What to See for Free at the Montreal Jazz Fest

montreal jazz fest crowd montreal jazz fest crowd

When people name the highlight of festival season in Montreal, Jazz Fest is usually top of the list. It’s not just a festival for tourists either. Montrealers usually find a reason to stroll through the crowds and soak in some of the atmosphere and enjoy the world-renowned performers. Even those who complain about jazz fest — it used to be bigger and better, all the goods shows cost too much, too many crowds, lousy food, they don’t play jazz — still go.

While this year, it seems like the best of the fest are tickets that cost money (Beck, Bonobo, Ginger Baker, Diana Ross, Tony Bennett(!?!), BB King, Aretha Franklin, Oliver Jones, Elvis Costello, too many really), there’s plenty to see that won’t require opening one’s wallet, save for using an Opus card to get to Place des Arts. The big concerts of opener Woodkid (June 26 at Scene TD. 9:30 p.m. ) and Diana Krall (June 29th at Scène TD. 9:30 p.m.) are probably on the list of many, but we’d like to recommend a few others.

Here’s some of our picks:

Trip to the Outer Limits

Stay out late on the first night of the fest and head to DJ Andy Williams and sweet daddy luv’s Jazz Amnesty Sound System. This may or may not be jazz as you know it, because the Jazz Amnesty combines all kinds of traditional jazz with non-western musical styles, resulting in a trip from jazz’s roots to the outer limits. s’cool. June 26-29 at L’Astral (305 St. Catherine W) at 12 a.m.

Boogat Fever

Latin groove meets urban sensibilities your thing? Boogat is a Montrealer who mixes up electronic music with stories of his own life. He seems to work with Poirier and his 2013 album had a Kid Koala appearance, so maybe some guest appearances are in store? At any rate, think resulting in a lot of cumbia, tropical, electronic but very danceable sounds. High energy, people, high energy! June 27 at Bell Stage at 10 p.m.

High Energy Fusion

OOOH. I was psyched to find out that Random Recipe is performing. This high energy group featuring Frannie Holder (see HERE for our interview with her) will get everyone on their feet, moving, shaking, and sweating. Think hip hop with jazz and then crank it up to high speed. June 28 at TD stage. 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Horns Worth Staying Up For

If you can make it to midnight, The Franco Proietti Morph-tet is a little like funk meets 90’s hip hop but with a deep horn section (Franco is a saxophonist/lap top guy). The line-up changes, so things can be more jazzy or more hip hop. They sometimes throw in spoken-word stuff and get experimental, but there’s plenty of familiar styles too: reggae, electronic jazz, bebop. They’re well worth an extra coffee in the morning. June 28 at Metropolis (59 St. Catherine E). 12 a.m.

Sailor Mars, is that you?

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Ladies in the house represent. Emilie-Claire Barlow is straight up vocals delivered with an ethereal voice. Did you know she was also Sailor Mars for Sailor Moon? Okay, now you do. She recently took vocal jazz album of the year at the 2013 Junos. She mixes up her own work with standards and some jazzy interpretations of others (Donovan and Bob Dylan, really!). Her rapport with audiences lets her shine.June 30 at TD Stage. 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Internationally Soulful

Ethiopia not only makes great food (so let’s stop with the famine jokes, comedians; they’re so 1988), it also makes great singers. Ester Rada is Israeli born, but part of the Ethiopian community that relocated. She was featured in a BBC radio documentary and I’ve been into her jazz, funk, soul, and R&B sound ever since. June 30 at the Rio Tinto Alcan stage. 8 p.m.

Madness and Occasionally Nudity?

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Okay, my discovery of last year was the Speakeasy Electro Swing at midnight. Don’t let the party stop, but keep your body in motion with this nostalgic yet high energy group of DJs. They take swing and Depression-era music and just blast it through a technology carwash. Their regular stints in Montreal have a dedicated following. Make sure to stay up late at least once to catch their set. June 30, July 1, and July 2 at L’Astral (305 St. Catherine W). 12 a.m.

Rare Birds from Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe represent! Mokoomba is an Afro-groove group with international flavor. Led by Mathias Muzaza, they traipse from latin to ska. Expect to dance at this one. Apparently, they sing in the tribal tongue if Tonga. How cool is that? July 2 and 3 at the Bell stage. 8 p.m.

Cuban Flavor

If you loved the Buena Vista Social Club and want to dance, try Conjunto Chappottin Y Sus Estreslla. This Cuban son band has been playing for over 50 years (okay, the line up has changed some). Whoa. The group will get the crowd moving with cha cha, charanga, danzon, guajira, guaracha, mambo, montuno, and rhumba. Get me a mojito! July 3 at the TD stage. 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Pop Songs Un-Popped

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I go in for the Groove selection every time. Swedish power trio Dirty Loops loops pop song covers into disco gold. And by pop, I mean Bieber and Spears and Lady Gaga and I am pretty sure you get the point. Sounds brave to me and well worth a shot. July 4 and 5 at the Bell stage. 10 p.m.

DJs in the house

Shhh. Kid Koala is performing. Deltron 3030, the sci-fi super group consists of Dan the Automator, Del the Funky Homosapien, and Kid Koala. Jazz meets hip hop? July 6 at the TD stage. 9:30 p.m.

The schedule and events of the Jazz Fest 2014 can be found HERE. For our picks of paid shows, click HERE.

About Rachel Levine

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