Think: short denim skirts, white t-shirts and long feather necklaces. Hand-holding with friends so as not to lose each other in the crowd. Pocket flasks of gin. Free ice cream popsicles on side streets. Disposable cameras. Smoking in that weird alley off Bleury street. Solo-dancing to Brian Setzer Orchestra beats. Hopping fences (the only way to exit a crowd of 20 000), getting tangled in said fences, and cute French boys to the rescue because, right, we’re wearing short skirts. In a nutshell, this was my first Jazz Fest experience, and it was more than enough for me to unwaveringly commit to Round Two.

As Montreal’s foremost free music festival, the International Montreal Jazz Festival – now in its 32nd year – annually attracts huge acts to its numerous stages, and vast crowds to the swath of St-Catherine and Quartier des spectacles that is closed off to traffic for the ten-day event, from June 25 to July 4. On offer this year are 750+ performances and activities, including a wealth of free shows by the likes of the B-52s, the Soul Rebels Brass Band, Galactic, Misteur Valaire, Montreal’s The Unsettlers, and so many more. Wander the Quartier des spectacles grounds, grab a lemonade, check out local vendors and buskers, and play dodge-the-tourists (not that you have a choice).

Metropolis and Place-des-Arts will also host a plethora of musicians across genres, though these shows ultimately do cost a pretty penny. Prince (yes, Prince!) will land in town for two evening performances (June 24-25, though tickets apparently sold out in mere moments), along with K.D. Lang (June 27) and Blue Rodeo (July 4). Pocket flasks at the ready, please!

~ Tyler Yank