The Montreal Jazz Festival took a little trip into the Motown sound this year. While it might have been a free outdoor concert, bringing Stevie Wonder to kick off the fest paid off big time. As Snoopy would have written, “It was a dark and stormy night…” – and indeed June 30 was. But that didn’t stop an estimated 200,000-plus fans from showing up to hear this living legend and icon perform some of his best-known songs.

Spectators were packed in tighter than sardines. Getting out of the crowd was as difficult as getting in as can be attested by Cathy Shecapio (of Mistissini), who we smiled at in passing. It didn’t matter where you stood – unless you had shown up early that afternoon – all you got to do was watch the huge screens and hear Stevie playing live.

This Rock-&-Roll-Hall-of-Famer wooed the crowd playing many of the hits he is loved for. Wonder has won 22 Grammys, the most ever won by a solo artist, and it showed as the crowd surged back and forth trying to get just a little bit closer to this aging star. He still has the voice and presence to spellbind an audience. “That’s my favourite song” was a comment often heard as Wonder performed each song with gusto and vitality that most other singers only dream of. We can only hope he’ll be at next year’s fest.

Next up on the Nation’s hit list was La India, the Princess of Salsa, on July 3. This is Latin-beat music at its best. The fans at the Metropolis were ready and waiting to shake their booties as long as the music lasted. This internationally celebrated diva of Latin soul and dance music strutted her way onto stage and into the hearts of everyone present. Her energy enflamed the people and took them on a musical journey into the southern regions of the Americas. We embraced her music as much as she embraced her Puerto Rican heritage. La India (a reference to her Aboriginal Taíno roots) captured the respect and admiration of music lovers at this year’s festival.

Montreal indie darlings The Dears graced the stage at Club Soda July 6, bringing back their self-described homegrown brand of “pop noir romantique”. Hot on the heels of their 2008 release, Missiles, the seven-piece showcased many of their latest gems and signature classics.

Though they might have pared down the numbers of players in the band, their sound was just as full, dark and luscious as when they first hit the scene back in 2000.

Singer Murray Lightburn delivered with consummate professionalism, crooning melancholia and raw emotion while the shoe-gazing audience swayed with the sound. Listening to The Dears can often be compared to the feeling of snuggling into a warm, comfy bed on a cold bitter night and by no means did they disappoint. The music was just as powerful as ever and the fans suckled up every last drop.