Wacky and weird

The Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival celebrates a decade of existence

Free Jazz legends Globe Unity Orchestra will play their first Canadian performance at the Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival.
Freaky, psychedelic band Pocahaunted bring the pow wow to Montreal.

Among the bigwigs of Montreal’s summer music festivals—ahem, Montreal Jazz Festival—stands a small but significant festival that is as wacky and interesting as its name. The Suoni Per Il Popolo festival is gracing Montreal with its tenth year with an odd lineup of mysterious and obscure acts.

The festival takes place from June 6 to June 26. Suoni Per Il Popolo takes place at La Sala Rossa, Casa Del Popolo, Il Motore, and Club Soda, all relatively small venues that add to the overall intimacy between the musicians and the audience.

“The music we program [makes us stand out from other festivals], cause no one is programming this type of experimental, avant-garde music,” said Artistic Director Steve Guimond. “The festival kind of takes on its own life. Certain types of sounds are represented more each year. For instance, this year for some reason it’s a lot of electronic music. Two years ago there tended to be a lot of freaky folk. But that just happens sort of organically.”

As Guimond explained, “We are a corporate free festival, which is pretty rare these days. If you look at all the festivals around it’s always the ‘Something-Something’ festival. We are the Suoni Per Il Popolo festival.”

The festival does, however, accept support from the small St. Ambroise Brewery.
“That’s always been the philosophy behind the festival,” said Guimond. “It’s about the music. It’s not about selling a product.”

The Suoni festival collaborates with other small, local organizations dedicated to music such as Blue Skies Turn Black and the Pirates of the Lachine Canal. Local artists provide the visual ambiance to the venues. This all adds to the hotpot of local, independent Montrealers that the Suoni festival embraces as partners.

“Part of our philosophy has always been to build this sort of community,” Guimond said. “It always comes down to the art and the artist and the music and friendships that emerge from that.”

This is Guimond’s fifth year with the festival. He attributes his vast musical taste to working at a community radio background that exposed him to “a lot of music for a lot of years.”

If it’s not in its lack of corporate sponsorship, the Suoni Per Il Popolo festival stands apart in its programming. It is improbable that you would recognize more than three names on their lineup. “We only really program independent artists,” explained Guimond.

This year the festival offers an array of music – a diversity that will draw people of all ages and tastes together. “The thing that’s cool about the festival is that lots of different audiences come together. We’ve seen particularly at the free jazz shows we have people from 18 years old all the way up 70 years old,” Guimond explained.

The free jazz shows –that is, improvised jazz–is something that, as Guimond said, is at the heart of the festival. The founders of the festival, who also founded the festival’s venues Casa del Popolo and Sala Rossa, began the festival as a platform for free jazz–a genre that nobody was presenting.

“The Montreal Jazz Festival stepped away from some of the free jazz artists. So it was a void that needed to be filled [because] there is a huge audience for that kind of music. In that sense, free jazz is kind of the back bone that [Suoni] branches out of,” said Guimond.

What’s happened with Suoni over the past 10 years? “Well, it’s definitely evolved. We try and make the program stronger every year. I think it’s just gotten better and more representative of different perspectives.”

_The Suoni Per Il Popolo begins on June 6 and ends June 26. For a full listing of shows visit their website

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 1, published June 11, 2010.