Montréal summer festival guide

Jamie O'Meara

While there’s an argument to be made that Montréal’s festival season is more of a 365-days-a-year situation, there does come a point when a wave of major festivals – like Osheaga, the Montreal Jazz Festival, Just For Laughs, MUTEK and Nuits D’Afrique – suddenly appears on the horizon. That point is now. To help you ride it out in style, we offer you our annual Montréal summer festival guide.

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Cutting edge culture

Festival TransAmériques (FTA) (May 23 to June 7) The Festival TransAmériques (FTA) celebrates new works in contemporary dance and theatre. Showcasing both established and emerging artists, choreographers, writers and directors, this 12th edition of the FTA also aims to foster dialogue through a stimulating range of workshops, debates and roundtable discussions. 

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Party arty

Chromatic (May 26 to June 2) Chromatic is a celebration of Montréal imagination that’s expanding to a new location for its ninth edition: the Old École des beaux-arts of Montreal. The program features an eclectic range of arts – visual, digital, performance, interactive and more – at events including concerts, exhibitions, screenings, workshops, parties and activities for all ages.

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Accessible entertainment excess

Fringe Festival (May 28 to June 17) The Montréal Fringe Festival (known as “the party Fringe” on the Fringe circuit) turns 28 this year with some 800 performances featuring over 500 artists (theatre, dance, music, comedy, magic and more) at more than 20 venues around the Plateau Mont-Royal and Mile End. The nightly “13th Hour” variety show/dance party ensures that the Fringe lives up to its reputation, as does the highly anticipated Drag Races competition, hosted by famously fabulous drag queen Mado Lamotte.

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Painting the town red… and blue, green, yellow…

MURAL Festival (June 7 to 17) Eye-catching doesn’t even begin to describe the work this celebration of urban art and graffiti produces each year. For its fifth year, the Mural Festival will invite artists to create large-scale art on the sides of many Plateau Mont-Royal buildings. Block parties, film screenings, installations and other performance and festive events are also part of the fun. And download the MURAL app here.

A formula for fun

Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada (June 8 to 10) Montréal revs up for the fastest fun in the country when hundreds of thousands show up for this top-tier racing event. The good times will be rolling off-track as well: numerous neighbourhood streets are closed for special family-friendly F1 events, restaurants shift kitchens into high gear and nights are alive with celeb-studded parties.

Music in the language of love

Les Francos de Montréal (June 8 to 16) Les Francos celebrate the diversity and quality of musical offerings from the international Francophonie. At an average of 70 indoor shows and 180 free outdoor shows, the wide world of French pop, rock, blues, jazz, world music and more can be yours. 

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A folking good time

Montreal Folk Festival on the Canal (June 14 to 17) When the Montreal Folk Festival on the Canal was born in 2008, it was a one-day event that drew 500 folk faithful. The event, which celebrates 11 years this year, was such a hit – its picturesque park placement along Montréal’s historic Lachine Canal didn’t hurt any – that it now draws close to 10,000 for five days of folk, roots and bluegrass featuring both emerging artists and folk royalty.

Digital delights

ELEKTRA (June 26 to July 1) ELEKTRA is a yearly digital arts festival showcasing new creations in electronic music, video, cinema, performance, design, gaming and interactive installation in combination with the innovative use of new technology, especially digital technologies. This year’s festival also includes the International Digital Art Biennial (BIAN), which is held every two years. This 4th edition of BIAN (June 29 to August 5) will be held at Arsenal, under the theme “AUTOMATA: Sing the Body Electric”, exploring the interaction between the mind and the electrified body.  The BIAN 2018 will be curated by Peter Weibel.

A huge open-air gallery

Mtl en Arts (June 27 to July 1) A major artistic event, Mtl en Arts sets up at the heart of downtown from June 27 to July 1. With an expo-sale, interactive performances and installations and workshops for kids, it’s the place to be for those in search of inspiration and creativity.   

Jazz greats = great jazz

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (June 28 to July 7) The Guinness Book of World Records declared it the largest jazz festival in the world in 2004. The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal will once again overwhelm the downtown Quartier des Spectacles this year with hundreds of concerts representing numerous genres.

A lot of clowning around

MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE (July 5 to 15) Montréal will be showing off at major, multidisciplinary circus arts festival COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE. The 11-day indoor/outdoor fest unites Montréal’s key circus companies as they highlight world-class local talent alongside ground breaking international guests.

It’s a zoo out there!

Zoofest & OFF JFL (July 5 to 28) From July 5 to 28, Zoofest & OFF JFL corrals the craziest and most fearless acts in the performing arts world. Emerging talents in comedy, theatre, music, and other genres take you on a wild adventure you won’t soon forget.

Seeing stars at Comiccon

Montréal Comiccon (July 6 to 8) From July 6 to 8, Montréal Comiccon will roll out the red carpet for big-name stars from the worlds of science-fiction, fantasy, horror, video games and, of course, comic books at the Palais des congrès de Montréal. This year’s star-studded 10th edition will be the biggest Montréal Comiccon yet with more than 60,000 attendees and dozens of star guests, including David Duchovny, Chuck Norris, Pamela Anderson and Val Kilmer plus many more.

Have a blast

L’International des Feux Loto-Québec (July 7 to August 8) World-class pyrotechnicians representing their respective countries are invited to participate in this competition. The best spot to watch the fireworks is from the grandstands at La Ronde where you’ll see them take off from Lac des Dauphins and illuminate the night sky. 

Bright lights for African nights

Festival International Nuits D’Afrique (July 10 to 22) Montréal’s much-loved Nuits D’Afrique world music festival brings the best of African and African-influenced music from some of the biggest names in the game at numerous indoor and free outdoor shows. Past performers have included Youssou N’Dour, Angelique Kidjo, Omar Sosa and Papa Wemba.

Putting the fun in funny

Just For Laughs Festival (July 11 to 29) Just For Laughs (the world’s largest comedy fest) and its associated industry conference brings both A-List comedians and next-generation up-and-comers to its galas and club shows. Its sprawling outdoor site in the Quartier des Spectacles is also a daily hive of family-friendly entertainment opportunities. 

Scarily good

Fantasia International Film Festival (July 12 to August 1) Premiere magazine called it “one of the most exciting genre film festivals in the world,” and the approximately 125,000 festivalgoers who attend Fantasia’s 150-plus films every year would be among the first to agree. Underground, international and retro films in the realms of horror, fantasy, sci-fi and much more are on offer at this 22nd edition, as well as numerous associated conferences and industry/social functions.

Metal mayhem

Heavy Montréal (July 27 to 29) Heavy Montréal is unconditional in its love of heavy music: death metal, hair metal, black metal, hard rock and hardcore all enjoy equal attention. 

Three daze of amazing music

Osheaga Music and Arts Festival (August 3 to 5) Osheaga is a truly exceptional, world-class outdoor music and arts experience that takes place in picturesque Parc Jean-Drapeau on Ile Ste-Hélène across from Montréal’s Old Port. This year’s 13th edition will again deliver the best in rock, pop, hip-hop, indie music and more. 

A Montréal pride

Montréal Pride (August 9 to 19) Taking place over the course of 11 days, the programming includes a sports tournament, conferences, large free outdoor concerts each night, a food fair on Sainte-Catherine Street, a “grandiose” Community Day and, of course, the presentation of the annual Pride Parade.

Big time bass dropping

ÎleSoniq  (August 10 and 11) And a completely different kind of Parc life will spring into action for the third edition of wildly popular electronic dance and urban music festival ÎleSoniq, which brings out 40,000 beat-happy partiers. Spectacular, state-of-the-art special effects will overload your circuits to the sounds of big headliners.

Get into mode

Festival Mode & Design (August 20 to 25) This major outdoor event at Quartier des Spectacles, in the heart of downtown Montréal, features approximately 50 shows, with as many as 300 participants and 550,000 visitors expected. This one-of-a-kind occasion provides an inside look at the world of fashion and design through activities like fashion shows, live creative sessions, film screenings, tons of conferences, design showcases and musical performances.

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Innovation nation

MUTEK (August 22 to 26) Over 150 multi-sensory events and adventures are scheduled at this year’s world-renowned MUTEK festival, which this year reaches its 19th edition. For five days at a new time of year, MUTEK will again be promoting artists and innovators at the forefront of electronic music, digital creativity, technology and live performance at venues throughout the Quartier des Spectacles (including a free outdoor stage).

Dancin’ in the streets? Check

MEG Montréal Festival (August 30 to September 2) For 20 years now, the MEG Montréal Festival has been at the forefront of contemporary music trends in Europe and North America, showcasing established and emerging electronica, hip-hop and indie artists. This year the groove-fest has moved its dates to the end of August.

Jamie O’Meara

Jamie O’Meara, blogger

Jamie O’Meara is a writer for The Montreal Gazette, C2 Montréal, Moment Factory and more. He also manages the PR Team at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival and is the former Editor-in-Chief of alt-weekly newspaper HOUR Magazine.

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