Must-See Montreal Events in July 2018

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Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for July 2018:


Many top touring acts are headlining various Montreal concert venues this month. Highlights include the classic-rock double-header Styx + Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (Place Bell  on July 3),  Beck (Place Bell on July 10), Radiohead (July 16 and 17) at the downtown Bell Centre, New-Age maestro Yanni (Bell Centre on July 22), and Just For Laughs presents the much-anticipated Dave Chappelle & John Mayer: Controlled Danger concert at the Bell Centre on July 28.

There are more than 150 indoor concerts at the 39th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal which runs to July 7, notably jazz icon Herbie Hancock at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on July 2, the same night Boz Scaggs headlines Theatre Maisonneuve. Then on July 7,  jazz vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin – who received the festival’s Ella-Fitzgerald Award in 2003 – will headline the Maison symphonique de Montréal with his groundbreaking a cappella group Voicestra. Also, be sure to check out the many Montreal bands and musicians playing on the many free outdoor stages.

As part of Montréal’s Weekend du Monde series, the 37th annual Jamaica Day showcases live music all day at Parc Jean-Drapeau on July 7 from noon to 11 p.m. Jamaica Day will be hosted by King Shadrock and musical guests include Juno Award-winner Blessed, Dan “Fiyah” Beats, Fiyah Flames Band, The Fitz Patrick Sisters and others.

This year’s 32nd annual edition of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique showcases some 700 artists from 30 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, from July 10 to 22. This year’s official opening concert is by Nigeria’s Femi Kuti & The Positive Force, July 12 at MTelus, part of FINA’s Grand Événements Series which presents the top names on the international scene.

Outdoors, do not miss the many free concerts on the Parterre of the Quartier des spectacles from July 17 to 22, notably The Skatalites (July 17), arguably the greatest band to ever come out of Jamaica.

Don Letts will make his first Canadian appearance in a decade, at the '77 Montreal punk-rock festival

Don Letts will make his first Canadian appearance in a decade, at the ’77 Montreal punk-rock festival (Photo courtesy evenko)

Montreal’s kickass punk-rock festival ’77 Montreal returns to Parc Jean-Drapeau on July 27, and this year’s special guest is Don Letts, one of modern music’s most important and iconic figures. Don Letts will spin at Le Belmont on July 25, then host the Canadian premiere of his latest film Two Sevens Clash: Dread Meets Punk Rockers at the July 26 event Two Sevens Clash (Film) – Directed by Don Letts at Le Ministère.

In the late 1970s, Letts turned a generation of punks onto reggae and famously shot his first film The Punk Rock Movie on Super-8 mm. He has since directed numerous documentaries and feature films, as well as music videos for artists such as Bob Marley and The Wailers, The Clash and The Pretenders. In 2003, his documentary on The Clash Westway to the World won the Grammy for Best Music Film and his musical selections still reach new listeners on a weekly basis on his BBC 6 Music Culture Clash Radio show.

Also at Parc Jean-Drapeau, headliners at the two-day Heavy Montreal music festival on July 28 and 29 include Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Avenged Sevenfold.


The OSM in the Parks summer series presents the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal headlining a big free ashow at Parc Jarry on July 10 beginning at 7:30 pm. The OSM with conductor Adam Johnson will perform arias from Carmen, Romeo and Juliet, Tristan und Isolde, and many other works without intermission.

As part of the Campbell Concerts summer series, the Orchestre Métropolitain with Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin at the helm will present a free concert outside the Chalet du Mont-Royal on July 27 at 8 pm. Limited capacity, so get there early. Tchaikovsky is on the programme.


I really enjoyed the blockbuster Queens of Egypt exhibition at the Pointe-à-Callière Montréal Archaeology and History Complex. Visitors will travel back in time to Ancient Egypt where they will meet some remarkable women who became the Royal wives, mothers and daughters of the pharaohs.

Queens of Egypt features some 350 artifacts, including monumental statues, frescos, sarcophagi, a mummy, funerary objects and jewelry made of gold and semi-precious stones related to such legendary queens as Nefertari, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut. The layout is divided into six zones enhanced by animated murals – incredibly life-like projections created by Ubisoft – that transport visitors back in time and bring the exhibition to life. This must-see exhibition runs to November 4, but is a welcome summertime break if you are also looking for some air-conditioned comfort.

Over at the McCord Museum, Cristóbal Balenciaga – legendary Spanish fashion designer and founder of the Balenciaga fashion house – gets the career retrospective treatment in the North American premiere of Balenciaga, Master of Couture, a major fashion exhibition organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Over 100 haute-couture garments and hats are on display, plus sketches, photographs and fabric samples contextualize the garments and patterns, and x-rays, toiles and film reveal details in their construction and making. Balenciaga, Master of Couture runs at the McCord to October 14.


Michelle Rambharose (left) stars as Juliet and Shauna Thompson (right) stars as Romeo in Repercussion Theatre's Romeo and Juliet: Love is Love (Photo by Studio Baron Photo)

Michelle Rambharose (left) stars as Juliet and Shauna Thompson (right) stars as Romeo in Repercussion Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet: Love is Love (Photo by Studio Baron Photo)

For its 30th anniversary season, Repercussion Theatre presents Romeo & Juliet: Love is Love in Montreal parks from July 5 to August 8. It is The largest Shakespeare-in-the-Park tour that Repercussion Theatre has had in a decade, with 30 shows to mark the anniversary. The Montreal opening is July 6 at Mount Royal Cemetery. All shows begin at 7pm.

As usual, the troupe draw lots to decide who plays which roles and as luck would have it this time, Romeo and Juliet will be portrayed by women – Michelle Rambharose as Juliet and Shauna Thompson as Romeo – among other chance gender-bent character assignations.

Says director Amanda Kellock, “This play in particular has often had a ‘queer’ element to it, whether it was the Elizabethan custom of men portraying all of the female roles or the Cushman sisters in the 1800s, who took the world by storm with their interpretation of the play. It’s been such a joy to explore the various ways that identity and desire are experienced and expressed in our production. Wouldn’t it be great if the play finally taught us to let people love who they want to love?”

The superb cast also includes the wonderful Adam Capriolo, Ryan Bommarito, Ray Jacildo, Patrick Jeffrey, Gitanjali Jain, Cara Krisman, Anton May, Michelle Rambharose and Nadia Verrucci plays Lord Capulet.

As for rain cancellations, the tour is designed to be performed outdoors, however at several locations there are alternate indoor locations in walking distance of the respective park. A show is cancelled ONLY in case of heavy rain and/or thunderstorms. The phone line, website and the company’s social media channels are constantly updated. To stay abreast of last-minute changes to the performance schedule, call 514-931-2644 or follow Repercussion Theatre on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.

All shows begin at 7pm. For park details and maps, visit www.repercussiontheatre.com/rj-loveislove.


Soak up some sunshine, feast on island cuisine and dance to the riddims of the Caribbean when the Taste Of The Caribbean festival returns for its 19th annual edition at the Quai de l’Horloge (Clock Tower quay) in the Old Port of Montréal from July 12 to 15. Since this is TOTC’s Dance Edition (the live bands will return next year), organizers are focusing on Dance Crews who will host several dance workshops each day, and they have also booked top DJs to make you dance the night away on their Pepito Dance Floor – a 20’ x 20’ dance floor directly in front of the stage. The biggest attraction is four-time World Salsa Champions Adrianno Ieropoli and Samantha Scali, who will dance onstage on July 15.  For more information, visit totc.ca.

Piknic Électronik is a weekly electronic music festival which takes place every Sunday during the summer until September 30. The festival features local and international DJs and producers, abnd this year has moved to a bigger site in Parc Jean-Drapeau.


Montréal is lucky to still be home to a viable repertory theatre: Cinéma du Parc consistently programs an interesting variety of feature films and documentaries.

Continuing until July 7, director Sophie Fiennes’ must-see documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami (I saw it at the 2017 Image + Nation film festival) follows style and New Wave icon Grace Jones behind-the-scenes in a fascinating doc that took 10 years to make.

The Parc for Kids series presents The Sound of Music (July 14 and 15) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (July 21 and 22).

The 22nd edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival screens 125 features and 220 shorts at Concordia University from July 12 to August 2. The closing film is the much-anticipated Mandy starring Nicholas Cage. For more info, visit fantasiafestival.com.


Renowned Montreal writers H. Nigel Thomas, Horace Goddard and Maguy Métellus co-host Lectures Logos Readings, the monthly bilingual reading series of poetry, fiction and spoken word at the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A. Hall at 2741 Notre Dame St. W.) in Little Burgundy, July 9 from 7 to 9 pm. The guest readers this month are Michael Mirolla, Connie Guzzo McParland, Durga Chew-Bose and Yvonne Sam, followed by an open mic. The event is free, but a small donation is welcome.


Montreal's 43rd annual Carifiesta Parade runson July 7 (Photo by Seb oran)

Montreal’s 43rd annual Carifiesta Parade runs on July 7 (Photo by Seb oran)

Carifiesta is one of Montréal’s most colourful and exciting parades, featuring everything from steel-pan bands to participants dressed in costumes made of colourful feathers and bouncing fibreglass rods.

Carifiesta is a tradition born of slavery in Trinidad and Tobago, when French colonial masters hosted huge masquerade balls three days before Ash Wednesday. Slaves got a day off and mimicked their masters at their own parties, a tradition that morphed into Trinidad’s famed Carnival. That tradition migrated north to such cities as Miami, New York, Toronto and Montreal. This year’s 43rd annual Carifiesta parade begins at the corner of Guy Street and René-Levesque Blvd. at noon on July 7, then runs through downtown Montréal along René-Levesque Blvd. ending at Rue de Bleury.

Montreal’s Cavalia (see photo at top) presents their internationally-acclaimed show Odysseo under the world’s largest big-top tent on St-Catherine Street near the Jacques Cartier bridge, July 25 to September 3. Blending equestrian arts with imaginative stagecraft, acrobatic feats and cutting-edge technical effects, this multi-million dollar extravaganza expands the concept of the theatrical experience.

Meanwhile, Montréal Comiccon rolls out the red carpet for big-name stars from the worlds of science-fiction, fantasy, horror, video games and, of course, comic books, at the Palais des congrès from July 6 to 8. This year’s star-studded 10th edition will be the biggest Montréal Comiccon yet with more than 60,000 attendees, dozens of star guests, hundreds of exhibitors and some 150 activities over three days: Panels, workshops, concerts, improv, board games, screenings, autograph sessions, photo ops, cosplay and more.

ovmv7Kw4_400x400Some of the celebrities in attendance include The X-Files stars David Duchovny, pop icon Chuck Norris, Hollywood veteran Val Kilmer – who shot to fame opposite Tom Cruise in Top Gun, and starred as Batman in Batman Forever, global 1990s pin-up Pamela Anderson and one of Hollywood’s most exciting new leading men, Jason Momoa – known for his roles as iconic DC Comics superhero Aquaman in The Justice League as well as Khal Drogo in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

The 36th edition of the Just For Laughs Festival runs July 11 to 29 at various venues, including Club Soda which will host the ever-popular The Ethnic Show (July 11 to 26). One of the Ethnic Show co-stars is out Italian-American stand-up comic Matteo Lane who recently told me the comedy world has indeed become more welcoming of queer comics like himself.

“I feel like I have been accepted,” Lane recently told me. “I have encountered nothing but kindness and open arms. I am lucky being queer is not seen as a problem. People are increasingly interested in things we have to say and aren’t threatened by me talking about my life onstage. They may not know gay people personally, but by the end of my set, straight audiences realize we are more alike than they thought. This is the message I try to convey through humour.”

Matteo Lane is multi-tasking at Just For Laughs

Matteo Lane is multi-tasking at Just For Laughs

Lane also recreates one of Barbra Streisand’s live 1960 recordings, Live at Bon Soir, updated with his own flavour and stylings. Lane – who has also trained as an opera singer  –  hopes to capture Barbra’s unique essence before she became a household name, two nights only, July 23 and 24 at Montreal’s fabled Cleopatra’s, a showbar on the Main since 1897.

There are many galas as Just For Laughs, but one of the most promising is The Tiffany Haddish Gala hosted by comedy breakout sensation Tiffany Haddish on July 28. At press time, the show’s comedy line-up includes Fortune Feimster, Tony Rock, Lil Rel Howery, Gina Yashere, Derek Seguin and Nath Valvo.

Visit hahaha.com for all Just For Laughs concert dates.

Tiffany Haddish hosts gala at Just For Laughs

Tiffany Haddish hosts gala at Just For Laughs

In 2010, Montreal’s TOHU, Cirque Éloize, Les 7 doigts de la main, Cirque du Soleil, the National Circus School and En Piste created Montréal Complètement Cirque, the first North American international festival dedicated to circus arts.

The ninth edition of Montréal Complètement Cirque will transform parks throughout the city, as well as St‑Denis Street and Place Émilie-Gamelin in the Quartier des Spectacles, into an open-sky circus ring from July 5 to 15.  Click here for the free outdoor shows.

Last but not least, choice summertime destination Les Jardins Gamelin returns to Place Émilie-Gamelin at the western end of the Gay Village, just outside the Berri-UQAM metro station, to September 30.  Les Jardins Gamelin is essentially an oversize patio (or “terrasse” as locals call them) covered by a spectacular suspended sculpture that forms a luminous canopy.

The Jardins Gamelin opens daily at 7 am and features bar services at its snack bar, which opens weekdays from 11 am to 11 pm and from 9 am to 11 pm on weekends. Click here to check out the daily cultural programming, including renowned DJs and live performances. Free admission.


About Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett self-syndicated his national column Three Dollar Bill in over half of Canada’s alt-weeklies for 15 years, has been banned in Winnipeg, investigated by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary over charges TDB was “pornographic”, gotten death threats, outed politicians like former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair, been vilified in the pages of Jamaica’s national newspaper The Gleaner for criticizing anti-gay dancehall star Sizzla (who would go on to write the 2005 hit song “Nah Apologize” about Burnett and UK gay activist Peter Tatchell), pissed off BB King, crossed swords with Mordecai Richler, been screamed at backstage by Cyndi Lauper and got the last-ever sit-down interview with James Brown. Burnett was Editor-at-Large of HOUR until the Montreal alt-weekly folded in April 2011, is Editor-at-Large of The Charlebois Post (Canada), is a columnist and writer for both Fugues and Xtra, writes the POP TART blog for The Montreal Gazette, and is the pop culture pundit on The Barry Morgan Show every Friday from 8:30 – 9 pm on Montreal’s CJAD 800 AM Radio. Burnett was named one of Alberta-based Outlooks magazine’s Canadian Heroes of the Year in 2009, famed porn director Flash Conway dubbed Burnett “Canada’s bad boy syndicated gay columnist” and The Montreal Buzz says, “As Michael Musto is to New York City, Richard Burnett is to Montréal.”

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