Travel
4 min

Divers/Cité pumps up the volume

The 411 on DJs and parties for Montreal’s big party weekend

DJ Frankie Knuckles Credit: FrankieKnuckles.com

When asked what is there to do and see in Montreal, local drag legend Mado Lamotte bats her eyelashes and replies without missing a beat, “The first thing tourists go to see is Mado. Then they go see the naked male dancers. And third, they go to the saunas. That is Gay Montreal’s Top Three. And my name is always in the Top Three.”

It’s true: Mado Lamotte is as famous and infamous as her legendary outdoor drag show Mascara: La Nuit des Dragues, which for the past 16 years has anchored Montreal's Divers/Cité Festival.

Often referred to as the bastard child of Wigstock — when Wigstock founder Lady Bunny attended Mascara some years ago, she told Mado backstage, “What a fabulous show, darling!” — this year’s 16th annual show on Aug 3 will boast some 25 drag queens and more than 100 dancers performing 23 elaborate numbers.

“It’s really a variety show that bridges the best of comedy and glamour with Broadway and Vegas,” Mado says. “Watching our drag queens perform at Mascara is like a child meeting Santa Claus! And of course, I will have a brand-new costume to introduce every act. My fashion designer Daniel Serrurier has been stitching and working on my 23 new costumes since March!”

Glamour, drag queens and superstar deejays are now the order of the day at the new Divers/Cité, which after spinning off its Gay Pride parade in 2006 to become a purely queer arts and culture festival, this year has cut all of its remaining live entertainment shows except for Mascara, to focus on superstar DJ dance events that have long been the festival’s bread and butter.

Located in the heart of Montreal’s Gay Village for 19 years, Divers/Cité relocated to the Quays of the Old Port in Old Montreal last summer.

“We’re really starting to capitalize on our site at Jacques Cartier Pier and our goal one day is to fully occupy the Old Port,” says Divers/Cité head honcho Suzanne Girard.

Another big change this year is Divers/Cité will be charging $15 admission to their outdoors site per day. However, a special advance purchase of the Friends of the Festival  bracelet for $15 will grant you complete free access to the main site on Jacque Cartier Pier from Aug 2-4 and a rebate on the tickets for the Aug 1-2 beach parties at Plage. The bracelet is advance purchase only until July 29 and not available on the festival site.

“For our first 20 years we asked for donations, but this year we’re making the jump,” Girard says, pointing out the cash influx will help build the festival, which, like many gay festivals across Canada, has been strapped for funds in recent years.

To that end, Divers/Cité has booked some top-notch DJs to headline its outdoor Sunset Party on Aug 3 at Jacques Cartier Pier; notably David Morales, “Godfather of House” Frankie KnucklesHector Romero, and — for his first time in Canada — Brazilian superstar DJ Memê‎ who will all be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Def Mix label. The Sunset party begins at 4pm.

A stellar line-up of DJs is booked for its Cargo outdoor dance party on Aug 2, with newcomer DJ Alberto Pérez, UK producers/DJs Pagano and Tom Stephan, as well as Montreal legend, DJ Mark Anthony who once told this reporter about his hometown’s famed DJ culture, “Montreal is special because most of the people are there for the right reasons. Montreal dance audiences are very sophisticated, nitpicky bitches!”

For it’s New Society outdoor trance party on Aug 2, Divers/Cité offers up Montreal DJ duo Project Offset (aka Shivers and Niko V), Montreal-based DJ Raneem who has been active in the city’s Trance scene since 2008 and is a favourite of such EDM heavyweights as Armin van Buuren and Tiesto. The headliners are LA-based Israeli psy-trance innovators Infected Mushroom (aka Amit “Duvdev” Duvedevaniand Erez Eisen).

Classic beach parties are planned for Montreal’s glamourous neighbouring Clock Tower Beach (or Plage de l’Horloge) in the Old Port. Last summer the beach — located next to a marina filled with yachts, and complete with outdoor showers since you can’t go swimming in the St-Lawrence — became yet another of Montreal’s fashionable catwalks. Divers/Cité, in their bid to take over the Old Port, has booked two parties there during their festival: Lesbomonde (featuring DJs Denise Benson and Tizi on Aug 2) and À La Plage (with DJs Alain Jackinsky and Nico Concerto on Aug 1). Both events begin at 5:30pm.

Divers/Cité will also host DJ beach parties at the Clock Tower Beach every Thursday evening for the remainder of Aug, beginning at 5:30pm; $15 admission.

Divers/Cité is also hosting the city’s biggest outdoor T-dance each summer, Le Grand Bal at Jacques Cartier Pier beginning at 2 pm (this year’s edition will feature Horsemeat Disco among others). Also being held on Jacques Cartier Pier at the same time is La Grand Danse with Stereo Productions label founders CHUS + CEBALLOS, as well as their label mates David PennNicola TorrieroMarciano and others. Admission is $15 for both events.

A series of ticketed indoor parties will take place at Stereo (on Aug 3, D/C Party with DJs Stephan GrondinAna Paula  and Memê ; and Aug 4 D/C Ball with DJs Isaac Escakante ‎and Abel), as well as a much-anticipated evening with DJ Hector Romero at the intimate boutique Club Peopl in Old Montreal. Peopl boasts one of the city’s finest sound systems.

Friends of the Festival Bracelet
This $15 bracelet will grant you complete free access to the main site on Jacque Cartier Pier from Aug 2-4 and a rebate on the tickets for the August 1 and 2 beach parties at Plage de l’Horloge. Advance purchase only until July 29. Not available on the festival site.

For more info on Divers/Cité, visit diverscite.org/wp/.

For more information on gay tourism in Montreal, visit tourisme-montreal.org and check out Tourisme Montreal's blog on what to do in Montreal's gay village.

Need accommodation for Divers/Cité, check out our  feature  story Montreal bed and breakfasts offer wide array for weekend get-aways.

For more insight into the city and helpful travel advice, see ourgay Montreal city guide.

For map locations and website links to more than 180 places of interest in Montreal, visit our gay Montreal listings pages.