Montreal Pride headliner Rêve talks Montreal’s best restaurants, festivals and taxidermy

The Montreal-born performer, one of the fastest rising dance-pop singer-songwriters of this generation, is closing the show at Fierté Montreal.

Photograph: Courtesy Fierté Montréal Pride

Montreal’s Pride Festival has arrived in the city, and Montreal dance diva Rêve is queen of the dance floor.

Music industry bible Billboard describes Montreal-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Rêve — a.k.a. Briannah Donolo — as “one of the fastest-rising artists in dance” music.

After a 2014 video of her singing the U.S. and Canadian national anthems at a Canadiens hockey game went viral, Rêve built up a strong fan base on TikTok, signed with major-label Universal Music Canada, and won the 2023 Juno Award for Dance Recording of the Year for her smash hit Ctrl + Alt + Del.

Rêve returns to her hometown to headline the closing show at Fierté Montreal Pride on August 13. The charismatic singer-songwriter sat down with Time Out Montreal for a candid Q&A.

Photograph: Courtesy Fierté Montréal Pride

What was it like winning a 2023 Juno Award?

Winning the Juno award for best dance recording was the most surreal moment of my life and it still hasn’t fully sunk in yet. Banx & Ranx and I created the record peak pandemic and it came from such a place of pure joy and fun in a period of time that felt so bleak. We released the record a full year later, hoping those feelings would come through and resonate with people and we’re so grateful they did. The only experience that comes close to winning was having the opportunity to perform it on the live broadcast of the Junos together. 

You sang two national anthems at a Boston Bruins-Montreal Canadiens hockey game in 2014, as well as at a Toronto Blue Jays exhibition baseball game at Montreal Olympic Stadium in 2016. What was that like?

Any opportunity I’ve had to sing the anthems is a huge honour, but they are also the most nerve-wracking type of performance. You want to make the country proud and do the songs justice, all while not crumbling under the pressure and potentially flubbing a lyric. The exposure and connections I made because of my anthem work in Montreal was incredible. It was the start of many relationships that are still super important to me today. 

You headlined Studio TD when you performed in Montreal last March. What is it like to headline in your hometown?

Hometown shows are always special and it just so happens that my hometown is notorious for having the best crowds in the country. People in Montreal aren’t afraid to let loose and have fun! Before officially launching my artist project as Rêve in 2020, I spent 10+ years singing other people’s songs at nightclub residencies, restaurants and weddings around the city. Being able to perform my own songs to a packed room in my hometown was a huge milestone for me and a moment I’ll never forget. 

Photograph: Courtesy Fierté Montréal Pride

Montreal has so many different neighbourhoods. Which is your favourite?

I grew up in the West Island, so for that reason it’ll always be my favourite neighbourhood. As a Montrealer, it’s hard to choose a true favourite because each borough offers a unique and different charm. 

What activity do you love to do in the city?

When I’m not visiting with family or making music in the city with some of my favourite collaborators — Banx & Ranx, Benny Adam and others — I’m eating my way through the city. We are so lucky to have so many world-class restaurants in one place, so I definitely take advantage of that. 

What is your favourite bar, nightclub or venue?

There is one nightclub in Montreal directly responsible for me falling in love with dance music, and that’s Velvet in the Old Port. If you know, you know, but for those who haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet, it is a stone-walled, taxidermy and candle-covered dance haven located in the basement of an old auberge. Visiting this venue in 2015 and hearing dance music for the first time on a proper sound system in such a magical environment was transcendent. I became obsessed with the genre shortly after. 

Velvet Speakeasy
Photograph: Karel Chladek

What’s your favourite local restaurant?

That’s a tough one! Some of my favorites include Damas, Montréal Plaza, Maison Publique, Vin Papillon and Leméac.

Photograph: Vesia Photography | Damas

If you had to choose the city’s best festivals, what would they be?

Osheaga, Ile Sonique, Formula One Grand Prix, MURAL Festival, Festivale Internationale de Jazz de Montréal, POP Montreal, and Montreal Pride are my favourites!

Montreal International Jazz Festival

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Caribb

Montreal International Jazz Festival

How excited are you to return to Montreal to perform at Montreal Pride?

I am so elated to be closing out Pride in Montreal this year! Pride is 24/7, 365, but Montreal’s celebrations in August are probably my favourite in all of Canada and a very special time to be in the city. 

Fierté Montréal / Montréal Pride
Photograph: Charles Lynn

What does Pride mean to you?

2SLGBTQIA+ pride is the celebration and commemoration of everything the queer community has fought for in the past, what we continue to advocate for today, and the hope for a better, brighter future. It is the ultimate celebration of love and self-love. 

Click here for more information about Rêve on Instagram and TikTok.

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