The Fest Noz is a dance where traditional Breton dances are featured (especially those of the local area where the fest noz is held). A Fest deiz is the same thing, only held in the afternoon instead of late at night (deiz = day in the Breton language; noz = night). Typically, a fest noz starts at 10 or 11 p.m. and goes to 2 a.m. or so. You get an older crowd at the fest deiz; you get all generations at a fest noz. Eating and drinking and talking with friends is a key part of these events, so there is always a bar and food on sale.
The fest noz was reinvented in the 1950s and gained wide popularity in the 1970s as a fundraising event where admissions went to support everything from Breton languages schools (Diwan) to a local war veterans association. Originally the fest noz was the name given to a small gathering of family and neighbors who would dance and eat together after a major work event on a farm. Today the fest noz can still have a community flavor, but most attract Bretons from quite a distance away if the singers and musicians are good. Hordes of tourists are not welcome at these dances and too many beginners in a dance line or circle is disruptive. But individual travellers are quite welcome, and anyone with reasonable dancing skills can learn many of the dances by following along.
The fest noz and fest deiz vary greatly in size and quality--the best way to choose one is by the performers listed in publicity for the event (see below--Finding a fest noz...). Most fest noz include traditional singers and the paired playing of the biniou and bombarde, as well as several bands of a less traditional nature.
Concerts are a good context for slower songs or more innovative styles, and often combine a number of excellent performers of different styles. Knowing a performer's name or style of music you like is always helpful in choosing a concert to attend.
Although Cafés can be a great place to find informal sessions of Breton music, there is no easy way to find such places or scheduled events except by consulting local musicians. Brittany does not have a pub scene equivalent to Ireland.
The contest (usually imbedded in a larger festival) has become a very strong medium for the encouragement of music-making in Brittany. Great week-end and one-day festivals are held year-round in Brittany, but most festivals and the large week-long events (like the Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival and the Fêtes de Cournouaille of Quimper) are concentrated in July and August.
In Brittany, you can look in the Friday editions of the local newspapers called Le Télégramme and Ouest France, or--better yet--in a recent issue of the magazine Musique Bretonne or Ar Soner. Or check out posters plastered on public walls or in the village cafe for something local. Book and record stores specializing in Breton materials are also great places to find information (see the page on "Finding Breton Books and Recordings"). Now the internet can also serve as a great place to get up-to-date information on music events in Brittany as well as tours by specific singers and musicians. But no one listing is ever complete!