photographer Gabor Szilasi’s photography exhibition of portraits of Sainte-Catherine Street in the 1970s. And, as summer winds down in early September, watch and interact with Mégaphone, a community-minded installation by the National Film Board of Canada and multimedia company Moment Factory, projected on the side of UQAM’s Pavillon Président-Kennedy.
La Fête de Montréal , May 17, 2013
Quartier des Spectacles (Quartier des Spectacles is bounded by Saint-Hubert on the east, City Councillors on the west, Sherbrooke on the north and René-Lévesque on the south)