Since the start of summer, optimism has been on the rise in Quebec’s cultural scene for a return to normal. Cases and hospitalizations fell fast and are now stagnating at a low non-threatening point; the vaccination program is going rather well, and the warmer weather makes people meet outside which greatly reduces the risks. Music festivals are taking place, and improvised concerts and raves are also happening daily. Even international artists are being announced for next fall and spring 2022. Live music is back in Quebec!
Music festivals are going ahead
Quebec music festivals are active: some already took place, like Canada’s biggest world music festival, Nuits d’Afrique in Montreal, or La Noce and Festival Santa Teresa in other parts of the province. Others are being held on as I type these words: indie-alternative Le Festif de Baie Saint-Paul with a local but very impressive lineup (Klô Pelgag, Men I Trust and more), or Piknic Electronic, Montreal’s biggest electronic music festival. The latter started with some local DJs, but a post by french artist N’to places him at Piknic on September 6. We can also expect many more to come throughout the summer, like the very eclectic Festival de Musiques Émergentes just announced its program The Jazz International Festival and the Francofolies de Montréal postponed to September, but will very likely take place. POP Montréal, the city’s most important festival for emerging artists, has stopped taking submissions and is building its program for its 20th anniversary. Only Osheaga decided to cancel altogether. However, the size and international reach of the festival makes it a sound decision to better prepare for next year. They did announce some great one-off shows though.
Improvised concerts and raves
Though not always legal, improvised concerts and raves are as crucial as festivals for emerging talents. Local artists have taken the initiative to do impromptu shows in parks. Shows in parks are safe as they are outdoor, and not announcing them mean that the crowd will be relatively small. The ones I had the chance to stumble upon had families with babies and younger persons alike attending. Furthermore, collectives -mostly from the electronic music scene- have started organising low-scale raves. They are more questionable legally but their importance is unmistakable for people’s mental health and joyfulness. While wearing mask is recommended on the dancefloor, people don’t really do it. The sanitary situation is so good in Quebec that doing so in parks presents a minimal risk. Transpire is one of the collectives that you can follow if you are into that, and the music they blast is perfect for a summer electro day.
Montreal big and mid-sized venues are already announcing international acts. Rather for the fall, when every Canadian will have had their two vaccine doses. What is interesting is that the government just scraped the two weeks quarantine for fully vaccinated people starting September. That month, Montreal will be lucky and host Dinosaur JR. and Soccer Mommy. Jungle and Lucy Dacus will perform in Quebec’s biggest city in October. In November, we will have Caribou, The Flaming Lips and Tinariwen. To finish the year in style, Alice Phoebe Lou will delight us with her magical voice. More are already announced for 2022, including The Killers and Billie Eilish. This is just the start, but we have a lot to look forward to. Live music is back in Quebec.
Live music in Quebec before 2020
Before the pandemic, Quebec was often a stop on most artist’s Eastern USA tours. Mostly in Montreal’s big venues and festivals (notably Osheaga), but also in other parts of the province, like the Festival d’Été de Québec. Commercial mastodons like Shakira, indie giants (Radiohead, Tame Impala etc.), but also more niche bands like Squarepusher and Theo Katzman. The local scene has also always been very active and impressive in its strenght and diversity. Quebec’s most famous band, Arcade Fire, hasn’t performed here since September 2017. A concert is overdue, and being among thousands of fans in front of our biggest musical pride would help us feel… normal.