Keeping up with Montreal’s festivities
How the festival scene made its comeback
This summer, the regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic lifted enough to allow for interactive summer activities. New advisories prompted some festival organizers to create a hybrid festival, meaning the festivals included both online and live events, like the hybrid Just for Laughs festival, Festival International Nuits d'Afrique, Piknic Électronik, and Festival Mtl en Arts.
One festival that embraced the new hybrid format was the Just for Laughs festival, which gave its audience the option to stream almost all of its shows for free on hahaha.com.
Their programming included a wide range of stand-up comedians, stars, and new talent. The organizers were also able to incorporate online stand-up shows from L.A. and New York, alongside local performances from Montreal. The festival also added in-person shows throughout the city at a limited capacity to abide by all COVID regulations.
“Last year’s first-ever JFL digital festival in October was very successful, and is what inspired us to continue with a hybrid version for this year,” said Robyn Kaszor, vice president of the JFL festival.
“Our comedy fans are very loyal, and we wanted to provide them with the best comedy content possible while adhering to the restrictions in place.”
The Festival International Nuits d'Afrique was another event which took to the hybrid format. This summer, they held their 35th edition where they celebrated African, Latin, and Caribbean music. The festival included indoor, outdoor, and webcast programming.
Piknic Électronik, Montreal’s beloved electronic music event, was brought back to life with events every Saturday and Sunday. The festival runs from July 3 until Oct. 10.
One of the many people who attended Piknic Électronik this summer was high school teacher Maria Rizk, who was thrilled to see the festival back in full swing.
“This is what gives Montreal life in the summer. I feel great about it being back,” said Rizk. “I feel like there needs to be a significant effort to bring other events back to the city.”
Festival Mtl en Arts held virtual and on-site components for their art event which featured over 160 artists. The festival’s objective, which started in 2000, is to allow artists to develop and share their work in a public space, specifically the streets of Montreal where passersby can view each piece for themselves. The 2021 virtual expo can still be found on their website.
Festivals weren’t the only ones using online events to their advantage this summer. During the quarantine last year, Montreal DJ BREEZ was able to perform via live streams, which his fans loved.
“The feedback was awesome. Each stream kept getting bigger and better. We would have local talent contact us for opportunities to join,” the DJ said.
The streams gave DJ BREEZ the opportunity to collaborate with Showkase, a production team that puts on dance and music events.
“The number one thing I tell everyone about performing live is the crowd energy you get from each show,” he added, talking about the downfalls of streaming. “Nothing can replace that feeling. You can take away the money and the bottle service and all, but at the end, when you see a crowd of over 2,500 people dancing to the music you’re playing, it’s by far the best feeling in the world.”
While many festival organizers tried to make their events accessible even with COVID-19 implications, there were still many cancellations.
The Osheaga Music and Arts Festival, arguably one of the biggest festivals in the city, was cancelled for the second year in a row.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival was scheduled for later this fall as opposed to their usual summer schedule.
“You can take away the money and the bottle service and all, but at the end, when you see a crowd of over 2,500 people dancing to the music you’re playing, it’s by far the best feeling in the world.” — DJ BREEZ
The LASSO Montréal country music festival was cancelled for a second summer again, and the organizers state it will now take place on Aug. 12-13 in 2022.
John Vowles, a student and photographer from Montreal, said he missed out on several social and professional opportunities these past two summers due to festival cancellations.
“I missed out on many jobs this summer,” he said. “I mostly do portrait photography and wanted the opportunity to shoot events”
Outdoor festivals are a great opportunity for photographers to get pictures of performers, but with many events moving online, this was not an option for Vowles. Still, Vowles hopes to attend Île Soniq, but mentioned how he would have preferred to photograph the lineup from the Osheaga Festival.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 restrictions continue to change according to ever-changing health recommendations. Montrealers can look forward to some events still to come this year, such as Île Soniq, which is happening Sept. 24-26 at Parc Jean-Drapeau. The Montreal International Jazz Festival is set to take place Sept. 15-19 at Place des Festivals. With Canada’s vaccine rollout plan well underway, festival organizers and supporters can look forward to the possibility of more events to come.
This article originally appeared in The Reorientation Issue, published September 7, 2021.