Festival Season in Montreal starts NOW!

Toula Foscolos
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Are you ready?

It’s that time of year again, when – like clockwork - I start feeling that familiar dread. Glancing through my summer schedule, and as the press releases start arriving in my inbox, I start to stress out. As I count down to all the things I want to see and do in the coming months, I always reach the unavoidable conclusion that I’ll either have to clone myself, quit my job or at the very least leave on an extended sabbatical, if I’m ever going to be able to do it all. To explain, Montreal has so much going on in the summer, one would need to be without gainful employment to truly take on the challenge

I’m not complaining! I love the fact that we live in a city where our biggest challenge isn’t finding something to do, but, on the contrary, experiencing such an embarrassment of cultural riches we simply don’t have the time to do it all. It’s a good problem to have, but as with most things in life, advance planning will only make the experience better. When hard choices need to be made, it’s important that you know all your options.

We start off with Les FrancoFolies; a celebration of French culture and music. My picks are Lisa Leblanc, performing tonight, June 11, the ever-entertaining Antoine Gratton, performing Tuesday, June 12 at 7 p.m., Caracol on June 15, at 8 p.m. and, of course, Malajube closing off the fest on Sunday, June 16, at 9 p.m. For a complete list of shows, go to: www.francofolies.com

Next we tackle the Montreal Fringe Festival. Now in its 22st year, the Montreal Fringe welcomed over 50,000 to the festival last year. Until June 19th, it will present over 700 French and English performances by over 500 theatre, comedy, dance, music and visual artists. I confess to not having had time to go through the entire list of shows (even though most of the descriptions can only give you a vague idea of what it’s all about; some stuff you just have to take on faith), but I urge you to check out this quirky, indie, silly festival that I never miss. www.montrealfringe.ca

The Euro Cup 2012 isn’t exactly a festival, but it’s bound to interrupt your routine or your drive through Mile End this summer, so even if you aren’t a hard-core soccer fan, you might as well pick a team, swear your allegiance to it, and let the fun national rivalries begin. It all ends July 1, so plenty of time to participate in “football” fever. Log on to: www.uefa.com for a complete schedule.

The fifth annual Folk Festival on the Canal presented by St-Ambroise runs from Thursday, June 14, to Sunday, June 17.  Showcasing the best in folk music—in both official languages—along the picturesque Lachine Canal, this year’s event promises to be even more accessible. This is one my favourite summer festivals in the city, not only because I adore folk music, and the South West venue where it takes place, but also because I love the organic, grassroots, neighbourhood “feel” of the fest. It’s a festival devoid of pretentiousness; just a wonderful gathering of people (young and old) who love folk music and want to enjoy it together. I can’t recommend it highly enough. For a complete schedule of free open-air and indoor paid events, consult their website: www.montrealfolkfest.com

These names have been added to an anniversary line-up that already includes The Muppets, Chelsea Handler, Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Bill Hader, Bob Saget, John Pinette, Lewis Black, and Jim Gaffigan.

What can I possibly say about Montreal’s Jazz Fest that hasn’t already been said? This 33rd edition of the world’s biggest jazz festival takes place from June 28 to July 7, and 2 million people are expected to enter the site and enjoy an incredible array of music. As always, the massive free outdoor concerts entertaining the crowds will be pure Montreal. Never more so than this year, as we go from home-grown singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, to electro-funk duo, Chromeo, who will undoubtedly end the party on a dancing note. Consult www.montrealjazzfest.com for a complete schedule of indoor and outdoor concerts.

As July rolls in, be sure to prepare your abs for the laughing fits you’re bound to experience at the Just for Laughs Festival. Taking place from July 10 to the 29, the fest continues its 30th anniversary celebration with the recent additions of Joel McHale, Howie Mandel, Jeremy Hotz, and Danny Bhoy. These names have been added to an anniversary line-up that already includes The Muppets, Chelsea Handler, Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Bill Hader, Bob Saget, John Pinette, Lewis Black, and Jim Gaffigan. www.hahaha.com

From July 19 to the 28, ZOOFEST (an off-the-wall companion to Just for Laughs, which is slightly darker, more twisted and definitely edgier) gets underway. With more than twice as many offerings as last year, ZOOFEST establishes itself as a major festival in its own right in 2012, boasting a lineup comprised of over 40 French and English shows from some of the biggest, most interesting names in comedy, including Amy Schumer, Andy Kindler, Jim Breuer, Mick Foley, Mike Ward, Paul F. Tompkins, and Rob Delaney, at eight of Montreal’s coolest, most intimate and iconic venues. For a complete schedule of what’s fast becoming my favourite part of the Just for Laughs Fest, consult: www.zoofest.com.

Good luck going through all of this and narrowing it down. And I don’t mean to alarm you, but I haven’t even mentioned the St. Laurent Street Festival, Osheaga, the Montreal International Fireworks Competition, the World Film Festival… Are you starting to understand my stress levels a little bit better now?


Organizations: Montreal Fringe

Geographic location: Montreal, Mile End, Lachine Canal South West

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