All about the Jazz Fest

The first installment of our festival guide — what was hot last night and what you need to see this holiday weekend.


Sharon Jones last night. Photo by Cindy Lopez

Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho, beatnicks. Time to bust out the gin’n’reefer, because Montreal is about to go full-tilt ragtime, and Cult MTL is the stand-up bass line here to guide you through Jazz Fest.

I’ll be recapping shows and forecasting good looks for outdoor sets and ticketed affairs alike on an every-other-daily kinda basis, in tandem with photo and editorial perspectives from the rest of our team, over the course of the festival.

Having never taken the plunge with general media access to Jazz Fest in the past — opting to ask politely for tickets to two or three club shows, jealous of the free Heineken and plush Place des Arts chairs my media colleagues are so comfortably acquainted with — I look forward to a series of incredible concerts, new discoveries, local standouts and the chance to provide engaging and entertaining coverage of it all.

So last night I let my kid stay up late, and we headed out to catch a glimpse of headlining openers Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

The crowd turnout for the NYC soul renaissance Queen welcomed Jazz Fest with a visibly happy and healthily hip-shaking embrace. Though I only caught a half-hour slice of the action, midway through the show, I can report that Jones and her Kings continue to hold the throne by pleasing devoted subjects and enrapturing first-time listeners all at once. As far as opening festival headliners go, you can’t kick off much higher. (See a full review of the Sharon Jones show here.)

Now, a bit of housekeeping: my suggestions definitely lean more toward anything that has ever provided, used or been influenced by a sample under any definition applicable.

And no spoilers, but over the next week and a half, outside the outdoor jams, I’m out on a journey from turnt-up rooms to toned-down theatres, and every dimly-lit cocktail joint in between…okay that last part is bullshit…but the point is, I might miss a thing or two in the bongo fury. So if you know about something you think no one should miss across this vast landscape of bebop, hit me at @ShineCultMTL, or just follow me for real-time data on the Fest at large.

I’ll be back Saturday with more reviews and previews. Until then…



8 p.m.: Montreal-based, Haitian-rooted, world-wisdom-blessed Fwonte brings it all the way homes (Turkish Airlines/CBC-Radio Canada stage, outdoor, free)

10 p.m.: Toronto multi-form slip-hop outfit Above Top Secret wage intelligence on wavy people (Turkish Airlines/CBC-Radio Canada stage, outdoor, free)

11:59 p.m.: Montreal turntable collective Speakeasy Electro Swing DJs – their roster wide and wildly diverse in range – begin a three-night stint, tonight through Saturday, as official afterhours Fest entertainers at l’Astral. Don’t take the “swing” part lightly, cool cats (305 Ste-Catherine E., indoor, June 30 – July 2, free)


Play your time right and you can triple-down on great live music, from dusk till dawn, free of charge, all night. Where there’s a will, there’s a way — follow me:

9 p.m./11 p.m.: You’d have to be living under a highly-over-appraised granite sculpture of a tree stump if you live in Montreal – or just plain dreamed of visiting for Jazz Fest – without having heard about locally-bred rhythmic upstarts Busty and the Bass.

Unless you’ve also heard about the strip clubs, and you’re the maybe you’re getting it all confused. Go to both if that’s your thing, but only one is free, twice (TD stage/Place des Festivals, outdoor, free)

Tasha the Amazon
Tasha the Amazon

10 p.m.: Tasha the Amazon is not playin’ at all. Her name is Tasha the Amazon. C’mon. Let’s get loud (Turkish Airlines/CBC-Radio Canada stage, outdoor, free)

11:59 p.m.: Montreal improvovial-funkstitution Kalmunity take it all the way to kuh-kuh-kuh-kurfew. The well-advised arrive early, so as not to miss out. Other than that, I guess, please just don’t waste a spot if you aren’t gonna dance. It all happens again, same time, same Shag, Saturday night (Savoy du Metropolis, indoor, 59 Ste-Catherine E., free, July 1 -2)

EXTRA HI-HAT: Sugarhill Gang — you know them from the entire history of hip hop music as an entity of its own unto the planet – take Club Soda, this Saturday, July 2. (1225 S-Laurent, 10 p.m., $42.25 plus fees)

For detailed site map, locations and complete daily program listings, please consult the official Montreal International Jazz Festival website