Every spring, thousands of Montrealers step out of their homes, where they’ve been hiding since November, surviving on chicken soup and repeats of their favourite sitcoms. But they don’t just sleep in the park all day. Instead, they get to enjoy the myriad of festivals, films, plays and unique events that the city has to offer. It’s hard to confidently argue that Montreal doesn’t offer one of the best summer experiences. So whether this is your first summer in the city, or you’re a Tam Tams veteran, check out our picks for the best arts events around town.
Kick off the end of exams with Elektra, which celebrates the best of music and art made with the latest technologies. Last year’s festival saw performances featuring robot dancers and an installation with pods that responded to changes in light by opening and closing like flowers. You can pretty much bet that they’ll top that this year when the festival starts up again from May 2 to 6. Visit www.elektrafestival.ca for more details.
Ste-Catherine Street is subject to many protests and parades, so it’s nice to see art laying its claim for space. This year, the Festival international Montreal en arts (FIMA) will take over a portion of Ste-Cats for its 13th edition, turning it into a BoulevArt. Last year saw nearly 140 artists display their work to over 250,000 passersby. This year, check out the self-proclaimed “greatest open air art gallery in Eastern Canada” between June 27 and July 1. Visitwww.festivaldesarts.org for updates on this year’s edition.
Did you know that laughing is a great way to work your abs? Get your beach body ready with Just for Laughs Festival. Celebrating its 30th anniversary from July 12 to 29, Just for Laughs promises to have you rolling on the floor with their comedic star lineup including Bo Burnham, Caroline Rhea, Daniel Tosh, Debra DiGiovanni and many, many more. To see the full lineup of comics or to book your tickets, visit www.hahaha.com.
Montreal is proud of its LGBT community and even more so of the annual Divers/Cite Festival. This event promotes the value of diversity with mostly outdoor events from all walks of art. The festival will showcase modern dance, blues, jazz, pop, Latin, rock, world, funk, ambient, techno and electronic concerts, drag queen performances and an outdoor cinema. The festival is in its 20th edition and will run from July 30 to Aug. 5. For more information visit www.diverscite.org.
Hot air balloons are usually reserved for family films (see Up and Around the World in 80 Days), which may be why hundreds of thousands of people flock far out to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu for its balloon festival. You can book a flight, or if you’d rather stay on the ground, you can enjoy the view (last year they had a balloon shaped like Spider Pig!) from their beer terrace. It goes down on Aug. 11 to 19, and you can check out www.ballooncanada.com for more details.
Fantasia is a true underdog story. Started by alternative film fanatics in 1996 (way before the “turn-all-comics-into-films” great geek revolution of the past few years), it has become the ultimate summer event for anyone who likes their films dark, subversive and shocking. Details on this year’s edition will be released closer to Fantasia’s run from July 19 to Aug. 7, but you can keep your eye out for them over atwww.festivalfantasia.com.
For a little cultural diversity in your movie-going experience this summer, don’t miss the World Film Festival, Aug. 23 to Sept. 3. The goal of this festival is to promote cultural diversity internationally by promoting films from around the globe. To find out what films will be showing, visit www.ffm-montreal.org.
Everyone knows of Warhol and Lichtenstein, but how often do you hear someone name-drop Tom Wesselmann? Following last summer’s Gaultier extravaganza, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is keeping in the pop culture tune by putting on the first major Canadian exhibition on Wesselmann, the third major pop artist. The exhibit runs from May 18 to Oct. 7. You can check out more details over at www.mbam.qc.ca.
You don’t have to drive to Granby or put up with the questionable smell at the Biodôme to celebrate the animal kingdom this summer. Zoo is an exhibition featuring art from Quebec, Canadian and international artists that explores the way animals are perceived nowadays, through filters such as mythology, natural science and even the economy. And, of course, it’s contemporary art so it will be done in a way that will leave you turning your head. It’s being shown at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal from May 24 to Sept. 3. Visit www.macm.org for more details.
“No gods, no masters, no bosses, no borders,” proclaims the poster for this year’s Anarchist Bookfair. Taking place on May 19 and 20, the fair will feature authors and booksellers offering zines, books and all other kinds of print works that you just won’t find at Chapters. But it doesn’t stop there—there will be film, art and workshops that will touch on current issues and reiterate the fair’s mission to fight all forms of oppression. Check out http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca for more information.
Authors love giving their most unfortunate characters ironically bright names, and then cruelly dumping misfortune after misfortune on them while also giving them an optimistic demeanour. Ed the Happy Clown has been put through horrifying ordeals (not the least of which includes his member coming to life and naming itself Ronald Reagan) since Chester Brown first conceived him in the ’80s. This summer, Brown is giving poor Ed a definitive story, after coming up with a new ending and revising past books. The tome, simply called Ed the Happy Clown, will be released by Drawn & Quarterly on May 22.
Another oldie getting the re-release treatment is Chuck Palahniuk’s 1999 novel Invisible Monsters. Written before Fight Club, it was rejected the first time he submitted it to his publisher for being too disturbing. Since then, thousands of people have fallen for the story of Shannon McFarland, a former model whose face is horribly disfigured, and her adventures with Brandy, a transgender woman who is awaiting her last big operation. With added chapters and extended scenes, Invisible Monsters Remix will take this satire even further. It comes out in hardcover on May 29.
One of the best parts about summer is being able to experience art outdoors. This is what makes Repercussion Theatre’s Shakespeare-in-the-Park performances so magical. Travelling from park to park around town, the performances usually take place in the afternoon, meaning you get to see some top-notch Shakespeare as day turns to dusk, while the setting becomes an enchanted forest. Last year they took on Macbeth, but they’re going lighter this summer with the comedy The Taming of the Shrew. Did I mention the best part? It’s absolutely free (though when they pass around the hat, be nice and donate—actors gotta eat!) Check out www.repercussiontheatre.com to see when they’re coming to a park near you.
The St-Ambroise Fringe Festival is one of the most celebrated theatre events in Montreal, because it gives people a chance to see fun, quirky—and sometimes just plain weird—shows for dirt cheap. The participating theatre companies are chosen lottery-style and performed in venues scattered across the Plateau and Mile End. If you can, try to make the shows in smaller venues—it makes the experience super personal and memorable. This year, Fringe Fest runs from June 4 to 24. Visit www.montrealfringe.ca after May 7 to check out this year’s shows.
If Fringe isn’t your thing, then maybe the Infringement Festival is. Started as a response to advertisement-heavy festivals that make it difficult for alternative and controversial shows to get in, Infringement encourages artists and activists of all kinds to participate. Artists don’t have to pay registration fees and most events are pay-what-you-can. This year’s edition runs from June 14 to 24. You can go to www.infringementfestival.com for more information.
With files from Amanda L. Shore.