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Island in the sun

Osheaga, Piknic Electronik, MUTEK, Fringe Festival, Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, Festival TransAmériques


As this music festival nears its seventh birthday, it seems that the name ‘Osheaga’ has permanently entered Montreal’s music vocabulary and is now walking the fine line to becoming a summertime cliché. With the promise of offering a “world-class European-style” event, the Osheaga music and arts festival stands as the largest festival of its kind in Canada. It will be taking place amongst the stunning greenery of Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte-Hélène.

This year’s headlining artists span a spectrum of musical genres. From indie rock to hip hop, the 2013 lineup brings together numerous favourites from around the globe, making it surely impossible to see it all. Headliners include The Cure, Phoenix, Mumford and Sons, Beach House, New Order, Vampire Weekend, and Kendrick Lamar, with many more such as Florence and the Machine and The Weeknd likely to be announced in the coming weeks.

Fresh and local bands not to be missed include electronic music group A Tribe Called Red, who blend instrumental hip hop, reggae, and dubstep-influenced dance music with elements of traditional First Nations music, particularly vocal drumming and chanting. From the international music scene, Osheaga has plucked artists such as American rapper and lyricist Azealia Banks, England’s folk punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner, and Ireland’s indietronica group Nightbox. The festival also caters to those sporting a twin fetish, featuring the indie rock sister act Tegan and Sara as well as the electro-house EC Twins.

With three-day festival passes starting at $235, and a range of corporate sponsors that reads like a brand-recognition eye exam (H&M, Bacardi, Coca Cola), this crown jewel of Canada’s mainstream-for-the-cool-kids music scene better deliver. Osheaga will run from August 2 to 4.


Piknic Electronik

Enjoy jamming to electronic beats? If so, keep your eyes (and ears of course) open for this year’s tenth edition of Piknic Electronik at Parc Jean-Drapeau. An electronic music fest that runs every summer from May to September, Piknic invites you to check out a host of DJs, both international and local, who play an eclectic array of beats every Sunday evening. Think of it as the warm-weather alternative to Igloofest, where you get to bask in the long-awaited heat of summer and admire a snow-free Montreal. And seeing as it’s a family-oriented event where all ages are welcome, kids, parents, and grandparents are all invited to jam along (granted, just how much fun they would be having is questionable). Whether you’re done with school for the year, done for life, or have the misfortune of taking summer classes, why not kick start the impending warm season with a visit to Piknic?

Piknic Electronik will run from May 19 to September 22. Tickets are $12.



On its website, MUTEK describes itself as an “international festival of digital creativity and electronic music.” The MUTEK festival will showcase “sound, music, and audio-visual art.” MUTEK aims to be at the forefront of innovation, supporting emerging voices and presenting festival-goers with unique audio and visual experiences. For its 14th edition, MUTEK will feature both local and international artists, from electronic stars to budding newcomers. The ‘mu’ in MUTEK derives from the word ‘mutation’, reflecting this festival’s effort to embrace and stimulate creativity. From house to IDM to instrumental hip hop, MUTEK spans a wide range of electronic styles.

Artists performing at MUTEK range from the straight-dance-based DJs of yesteryear to more pop, funk, and minimal artists. Matthew Herbert, a British electronic musician, will be performing at MUTEK for the first time since 2005. Herbert, as he’s commonly known, was a legendary figure on the 1990s house music circuit, and his set will likely reflect that. Jamie Lidell, whose output spans electronic dance and more traditional, vocal-based pop music, promises to be more conventionally accessible for those festival-goers who aren’t as used to club settings. Andy Stott from the UK and Moritz von Oswald from Germany will round out the bill with their moody, minimal techno. With shows performed in larger venues such as Metropolis and SAT, MUTEK promises to facilitate the mood with immersive visuals and enthusiastic crowds.

Passes for the entire five days of the festival are $200, with weekend passes running at $120. This year’s individual ticket prices have not been announced, but will probably range from completely free to $40. Individual tickets will go on sale April 9. MUTEK will run from May 29 to June 2.


Fringe Festival

Populism and the arts had a baby, and they called it the Fringe Festival. Created in 1947 by artists who, feeling they were being excluded from the Edinburgh International Festival, decided they were going to have their own party and none of you jerks are invited so there, this intercontinental phenomenon is now in its 21st year in Montreal. Artists from the worlds of music, comedy, dance, and theatre are selected by lottery (albeit a lottery slightly tweaked to favour Quebec artists), and given censorship-free run of venues in the Plateau Mont-Royal, Mile End, and downtown areas. This year Fringe will feature such colourfully-named acts as Fuck You! You fucking Perv! (a performance piece by artist Leslie Baker, involving confrontational tap dancing and off-colour humour), How to be a terrorist (a solo show by Jimmy Grzelak, which is about the Boy Scouts of America), and FASTER Presents: The Elephant in the Room (a “modern day musical fairytale”).

Prices will vary for individual events, but a three-day pass is available for $30. The Fringe Festival will run from June 4 to 24.


Festival International Nuits d’Afrique

Since 1987, the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique has brought together the best of old and new musical traditions from across Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. This year, the festival will be taking place in venues dotted across Montreal. With a strong commitment to showcasing top artistic talent, the festival has brought together many of the world’s greatest and most passionate performers, enabling it to remain at the forefront of artistic creativity. This year, the festival is offering a record number of 91 shows and workshops produced and given by more than 500 artists from 32 countries. Nuits d’Afrique is an affordable way to experience the music, culture, and personality of dozens of countries around the globe without the airports and jet lag.

The festival lets you pick and choose which events to attend, with packages of three shows on sale for $70 and five shows for $100. For those travelers on a tighter budget, the festival will also be offering a selection of free concerts between July 19 and 21.


Festival TransAmériques 

The Festival TransAmériques (FTA) describes itself as “multilingual, hybrid, [and] festive.” Combining dance, performance art, and theatre, often in a single  performance, FTA evidences the collaborative potential of the contemporary art world. The FTA’s mission for community outreach means meetings with the festival’s featured artists, workshops, and free parties are also included in its programming.

FTA’s programming is not only entertaining, but often includes relevant social and political critique. Take “Dachshund UN,” a performance installation by Australian artist Bennett Miller, featuring volunteer dachshunds sitting at a model United Nations. Quirky, yes. But, according to Miller, also a representation of the interaction, unpredictability, and racial diversity of the actual UN. Or Johannesburg-based choreographer Robyn Orlin’s piece “Beauty remained for just a moment then returned gently to her starting position…” which offers a critique of South African society. Besides its inclusion of international artists, the FTA also showcases local talent such as Montreal performance artist Dana Michel, who will be presenting “Yellow Towel,” an exploration of stereotypes of black culture.

FTA events are mostly spread out across the Plateau Mont-Royal and downtown area in venues including Monument National, Centre Phi, and the outdoor Place des Festivals. Some of the shows can be pricey, with tickets up to $60, though festival-goers can purchase packages at discounted rates. FTA runs from May 22 to June 8.


Suoni Per Il Popolo

Does your music collection tend toward the obscure? Do the sounds of strange instruments – or normal instruments used in innovative ways – make you wide-eyed with awe? If the answer is yes, head out to music festival Suoni Per Il Popolo. Self-described as showcasing “avant garde” and “experimental”sounds, Suoni Per Il Popolo promises to deliver all of the strange and the obscure without any of the pretension.

Suoni Per Il Popolo will take place from June 5 to 22 throughout some of the city’s best small music venues, including Sala Rossa, Casa del Popolo, and Il Motore. The festival’s website organizes its artists by genre, ranging from “hip hop” to “contemporary classical” to “noise.” With many shows in the $10-20 range, it’s the ideal opportunity to catch a glimpse of something unique without shelling out too much hard-earned cash. If money is no object, there is also the $200 festival pass, providing unlimited access to experimental soundscapes for the entire eighteen days of Suoni.

For those who dig anything folksy, be sure to check out The Black Twig Pickers for a thorough dose of Appalachian-inspired harmonica and banjo. If dark, apocalyptic droning is more of your thing, San Francisco’s The Soft Moon will leave you equally impressed and unsettled. Nouveau jazz libre du Québec, formed in the 1960s, provides a not-so-quiet reaction to the Quiet Revolution.

If you’re not here during the summer, check out one of Suoni’s off-season shows. On April 30, He’s My Brother She’s My Sister will be playing at Casa del Popolo. This show should be perfect for anyone searching for a interesting mix: the band’s song “Clackin’ Heels” contains guitar, cello, multiple vocals, and the sound of one of the members tap dancing.



If you want to spend the first week of May floating around a digital soundscape, check out Elektra, a Montreal festival of the digital arts happening from May 1-5. Two elements – “electronic music” and “visual creations” – fuse to form the basis of the festival. In its fourteenth year, the festival attracts acts from all over the world, but also strives to include local Montreal artists.

The festival’s goal is to explore the new opportunities that technological advances bring to digital art. This year’s theme, “ANTI/MATTER,” asks the visitor to dive into a profound philosophical pool of sound, graphics, and light. It is not merely a spectator event, as evidenced by one of the festival’s key components – the International Marketplace for Digital Arts. The IMDA is an opportunity for collaboration and inspiration, giving budding electronic musicians with a penchant for design a chance find like-minded artists.

One of this year’s headliners is ATOM™, the mastermind also known as Uwe Schmidt. The German musician and composer, praised by Wikipedia as the “father of electrolatino, electrogospel and aciton (acid-reggaeton),” will perform his newest album, HD, accompanied with wild visuals. Schmidt describes his creation as “spiritual, musical and scientific” all at the same time. If you seek satisfaction for the mind, soul, and ears, make your way to ATOM™ on Friday, May 3.