Jazz Fest Free Picks

montreal jazz fest crowd montreal jazz fest crowd

Every one loves jazz fest. Unless of course maybe you don’t like music, and in that case, what trauma happened to you to make such a monster! Just kidding. Kinda. Anyway, jazz fest is a highlight of Montreal life. Free music in the downtown core. It can get a little crowded, but the crowd is half the fun. Montrealers dress funky and are loose AF, so it’s a mellow crowd.

With 10 days of solid music going on multiple stages, we like to give our picks for the free shows to see. In truth, go check them all out and learn something new. But if you want some guidance, here’s where we want to guide you. Many nights have a major headliner and these are always amazing to see. But, sometimes, it’s kind of cool to check out something completely unfamiliar.

Thursday June 29


Pretty much Montreal Rampage writers could spend the entire festival at the Groove stage because we love to dance. So what better way to kick off Jazz Fest than to groove with the mellow jazz meets afrobeat of Sheila Maurice-Grey’s London based band.

8 p.m., Rio Tinto Stage

Friday June 30


Locals Valaire are more like a collective of brass jazz, electro, hip hop, and pop mushed together. They’ve been around for over 10 years bringing their flair to the scene. If you’ve never had a chance to dance to their upbeat and infectious music, this is that chance!

8 p.m., Rio Tinto Stage

band playing
Montreal Jazz Festival. Photo Rachel Levine

Saturday, July 1

Dawn Tyler Watson

This woman! Feel the flames! You want serious blues, jazz with skat, some big pipes, great stage presence and feel like you’ve gone to see a monumental singer — then, yes, Dawn Tyler Watson is your woman. She plays most years at jazz fest, which makes us Montrealers feel so spoiled to have her around. She is on fire!

9 p.m. and 11 p.m., Rogers Stage

Sunday July 2

Vance Joy

Riptide, total earworm, right? Straight from Australia comes Vane Joy who is sure to fill your heart with joy. This show is gonna be packed. That’s what happens when you have a major hit. Come find out that this cutie pie has a lot more that’s worth checking out. Also, who can resist a guy who leads on an acoustic?

9:30 p.m., TD Stage

Monday, July 3

Endea Owens and the Cookout

This is gonna be legit jazz. A lot of jazz fest is like jazz adjacent, but this group caught my attention when they performed on the much beloved Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR. American jazz — experience it like it’s meant to be experienced. She also plays an upright bass. That’s worth checking out. And yes, if you happen to be around at the festival, Jean Michel Blais is on the TD Stage at 9:30 p.m. Perfect timing if you catch Owens’ set at 8.

8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Espace Tranquille

Tuesday, July 4

DOMi & JD Beck

Two physicists make jazz with drums and a keyboard and become internet smooth jazz fusion sensations. I’m not really sure what they’re going to bring to a big stage given that they seem kind of introverted, but this is the moment to find out.

9:30 p.m., TD Stage

Wednesday, July 5

Pierre Kwedners

A lot of people are gonna be around for Thundercat, but the world music sounds of Pierre Kwenders are a journey around the world. He’s been nominated for Junos and Polaris prizes multiple times, bringing together hip hop, pop, African music, and rap. Somehow it comes together in both surprising and perfect ways.

11 p.m., Club Montréal TD

Thursday, July 6

Nick Hakim

Nick Hakim is for all you Pitchfork and Vice fans out there – the alternative, cool Brooklynite whose collaborated with Erykah Badu and whose music has been remixed by many. His sounds are soft, soulful, and trippy. Enjoy the ride.

7 p.m., Rogers Stage

Bad Bad Not Good. M for Montreal. Photo Ella Elbourne.
Bad Bad Not Good. M for Montreal. Photo Ella Elbourne.

Friday, July 7


A few guys outta Toronto from the Humber Music Program took rap, R&B, and hip hop and made it jazz. If you know, you know. Anyway, aside from their own music, they’ve collaborated with Tyler the Creator Kaytranda, and MF Doom, played Coachella and SXSW, and have a unique, signature sound that is all BBNG. Yes, they can legit play. It’s not all hype. We love ’em!

9:30 p.m., TD Stage

Saturday, July 8

Macy Gray

Does Macy Gray really need a blurb? She’s the big closer this year.

9:30 p.m., TD Stage

The Montreal International Jazz Festival takes place from June 29 to July 8, 2023. Information on all shows can be found HERE.

About Rachel Levine

Rachel Levine is the big cheese around here. Contact: Website | More Posts