This week Montreal plays host to the Folk Fest which, in my humble opinion, is the festival this summer that does the best job of combining music and sitting outside on the grass. The peanut butter and jelly of outdoor fests. FTB has already reviewed the fest as a whole last year, so in this post we will be highlighting five performances to look out for.

The main location for the fest is right on the canal, it’s a whole lot more than just music, it’s family friendly, they sell beer, the weather is supposed to be amazing and it’s free! I just planned your whole weekend for you, you’re welcome.

Street Meat

What better way to kick the folking weekend off right then to head down to the canal right at 5pm on Friday and check out Street Meat on the Main Stage. This local trio combines a gypsy-jazz style of music with a busker-punk rock attitude, which should lend a bit of clarity to their band name.

While the band’s roots might be in playing street corners and metro stations, it’s nice to see them get the recognition they deserve (and an actual stage)!

Street Meat play Folk Fest Main Stage, Centennial Esplanade (St. Patrick and Pitt), Friday, June 17th, 5:00 pm, free.

A Long, Strange Trip : Songs of the Grateful Dead

While the majority of the festival takes place outdoors on the canal there are a number of showcase events taking place in concert venues in the evenings. One such show is taking place on Friday where a whole host of artists will be paying tribute to the Grateful Dead.

So far the announced lineup includes Joe Grass, Andrew Barr, Brad Barr, Steve Hill, Katie Moore, Li’l Andy, Peter Mika, Colin Perry, Notre Dame de Grass as well as my favorite act “and many more” who seem to show up at every single big gala event I’ve ever heard of.

Tribute to The Grateful Dead plays Théâtre Paradoxe, 5959 Monk, Friday, June 17th, 9:00 pm (Doors at 8:30), $35, tickets available through Théâtre Paradoxe box office.

Sharon and Bram

With Folk Fest being very much an event for the whole family what better act to have on Saturday afternoon than music legends Sharon and Bram. Starting back in 1978 with folk based children’s songs this Juno award winning…. wait what am I doing, if you don’t know who they are then I’m sorry I can’t help you this column isn’t long enough to write their bio let alone explain the significance their songs hold to many Canadians.

Here’s the super short version: skinnamarink. Old or young everyone will be singing along in the sun and for those without children let me just say that this is a show for children “of all ages.”

Sharon and Bram play Folk Fest Main Stage, Centennial Esplanade (St. Patrick and Pitt), Saturday, June 18th, 3:00 pm, free.

Bloodshot Bill

One of the best aspects of the outdoor performances at Centennial Esplanade is that for most of the day you have three different stages to choose from. While the Main Stage might be the big draw, some of the performances on the Montreal and Emerging Artist Stage or Lhasa de Sela Youth Stage are not to be missed.

One such example is local rockabilly one-man-band Bloodshot Bill who will be headlining the Montreal stage on Saturday night. Bloodshot’s music lends itself to getting up and dancing, so the fest did the right thing and put him on as the sun will be starting to go down. What a great way to keep the party going into the evening.

Bloodshot Bill plays Folk Fest Montreal and Emerging Artist Stage, Centennial Esplanade (St. Patrick and Pitt), Saturday, June 18th, 7:30 pm, free.

Lizzy Hoyt

If you’re at the fest on Sunday afternoon I highly recommend you check out Lizzy Hoyt. Fans of traditional music will be very delighted by this singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist’s combination of folk and celtic music with rich lyrics usually centered on historical themes.

Lizzy plays the violin, guitar and harp has released four albums, won numerous awards and will be playing for free on what is supposed to be one of the most beautifully warm days of the year. Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Lizzy Hoyt plays Folk Fest Main Stage, Centennial Esplanade (St. Patrick and Pitt), Sunday, June 19th, 5:00 pm, free.

Check out the full schedule at

Know a band or an artist that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe a show FTB should cover, too? Let us know at We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

This past Saturday afternoon, I caught the outdoor lineup of Montreal’s 8th Annual Folk Fest on the Lachine Canal. I only knew two things going in: I was going to enjoy a lazy, sunny Saturday afternoon listening to music by the water and I had a great pun to use in the title of my review.

Something I should have realized, but didn’t, was that I would be hearing quite a bit of folk music. This year our Jazz Fest features the likes of Ghostface Killah and Huey Lewis and the News, both great artists, but not exactly Jazz musicians. Meanwhile, just down the road, the Ottawa’s Blues plans to host Iggy Azalea, Keith Urban and Weird Al Yankovic among others. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very much looking forward to seeing the Weird One play Just for Laughs, but he’s not a blues artist, I don’t even think he has parodied one in 30 years.

A Folk Music Festival Featuring Folk Music?

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Michael Hurley

Imagine my pleasant surprise hearing folk music at something called the Folk Fest. No, it wasn’t all traditional folk, but there definitely was quite a bit of that. The rest had at the very least a strong folk sensibility.

The first two acts I caught on the big stage (the outdoor venue had three stages) were clearly in the pure folk column. Sin and Swoon, a Montreal-based duo, sang of not standing by your man and tunes inspired by their own stories from the road. True musical storytellers.

They were followed by folk legend Michael Hurley whose lyrics were political commentary for the most part. A veteran troubadour through and through.

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All-Day Breakfast String Band

On the second stage, with the canal and St-Henri as a backdrop, I caught the All-Day Breakfast String Band. Actually, I believe this is the second time I have seen them play their blend of highly fun and danceable Appalachian Folk Country. The first was during PorchFest NDG when they were backing up Stephanie Flowers.

Andy & Ariana: Quirky Scotian Piaf

One act that really caught my attention was the duo of Andy & Ariana. Originally from Nova Scotia, they have been touring their unique musical blend for quite some time. When I say unique, I mean a mix of original songs, one about their furnace, one a dirge about having a good time staying up and waking up late coupled with a slew of Édith Piaf covers. They had an original album for sale as well as a Piaf cover album.

Whether it was original or Piaf, Andy played guitar and made some a propos noises and faces while Ariana really belted it out, occasionally with an instrument in hand as well. At one point she mused that the crowd seemed to be into the performance because this was Montreal and we know French greats like Piaf. Well, that may be the case, but I think the very positive audience response had more to do with Ariana’s incredible voice and the way it fit into the performance.

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Andy & Ariana

No, this wasn’t what I would call folk per-se, but it definitely fit the mood of the event and they were true storytellers, which is what folk artists should be.

Folk-ing Clean Washrooms and Folk-ing Smart Organization

The only time you ever mention the washrooms in a festival review is if they are an abomination and a distraction from the rest of the event. With Folk Fest, it was the opposite. The Port-o-Johns here were impeccable and there weren’t massive lineups. There was even a soap-water pumping station nearby.

Now I’ll admit that this wasn’t a get hammered and high sort of event, it was a family-friendly community festival, so that may have had something to do with it. But still, this was impressive.

In fact, the whole organization was quite impressive. They sold beer, wine and sangria for affordable prices and people were on the honour system not to bring in their own. A truly self-policed community event.

You also had to buy a glass to drink your alcohol in for $2. Rather, you rented the glass, because if you returned it, you got your $2 back. I decided to keep mine:

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A nice momento of a fun time by the canal.

This was the only Folk Fest event I took in this year, but the festival actually featured free outdoor shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday, big concerts at the Corona Theatre by Bruce Cockburn and others as well as shows at Bar de Courcelle. All in the southwest community, either right on or near the canal.

I’ll be sure to check out more of it next year. For now, I can say that a folk-ing good time was had by all.

* photos by Jason C. McLean