But the outdoor stages transform downtown Montreal’s Place des Arts (soon to be surrounded by an expanded Place des Festivals) into an immense block party that opens in leisurely fashion at midday for early risers. By evening, the area is hopping with free music on nearly a dozen stages. There’s one for the blues, one for world music, one primarily showcasing bop-oriented smaller groups from Canada, and several that mix the talent.
All told, there are more than 350 free outdoor concerts over the festival’s 12-day run. Sometimes they afford the opportunity to hear Canadian, European and Cuban groups of great quality who rarely play in the United States.
The most amazing part of the outdoor phenomenon is the mega-concerts and super-concerts on the primary stages that usually draw 100,000 or more fans. Some years, the crowd fills several huge blocks and has exceeded 200,000.
For this 30th year’s festival extravaganza, there will be five free “mega-concerts” in the Place des Festivals, as well as three free outdoor "super-concerts."
~ This year’s outdoor opener on Tuesday, June 30 will feature Stevie Wonder on the General Motors stage.
~ On Sunday, July 5 local singer-pianist Patrick Watson will be the Bell Special Event feature with string quartet, horns and several special guests, including Lhasa de Sela and Guy Nadon.
~On Tuesday, July 7 XM Radio Satellite presents the greatest names in Rocksteady - Ken Boothe, Stranger Cole, Hopeton Lewis, Leroy Sibbles and The Tamlins, as well as Bob Marley's onetime backup singers Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt in an event inspired by the documentary Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae.
~ On Sunday, July 12, the Rio Tinto Alcan Closing Event features two concert spectacles: Fiesta Cubana, with the Afro-Cuban All Stars and Los Van Van, and Ben Harper & Relentless7.
Also on tap are three extra outdoor super-concerts on the General Motors stage:
~ On July 3, the Florence K presents La Noche de Lola with jazz, bossa, blues and Cuban salsa.
~ On July 9, the rhythm shifts with the rumba flamenca of Jesse Cook and the Rumba Foundation as surprise guests.
~ On July 11, teenage vocal phenom Nikki Yanofsky, a Montreal festival darling for the past two years, will be featured.
Montreal does indeed know how to throw a block party. One of the most amazing occurred five years ago when the festival expanded the scope and shape of its largest outdoor stage for a grand event called “Soleil de Minuit,” celebrating the 20th anniversary of Montreal-based Cirque de Soleil and the 25th anniversary of the jazz festival.
Over the past decade, there has been at least one or two block-filling spectacular extravaganzas every year.
This year, there will be a handful. Bring lots of energy along with your enthusiasm.