Growing slowly-but-surely over the past eight years, Montreal’s Folk Fest on the Canal, has matured into my favorite summertime event in Montreal. Staged on a much smaller and much more human scale than massive events like the jazz festival, this year’s edition of the Folk Fest on the Canal promises to be among its best yet.
Montreal’s Folk Festival on the Canal will include several indoor concerts in venues near the Lachine Canal and a weekend of free music on its banks. This year’s free events are taking place at a new location in the Lachine Canal Park – the Centennial Esplanade near the corner of Saint Patrick and Pitt Streets, about 1.5 km west of the old site.
The festival opens with legendary folksinger Tom Rush in concert on Wednesday, June 17, 8:00 pm, at the George Vanier Cultural Centre (2450 Workman).
As I noted in my review of Tom Rush Celebrates 50 Years of Music, Tom’s early Prestige and Elektra albums were among the first albums I bought when I was getting heavily into folk music in the late-1960s. So, while I’m a little young to have picked up on Tom right at the beginning of his career, I have been listening to Tom for a very long time. I still listen to those early recordings and to all the rest he’s made over the years.
Tom’s concerts are legendary and are always a great event. I’ve seen him a bunch of times at folk festivals over the years and I still vividly remember a series of four concerts I got to see him do at the Bottom Line in New York, circa 1978. And this will apparently be Tom's first Montreal performance since a concert for the Folk Music Club at Sir George Williams University in the mid-1960s – so this concert will be a rare event.
That same night, Montreal’s Echo Hunters will perform at Victor Studio (1050 Lacasse) at 8:00 pm.
On Thursday, June 18, 8:00 pm, Alex Cuba, will bring his rootsy Cuban songs and outstanding guitar playing to the Corona Theatre (2490 Notre Dame West).
On Friday, June 19, 9:00 pm, legendary Canadian singer-songwriter-guitarist Bruce Cockburn will perform at the Paradoxe Theatre (5959 Monk).
As I noted, in my review of Small Source of Comfort, Bruce’s music has also been a major part of my musical life for a very long time. I first saw him live in Montreal at the short-lived Back Door Coffee House in 1970 or ’71, right around the time his first LP came out. I’ve seen Bruce play dozens of times since then in venues small and large and every concert has been a compelling experience.
Also on Friday, June 19, from 4:00 pm and again Saturday and Sunday, June 20 and 21, the festival shifts to Centennial Esplanade (corner of St. Patrick and Pitt) for lots of concerts and other activities – all free of charge – featuring a diverse selection of artists, many of whom are new to me.
Highlights of the Friday schedule at Centennial Esplanade includes a concert by the terrific Acadian band Vishten and their contemporary approach to traditional music.
Among the Saturday highlights are concerts with The Bombardils, Sin and Swoon, The Stray Birds, and Basia Bulat. The Saturday concert I’m most looking forward to is with Michael Hurley, an obscure but legendary figure from the 1960s and ‘70s folk scene.
Sunday’s highlights includes concerts with The Slocan Ramblers, Sarah Jane Scouten, Peter Katz, and Jim Bryson.
Congratulations to Matt Large and Rebecca Anderson of Hello Darlin’ Productions and Carl Comeau of Hyperbole Music for founding the Montreal Folk Fest on the Canal and developing it into the great event it has become.