Just for Laughs, a staple of Montreal’s summer festival season and the largest comedy festival in the world, will still take place in 2020, just a little later than  anticipated. Due to the developing COVID-19 pandemic, organizers have postponed the festival, until fall. Originally slated for July, JFL, which features a large slate of international acts along with local comics, will now take place September 29th through October 11th.

“We are energized by the ability of our teams to adapt to current conditions and present a festival redesigned in its form and content as early as the fall,” Just for Laughs Group President and CEO Charles Décarie said in a press release. “If the situation permits, we will resume work in the interim and thus be able to play an important role in reviving the cultural sector, but also in the social healing that we all need.”

Organizers are looking at several possible scenarios for staging the outdoor portions of the festival, but that will depend,of course, on social gathering restrictions. JFL will honour festival passports purchased for the summer event at shows in the fall.

This information comes two days after the Montreal Fringe Festival decided to postpone its 2020 edition to summer 2021. We also learned today that both the Montreal Jazz Festival and Les FrancoFolies are cancelled for this year.

This summer was supposed to be the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival’s 30th anniversary edition. Now, due to COVID-19, the celebration and theatrical performances by hundreds of groups and performers originally scheduled to run June 1-21 will have to wait until next summer.

“I sincerely feel that as leaders in the Montreal cultural landscape, it is our responsibility to temporarily close our spaces and to postpone the Fringe Festival in order to protect the health and of our artists and patrons,” the festival’s Executive and Artistic Director Amy Blackmore said in a press release. “The conditions for in-person art-making and consumption amid this crisis are significantly challenging since many are unable to rehearse, have been laid off from work and are trying to manage shifting priorities.”

MainLine Theatre, which produces the festival, will also keep its performance and rehearsal space on St-Laurent Boulevard closed until May 31st as per public health directives. The festival will offer alternate online programming this June in place of the public theatre shows.

The Fringe is generally the event that kicks off Montreal’s jam-packed festival season. This year it is the first major summer arts festival to postpone or cancel due to COVID-19.

We will update you if any other arts events follow suit.

Yesterday, in a continued response to COVID-19 (aka the Coronavirus) Quebec Premier François Legault ordered all shopping malls, hair salons, sit-down restaurants and spas closed until May 1st and extended school closings to that date as well. He also announced that police would now be enforcing a ban on groups of more than two people either gathered outside or indoors (where not everyone lives in the residence).

Yesterday there were 219 cases, today there are 628. While the new number is a little less than triple the previous one, it is also the first time the government is including presumed cases along with confirmed ones.

This jump was also anticipated, given the time it takes for the virus to show up. It’s still too early to tell how well the social distancing measures, which began here when Legault ordered all bars and gyms closed last Sunday, are working.

With the larger number, though, Legault ordered all in-person businesses not deemed essential to close by midnight tonight until April 13th. Or, as the Premier put it: “Quebec will be on hold for three weeks.”

What Is Considered Essential

Quebec just released the list of what is considered essential (post updated from a previous version without the list). You can read the complete list, currently in French only, on quebec.ca

In addition to healthcare (including veterinary), government (including garbage collection, postal service and snow removal) and infrastructure services and some construction services, the following can remain open:

  • Grocery stores and other food businesses
  • Pharmacies
  • Depanneurs
  • Big box stores in commercial centres with separate entrances offering hardware, grocery or pharmacy products
  • Agricultural product stores
  • SAQ and SQDC
  • Funeral homes, crematoriums and cemetaries
  • Takeout and delivery restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Cleaners and laundromats
  • Medical and orthopedic supply businesses
  • Pet food and supply businesses
  • Movers
  • Workplace security equipment businesses
  • Telecommunications (equipment and service)
  • Cable
  • Local and national media (not just indie media like us that already work remotely)
  • Newspaper printing presses
  • Banking (at the bank and support centres)
  • Payroll services
  • Accounting services
  • Financial market services
  • Electricians, plumbers and similar services supporting emergency services
  • Construction equipment rental
  • Building maintenance and related services (alarms, ventilation, etc.)
  • Public transit
  • Taxis and adaptive transport
  • Ports and aeroports
  • Vehicle repair and service stations
  • Package delivery
  • Businesses in the supply chain of essential businesses

We will update you on any changes as this promises to be a developing story for weeks to come.

Social distancing to slow the spread of COVID 19 (aka the Coronavirus) means we can’t go out to shows, but it’s clear that the shows haven’t stopped, they’ve just moved to your home. With a spate of online concerts popping, a Leonard Cohen balcony singalong scheduled for tonight and a dance party that you still have to dress up for, there’s more than enough going on for Shows This Week: At Home Edition!

Leonard Cohen Balcony Singalong

If there’s one name that seems to bring all Montrealers together, it’s that of the late, great poet, singer and icon Leonard Cohen. Tomorrow (Sunday), POP Montreal and Martha Wainwright hope Cohen can bring people together as they stay physically apart.

They’re calling it So Long Marianne de Balcon Montreal. In the very recent tradition established by quarantined people in Italy, everyone is encouraged to sing Cohen’s So Long, Marianne together at 8pm tonight from their balconies or out their windows.

Wainwright will be streaming a guide vocal, sort of like a virtual choir master and will follow up the Cohen song by leading a group performance of Richard Desjardins’ Le coeur est un oiseau. You can find the lyrics and info on the stream through the Facebook event page. For now, though, you can practice to this:

Montreal Balcony Drone

Friday from 9-9:15 pm, it’s drone time. No, not the kind of flying delivery, warfare or temporary pandemic dog walking devices that you may be thinking of, but rather the sound that links several forms of music.

John Triangles Stuart started the Facebook event and so far over 2000 people have responded. People are encouraged to go to their balcony or open their windows and use whatever physical instruments they have (or use online synths) and collectively create a drone in the key of C.

Virtual Party

Montreal’s first virtual nightclub launches next Saturday, March 28 between 8 and 11pm. No lineup or coat check, but you will need to access it with your camera enabled, as you’ll be able to see the other guests and they’ll be able to see you.

The DJs are provided, but the drinks are on you and for just you (and possibly the people you live with). You are also asked to dress up like you were going to a real world party with other people and your own light show is encouraged.

You can find the details on the Facebook event page, which has already reached over 20 000 people, so the virtual nightclub may very well be packed for its opening.

We’ll be posting about similar events or livestreamed concerts as this shutdown continues. If you are hosting such an event, please let us know at music@forgetthebox.net (no promises we will mention it, but we’ll do our best)