Montreal Jazz Fest ready to groove
Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Staying young and relevant is clearly an ambition for the Montreal Jazz Fest. Canada’s leading annual music festival has been fighting with upstarts like Osheaga and Piknic Electronik for the share of attention and ticket sales in recent years. Its answer has been to spotlight young talent to draw concert-goers to the plethora of free shows that it stages for two weeks each year.
The 36th edition kicks off this week with Beirut, a New Mexico band that started in 2005 and has won wide acclaim for its blend of American alternative music and world beats, with a strong foundation in jazz. Beirut, who headlines the festival-opening show on Friday night, follows the youth movement for headliners that began in 2013 with Feist and was followed last year by a wonderful performance from France’s WoodKid.
Last year, festival co-founder and music promoter André Ménard told me “the average age of the festival attendee is 40 so we do have a preoccupation to bring younger people in.”
Along with Beirut, Montreal’s Barr Brothers (June 30, 9:30 pm) will also be one of the younger bands spotlighted on the festival’s main stage. But perhaps the most anticipated performance at the 2015 event will be a remembrance of a master. The tribute to B.B. King on July 5, the festival’s closing night, is being billed as a Grand Blues Evening and the quality of the musicianship is expected to be at a peak as the jazz fest honours the great bluesman who passed away this spring.
That show will be among the more than 600 performances, many of them free. The jazz fest annually features a multitude of shows that are open to anyone to enjoy at no cost as well as ticketed shows at clubs and concert venues close to the festival centre at Quartier des Spectacles, just outside of Place des Arts.
Music Brings Tourists to Quebec’s Big City
The 11-day festival costs organizers approximately $30 million per year and contributes about $125 million in economic activity for the city. It employs 2,500 people and brings 2 million visitors to Montreal each year, including numerous attendees from the United States and Europe. Musicians not only adore playing the festival because it is filled with jazz fans and other fine musicians, but they view it as an influential event that can make their careers.
“For so many reasons, it’s the most important jazz festival in the world. If it wasn’t for the Montreal Jazz Festival, I honestly don’t know what I would be doing,” Diana Krall said last year prior to performing her first outdoor show at the festival.
This year, emerging acts like Foxtrott, Bears of Legend and Will Driving West could be among those benefitting from the festival’s cache. For fans, catching the music acts is only one part of enjoying the festival. Being in Montreal in summer, means the opportunity to take in all kinds of activities in many of the city’s most distinct neighbourhoods, as well as the chance to dine at some of Canada’s finest restaurants.
There are numerous deals related to the jazz fest that visitors can take advantage of, including hotel packages at properties close to the event’s headquarters.
MORE ABOUT THE 36TH ANNUAL MONTREAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
Dates: June 26-July 5, 2015
Headliners: Beirut (June 26), The Harry Manx, John Mayall and James Cotton (June 27), The Stanley Clarke Band (June 27), Chris Botti (June 27), Erykah Badu (June 29), Barr Brothers (June 30), Rodrigo y Gabriela (June 30), Madeleine Peyroux (July 2), and Grand Blues Evening in Memory of B.B. King (July 5).
The Jazz Package: Fans can purchase a special package that includes accommodations at participating hotels, tickets to specified shows, breakfast daily, and more. Click here for pricing and more details.
Tickets: Tickets, as well as bookings for your hotel, can be purchased online on the Jazz Festival website. The outdoor shows are free, but performances indoors — including notable shows featuring some of the names mentioned above, as well as performances by Colin James, Foxtrott and others — will cost money for a ticket.
Vacay.ca Recommends: Along with the big-name musicians, you’ll also enjoy: Dana Fuchs, who starred in “Across the Universe” (June 26, 9 pm and 11 pm, CBC Stage, free); Ala.ni, UK-based blues singer who has earned wide acclaim (July 4, 9 pm, L’Astral, $35 and up); James Vincent McMorrow, Irish singer/songwriter known for his emotive vocals (July 2, 8:30 pm, Metropolis, $40 and up).