Every season is festival season in Montreal, but summer is truly the height of festival frenzy: over 30 festivals tap in to the best and brightest in music, art, theatre, dance, circus and good old-fashioned fun, from sun-up to well after sun-down. Here’s a sampling of some not-to-miss fests…
(Jazz & Classical) Every year, people from around the world flock to the Montreal International Jazz Festival (June 28-July 7) for a program built as much on the foundations of jazz and blues as on the evolution of the music into multiple genres. This year, the festival’s 33rd and as impressive as ever, see Liza Minnelli, James Taylor, Stanley Clarke, Oliver Jones, Ben Harper, Norah Jones, Seal, Esperanza Spalding and many, many more. The Montreal Chamber Music Festival (May 10-June 2) starts the summer not only with the Pacifica String Quartet, cellist Colin Carr, celebrations of Maurice Ravel and Béla Bartók, but a series of jazz concerts too. The Montreal International Musical Competition (May 28- June 8 ) brings great new classical voices to the stage, the Montreal Baroque Festival (June 21-24) celebrates its 10th anniversary with an rousing apocalypse theme, and the Festival International de Lanaudière (July 7-August 5) makes a trip to Joliette a must for classical music lovers.
(Rock, Electronic & Folk) Montreal’s summer festivals run the rock gamut: Along with the Jazz Fest’s plentiful rock-centric shows, there’s weekend-long Osheaga (August 3-5), turning beautiful Parc Jean-Drapeau into a multiple-stage, extra-loud musical wonderland – see The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg, Feist, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and a metric ton of other bands. Lovers of Quebecois and French-language music flock to Francofolies (June 7-16) in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles.
Cutting-edge electronic music and digital art dominate the downtown core and bring in international artists and fans alike during Mutek (May 30-June 3) – and there’s more electronic beats at Montreal Electronic Groove (July 26-August 4). Eclectic punk, experimental and avant-garde jazz and indie-folk get their time in the sun at Suoni per il Popolo (June 6-23). Heavy MTL (August 11-12) is exactly what it sounds like – bring earplugs for your metal head. While the Montreal Folk Fest on the Canal is a little more low-key and definitely family friendly. And Skrillex, Diplo, Grimes and more make a Montreal stop on their Full Fest Express train on July 15. And while not technically a “summer fest”, Pop Montreal (September 19-23) put on one of 2011’s highlights, the amazing outdoor Arcade Fire show, so we’re including them.
(Arts, Culture & Film) Much greatness falls into this rather broad category, beginning with multi-dimensional, multi-talented, multi-lingual Festival Transamériques (May 24-June 9), featuring challenging performance art, theatre and dance from around the world. International, Canadian and Quebec circus troupes send in the clowns – and acrobats and jugglers and more – during Montréal Complètement Cirque (July 5-15). Stroll down Ste-Catherine Street during the Festival international Montréal en Arts (June 27-July 1) and take in an array of paintings, sculpture, installation work, live performances and more. Canadian, American and international First Peoples come together at Terres En Vue/Land InSights (July 31-August 8), a festival of art, film, performance, talks and more, at the Quartier des Specacles. Fantasia International Film Festival (July 19-August 7) brings rare and anticipated underground and animated film to Montreal, spurring long queues and film-nerd conversations, while the Montreal World Film Festival (August 23-September 3) ends the summer with films from around our ever-spinning globe.
(Comedy & The Fringe) It’s non-stop laughs for three weeks in July as the 30th Just For Laughs Festival (July 10-28) makes itself at home in the Quartier des Spectacles with open-air shows, stand-up galas, comedy nights and even The Muppets (yes!). The always-fun and often surprising St-Ambroise Fringe Festival (June 4-24) showcases up-and-coming theatre artists as well as known entities in small venues around town and outside at Fringe Park on St-Laurent at Rachel, where musicians and entertainers take the stage all afternoon and evening.
(Big Gay Fun) Every summer, Montreal’s LGBT community comes out in full force and with friends at Divers/Cité (July 30-August 5) and Fierté Montréal Pride (August 13-19), not to mention Tourisme Montreal’s very own Queer of the Year Contest!
(Pure Spectacle) Montreal kicks summer old-school with fireworks galore at the International des feux Loto-Québec on selected nights throughout the summer at La Ronde and viewable throughout the city, from the top of Mont Royale to the Old Port. The Montreal Grand Prix (June 8-10) revs its engines over at Parc Jean-Drapeau and right downtown with events and parties on Crescent Street, while the Festival Mode & Design (August 1-5) gets us catwalk ready for the coming fashion season. There’s also a Montreal Beer Festival (June 6-10), Bike Festival (May 27-June 3) and even a Yoga Festival (June 8-10). More proof that when it comes to festivals, Montreal is the place to be this summer.