Back in the mid-1980s – 30-something years ago – when I was running the Golem, a highly regarded folk concert venue in Montreal, I formed a committee with several like-minded people and attempted to launch a folk festival in Montreal. Despite our best efforts, it never happened.
Jump ahead more than a couple of decades to 2008 and Matt Large and Rebecca Anderson of Hello Darlin’ Productions – by then well-established as Montreal’s major producer of folk-rooted and folk-branched concerts – joined forces with Carl Comeau of Hyperbole Music and launched the Montreal Folk Fest on the Canal. Matt, Rebecca and Carl made a folk festival happen in Montreal – and it has developed into a terrific summer festival.
The festival started modestly with its main site for the first four years at the St. Ambroise Terrace behind the McCauslin Brewery beside the Lachine Canal. By 2012, the folk fest had outgrown the terrace and moved a mile or so east on the Lachine Canal to a bigger site at Ilot Charlevoix. And, by 2015, they’d also outgrown that site and moved further west on the banks of the canal to the more expansive Centennial Esplanade near the corner of Saint Patrick and Pitt Streets in the Lachine Canal Park. The festival returns there in a couple of weeks for its 10th annual edition.
Before getting to the park, though, the Montreal Folk Fest on the Canal launches with three indoor events in venues close to the canal.
First up is an opening party on Wednesday, June 14, 7 pm, at Bar de Courcelle (4685 Notre Dame West). The free event features music by the Off-Whites.
Then, on Thursday, June 15, 8 pm, there are two simultaneous multi-artist tribute concerts.
At Maison de la culture Marie-Uguay (6052 Monk) there will be “Ain’t Life Sweet: A Tribute to Penny Lang,” the late doyenne of the Montreal folk scene who passed away last year. The amazing line-up of artists paying tribute to Penny will include Annabelle Chvostek, Eve Goldberg, the Durham County Poets, Michael Jerome Browne, Jason Lang & Scudfux, Bobby Dove, Connie Kaldor, Bill Garrett & Sue Lothrop & Roma Baran, and Dana Whittle & Béatrix Méthé. I have to be in Ottawa that night, but it’s an evening I would not miss if I could be in Montreal. Tickets are available at this link.
Meanwhile, at Théâtre Pardoxe, there will be a concert called “Always On My Mind: The Songs of Willie Nelson” with Joe Grass, Jim Bryson, Li’l Andy, Katie Moore, Andrew Horton, Sin and Swoon, Thus Owls and more. Tickets are available at this link.
Then on Friday, June 16 (beginning at 5 pm), Saturday, June 17 (beginning at 2 pm) and Sunday, June 18 (beginning at 2 pm), the music will be in high gear on three stages at the main festival site where general admission is free of charge (tickets are available for the shaded, perk-filled, VIP section at the main stage at this link).
I won’t list the entire lineup here (check out who is performing and the schedule on the festival website at this link) but among Friday’s highlights on the main stage will be Steve Poltz, Birds of Chicago and Donovan Woods. Saturday’s highlights on the main stage will include Beyond the Pale, William Prince, James Keelaghan, and Michael Jerome Browne. And, Sunday’s highlights on the main stage will include Amanda Rheaume, Les Tireux d’Roches and Sarah Harmer.
I’ve been one of the main stage MCs at the Montreal Folk Fest on the Canal almost every year (I couldn’t be there in 2012) and I’m looking forward to be back again this year on Saturday, June 17. Please say hi if you’re around.
Congratulations to Matt, Rebecca, Carl, and the great crew of volunteers, for 10 years of the Montreal Folk Fest on the Canal – now, by far, my favorite annual event in Montreal.