Posts tagged ‘festival’

July 1, 2013

Montreal Jazz Fest keeps going strong

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Feist opened the 2013 Montreal Jazz Fest with a free show. (Adrian Brijbassi photo)

[First published in Vacay.ca on June 30, 2013]

MONTREAL, QUEBEC — In a city that very well may be the festival capital of North America, the annual event that started on Friday night stands above the rest. It’s not that the Montreal Jazz Fest’s lineup features the biggest names in music — the superb Osheaga festival that runs August 2-4 this year has a more star-studded roster — or the most unique venues and program.

The Jazz Fest remains worthy of reverence for the same reason any great event or attraction would. It has built up years, 34 of them, of credibility and notoriety. Its 25th anniversary edition in 2004 drew 250,000 people for its finale, a Cirque du Soleilperformance that celebrated that circus troupe’s 20th year, and earned the event a Guinness Book of World Records‘ mark for largest jazz festival on the planet. Since Ray Charles headlined the first edition in 1980, the Montreal Jazz Fest has grown into a calendar event, an annual occasion that your mind makes note of every June. You know the Montreal Jazz Fest means something, just like you know theToronto International Film Festival or Tour de France or Rio Carnival mean something, even if you’ve never been.

What the Jazz Fest means to Montreal is approximately $125 million in economic impact each year. It employs 2,500 people during its 10-day run and attracts more than 1 million people, roughly a third of them from outside of the metropolitan area. It is also traditionally considered the event that kicks off festival season in Montreal, a city that rolls out good times like no other North American centre other than New Orleans. Following the Jazz Fest is the Just for Laughs comedy festival, the delightful Circus Festival, Osheaga, the underrated Reggae Fest that’s in its 10th year, Pop Montreal, a world film festival, and on and on right into the new year when the 30-year-old Snow Fest and IglooFest, billed as “the world’s coldest rave,” serve as opening acts to the Montreal en Lumière Festival that fills the cold winter nights with dance, song, and plenty of cups of hot chocolate, many of them spiked.

While the likes of Charles and Stevie Wonder have opened the festival, the event for the past two years has featured Canadian talent on the first night. Rufus Wainwright kicked things off in 2012 and this year’s edition starred Feist, who played a free show for more than 100,000 people in Places des Festivals, a square outside of the Contemporary Museum of Art and the concert hall, Place des Arts.

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March 13, 2012

2012 Canadian Music Week Preview: Who to see in Toronto

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Blackie and The Rodeo Kings play Massey Hall during Canadian Music Week in Toronto. (Julia Pelish photo)

TORONTO — Canadian Music Week keeps reaching higher and for its 30th year it will ascend as high as it can get. The kick-off celebration to Canada’s largest music event will take place at the CN Tower — 1,815 feet up.

East coast rockers the Joel Plaskett Emergency are the headliner for the March 21 opening show, which will jump start a five-day celebration of music, art, film and, for the first time, comedy.

“Music promoters seem to be promoting comedy more and more. A goal of the festival is that we always want to stay current and we wanted to add Canada’s premier comedy festival to our list,” festival coordinator Zach Gordensky told me.

The event features industry seminars, a digital workshop, the Indie music awards, and musicians from 40 countries. Although there are usually some big names, including Slash this year, the festival isn’t known for attracting major acts. It’s a showcase of new music and that’s one of the reasons why it doesn’t get nearly as much media attention as it deserves. I’ve been attending the festival for the past three years, since returning to Toronto, and it’s one of the most underrated big events in the country. With a $75 wristband, you can get into see dozens of fantastic performances from emerging artists throughout the week. You’ll also get to experience some of Toronto’s best and most intimate music venues, including the Dakota Tavern and the Piston.

With close to 1,000 bands, 800 media members, 500 industry attendees, and between 125,000 and 150,000 fans, Canadian Music Week and its festival lineup have an immense economic impact on Toronto each year.

“There’s been a lot of hard work and people dedicated to building this thing up. It’s pretty impressive for me to work with something with such a long legacy,” says Gordensky, who’s been aboard for a couple of years.

He says he’s excited to see Bear Hands, a Brooklyn band, and Etobicoke’s Cold Specks (aka Al Spx), who was recently on Jools Holland’s show in the UK.

As for the show at the CN Tower, Gordensky says the plans fell into place easily. “The CN Tower is excited to be on board, we’re excited to be doing it,” he says. “It’s the first time we’re putting bands up there. It’s the highest point in Toronto, the highest point in Canada, so we expect it’ll be a really great show.”

In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Canadian Music Week, here’s the list of Vacay.ca’s Top 30 Must-See CMW Performances, broken down between Canadian and International acts. For a full schedule, visit the festival’s website.

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