If one thing’s for certain, it’s that Montréal’s music and art scene is unique and ever-changing. A big part of that scene is Laurent Saulnier, the man behind the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal—as well as the Festival Montréal en Lumière, an interactive festival that combines performance arts, food, family activities, and more, and has just been recognized by UNESCO as a special event. That’s a big deal. Since we’ve already gotten the low-down on the food and art scene in Montréal, we put Saulnier on the spot to talk about his perspective on the city’s vibrant music.
Where do you go when you want to discover a new act?
Laurent Saulnier: If I want to discover some new bands, I think one of the best places in the city is Divan Orange. It’s a small venue with the capacity of 100-120 people on St. Laurent Boulevard. Sometimes, well-known performers and bands go there for small concerts. Over the years I’ve seen some now-famous people there who performed there to try something new there—like Patrick Watson. Artists try new songs there.
If a tourist wanted to see some more well-known acts, they should head to Métropolis, a club that holds 2,000 people. In my opinion, it’s one of the best clubs not on the planet. The sound is great, and the building is 120 years old. Everybody’s played there over the years, from David Bowie to the Pixies to The Roots to Lauren Hill.
Where’s the neighborhood that’s most famous for music?
LS: It depends. The Mile End has been growing a huge musician population. But I think the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood is good. There are a lot of small clubs there. For Jazz, Diese Onze is the place. For rock, L’esco. Some other good ones? Quai Des Brumes, Sala Rossa, and Casa del Popolo.
If you wanted to actually hang out with musicians, where would you go?
LS: Casa de Popolo is a good spot when you want to see musicians just hanging out. L’esco, too. And Laika is a good spot for people who are doing electronic music in Montreal.
Tell us more about the electronic music scene!
LS: We’ve been in the electronic music scene for a long time. There are lots of famous DJs coming to Montréal, like Misstress Barbara and Chromeo. There’s a new generation of producers and DJs, too—Lunice, Kaytranada, A-trak.
When you’re not working or checking out music, what do you like to do in Montréal?
LS: I love to walk in this city. The best way to discover a city is to walk it. When friends come into town, we’ll walk across the city for 2-3 hours. And once a year, I like to have a good walk in the old part of the city. It’s a little more touristy, but there’s a lot of new bars, shops, and cafés there. It’s a more complicated neighborhood than other parts of the city.