Canadian cities host an amazing number of festivals every year – many of which are outdoors, and most are during the summer. Many Canadians live in a city which competitively labels itself “the” festival city: Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, St. John — and even smaller cities such as Stratford, Kelowna, Charlottetown. I think it’s great – each city is “the” festival city for its citizens and region. After having worked and lived in 5 countries outside of North America, I can truly say this is something that we share in Canada which not many other countries do (perhaps there are only a dozen or so other countries which really try to go all-out with multiple festivals in so many cities).
Québec’s cities are no exception in their efforts to provide top-notch festivals to the public. Some of Québec’s festivals are well known to Canadians outside Québec (the Montréal Jazz festival, St-Jean-Baptiste Festivals and concerts, Juste pour rire / Just for Laughs). But there are other festivals which are huge in Québec, but which are not as well known to Canadians outside Québec. One such festival is Les FrancoFolies de Montréal (“Franco” = Francophone, “Folies” = Craziness/madness/insanity).
Les FrancoFolies is a large-scale event every June, hosting a week of many outdoor French music concerts, in Montréal’s Quartier des spectacles (a district of Montréal encompassing the Eastern streets of corporate downtown, Place des arts which is the theatre district, and the Western part of the Latin Quarter [a funky bar / student / university / pedestrian / joie de vivre area, which also encompasses the pedestrian-only area of the gay village]).
It is actually one of the largest francophone music festivals in the world (keep in mind that Montréal itself is the world’s second largest “French-as-a-first-language” city, after Paris). I’ve read conflicting attendance figures, but they all range from 500,000 spectators to over 1,000,000 during the one week event, with some individual concerts having attracted 150,000 people (all crammed into the streets with eyes trained on the stage). Because it’s held every June, the festival bodes many advantages for those visiting from out of town; it misses the huge tourist crowds during the high tourist season, hotel options are more affordable and abundant, and there is little conflict with various artist’s summer vacation plans. This makes it so the festival is able to attract not only some of the biggest names in Québec French music, but also from France and other francophone countries.
Some of the more notable stars to have performed street concerts are Loco Locass (Québec), Patricia Kass (France), Patrick Bruel (France), Les colocs (Québec), Les Cowboys Fringants (Québec), Jean-Perre Ferland (Québec), Richard Séguin (Québec), Vanessa Paradis (France), and Les Trois Accords (Québec). These are some pretty impressive and big names… with some being the biggest names in music in the Francophone world.
If you’re going to be planning a trip to Montréal, you seriously may want to consider doing it en français (even if your level of French may not be very high), to truly get the full experience. Montréalers love out of town visitors, and they open their arms wide to anyone who wants to share in what makes them special and different — they can be some of the most amazing hosts! Because of the dates, lower hotel costs, and weather, a vacation during Les Francopholies might be just the perfect time.
The official website is http://www.francofolies.com.