Even if it were plagued with locusts during a hailstorm, Montreal would still be a fun city. Add in some of music’s biggest names over two weeks and you’ve got a party of biblical proportions. That pretty much sums up the city’s annual Jazz Festival and, with the likes of Rufus Wainwright, Lauryn Hill, and Noel Gallagher making stops in la belle province, the 2016 edition was no exception.
Friday kicked off with mesmeric talents of Montreal’s own Bellflower, an eight-person collective that uses any manner of instrument (we counted at least 20 on stage) to weave a tightly-knitted blanket of sound. With so many musicians and so many sounds, the occasional miscue would be expected but Bellflower’s vocal harmonies, horn section, and rhythms were in total sync to the degree they earned a standing ovation from the 100-odd in attendance at the Savoy du Metropolis — a rarity for so nascent a band. Visit the band’s BandCamp page to give their second album, The Season Spell, a listen.
The night then turned to a more established band in Peter, Bjorn & John — the Swedish trio who turned the world into whistleblowers with their 2006 indie hit “Young Folks”. Hot on the heels of the release of their new album, Breakin’ Point, the band compiled a setlist of new songs and yesteryear’s fan-favourites. Though the audience at Club Soda danced throughout, their cheers reached a zenith whenever frontman Peter jumped down from the stage and walked amongst them, then jumped back on stage (with a little help from those in the front row) and seamlessly thrashed about on his guitar, culminating in a Pete Townshend windmill.
What makes the Montreal Jazz Festival so inclusive is the zone pietonne — a pedestrian-only stretch of downtown sectioned off and filled with stages and stalls selling their wares. Flâneurs of all ages can take in the sights and sounds and be exposed to music they perhaps wouldn’t normally open their ear to. Taking advantage of this were Toronto’s The Darcys, who played the enviable 10 p.m. slot on Saturday night. The art-rock duo’s high-octane set brought people from far and wide as the space in front of the massive Turkish Airlines stage filled up with Montrealers eager to hear more.
For more from the Jazz Festival watch this recap of all the action of the two weeks. And mark it in your calendars: the 2017 edition runs June 29-July 8!