Five Montreal festivals likely to take place in 2021

Nuits d'Afrique
Photo: Victor Rival. Provided by Nuits d'Afrique Productions.

Montreal 2021 festival season is as uncertain as last year. With all the information that we know coupled with some possible scenarios, we selected five festivals that might actually take place this summer.

The vaccine rollout in Quebec has been slow at the beginning but is pacing up and meeting its goals at the moment. It is even possible that they will be exceeded. A few days ago, the Province’s Premier announced that every adult that wishes it could be vaccinated by June 24. Every day, we hear about the variants but at the same time we have good news coming up: they have started vaccinating, private companies have been asked to do so and the vaccine delivery is finally at cruising speed. Although it will be with restrictions, venues were finally opening on March 26 after 6 months of no shows. With all of this in mind, it seems that only the biggest festivals that depend on tourists and foreign bands are at risk. Like Osheaga, even though they have announced their headliners. Here is how it could work out for five of the best Montreal festivals.

Festival International de Jazz de Montreal

Along with Osheaga, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal is one of the few that has actually announced names for its 2021 edition. A special performance of Ludovico Einaudi is scheduled for April 27, and many are also confirmed for the actual festival at the end of June and beginning of July. Gregory Porter, Joss Stone, Gogo Penguin are some of them. The festival being spread in various venues in Montreal for one week helps: even if the capacity had to be limited, it is still more achievable than a festival with an arena. It is easier to make everyone abide by the rules when it’s only for one (or two) concerts. At this point, people only want to watch their favorite acts live.

Update: the festival has moved to September. Most of the shows have either been cancelled or already have a new date for 2022. Maybe this edition will only consist of a local lineup. More details should emerge soon.

Nuits d’Afrique

The Festival International Nuits d’Afrique is a staple of Montreal summers. In 2020, they had to postpone from July to October. It gave them time to prepare a hybrid edition, but the physical festival was cut short after a few days because of new restrictions. Silver lining: it’s one of the few lucky festivals that had concerts with an attendance, in addition to the ten virtual shows. For the 2021 edition, that’s what Nuits d’Afrique told us: “This year, we are celebrating the 35th anniversary of the festival. It will be a hybrid edition with live concerts and virtual shows. While we are not expecting to book international artists, we are working on presenting their online concerts from previous editions.” More details should emerge as soon as the picture is clearer.

POP Montréal

POP Montréal is one of the few festivals that received a crowd for all of its shows, although with restrictions. Taking place in September, the organizers took advantage of the virus “off season”. They didn’t take any chance though and prepared for a hybrid edition: the shows were also livestreamed and available for a few months on Youtube. Eric Cazes, the festival’s Operational Director, tells us: “Yes, we will have celebrations for the 20th anniversary. At best, like in 2002. At worst, a hybrid edition like last year“. Optimistic but obviously cautious too. By fall, all American and Canadian citizens will have received their first vaccine dose, so we can at least hope for US acts.

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Festileaks Festivalvakantie 2022

Piknic Electronik

Piknic Electonik 2019 - Montreal Festivals 2021
Photo: Matts Milenot

Piknic Electronik is the electronic summer festival by excellence. An oasis of music and sunset atmosphere, taking place during the weekends. Top international acts and local talents perform on two open-air stages, on an island next to the city center. When asked for a comment on the 2021 edition, they simply said that it was too soon to tell, and that they were monitoring the situation closely. It’s the safest and most honest answer given the parameters. In February, Igloofest, by the same organizers, took place virtually. Five week-ends of top Montreal artists in iconic locations. We want to be optimistic and expect some sort of physical festival, but we are confident that even if they go with livestreams, they will deliver!

MUTEK Montreal 2021

MUTEK is a festival of digital creativity and electronic music. In 2020, they went ahead with a free hybrid edition. Taking place in September, it had the chance to have actual shows. In parallel, its positioning in the virtual world gave it an edge in a year of pandemic. In addition to the many talented local musicians, MUTEK streamed shows from Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Tokyo and other cities where the international festival also has foot. The program was eclectic, with everything electronic ranging from experimental to pop. They also presented virtually some VR and 360° artworks, some masterclasses and presentations. So, almost like a normal year. We can expect at least the same for this summer.

Akram is a 26yo living in Montréal. After visiting Sziget Festival in 2014 (and 2015, and 2016), his love for live music started ascending and is yet to peak. His favorite bands are Arcade Fire, Radiohead, M83, Big Thief, Beach House, Sufjan Stevens...