Music festivals worth hitting the road to see
So here’s your dilemma: you want to get out and see the world around you while taking in some kick-ass music, but travelling to all those festivals seems daunting, if not downright irresponsible. After all, you’ve already committed yourself to spending the next three months camped out wherever Occupy Vancouver springs up this year, making a fundamental change to the global financial system by smoking weed in a tent and sneering at one-percenters as they pass by with their Stella McCartney handbags and other things you can’t afford because your unwashed dreadlocks and septum piercing have rendered you unemployable.
Forget all that for one weekend. After all, if you surrender your right to be entertained, then the bankers have won. Or something like that. The point is, you’re going to need a break from making placards, lest the permanent-marker fumes go to your head. Get out of town for a while. And if you must drive, at least do the right thing and get behind the wheel of a hybrid—preferably one that someone else paid for.
Tall Tree Music Festival
(June 21 to 23 at Browns Mountain in Port Renfrew)
What you’re packing the Prius for: A seriously impressive cross-section of B.C.’s finest independent acts, including the Pack a.d., Jets Overhead, Sweatshop Union, Humans, Vince Vaccaro, and Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party.
Big Selling Point: The looks of confusion you’ll get when you tell your friends and family that you’ll be heading to a place called Browns Mountain for the weekend.
TD Victoria International Jazzfest
(June 22 to July 1 at various venues in Victoria)
What you’re packing the Prius for: Variety. Where else are you going to find a jazz festival that features everything from Dixieland revivalists the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and six-string icon George Benson to neo-soul misfit Janelle Monáe and local indie-rock heroes Destroyer? Well, actually, all the above are also playing Vancouver, but never mind that.
Big Selling Point: Since the Victoria event takes place concurrently with the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and features some of the same acts, you just know the ferries to and from the island will be packed with travelling musicians, and you might even spot some of them. Maybe if you bug Benson persistently enough, he’ll play “On Broadway” for everyone onboard.
Vancouver Island Musicfest
(July 6 to 8 at Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds in Courtenay)
What you’re packing the Prius for: Legendary musicians who rarely perform in this part of the world, including Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson, Laurie Anderson, and Buffy Sainte-Marie. Plus k.d. lang, who plays here all the time but is still awesome.
Big Selling Point: Not everyone on the bill has grey hair—there’s also the Sheepdogs, the Be Good Tanyas, and the Milk Carton Kids—making this a truly all-ages fest, on-stage and off.
Victoria Ska Festival
(July 10 to 14 at Ship Point in Victoria)
What you’re packing the Prius for: You want ska? You’ve got it, thanks to the likes of Toots and the Maytals and the Pietasters. But this year, you’ve also got straight-up reggae (courtesy of New Zealand’s Katchafire and the Seattle-based Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Brown Band), global electronica (via Adham Shaikh), African-tinted hip-hop (from Ghanaian-American MC Blitz the Ambassador), and even something called “alt-country-gypsy-circus music” (which is what Blackberry Wood promises).
Big Selling Point: If attendees get into the true Jamaican spirit, there should be enough ganja smoke in the air to induce a second-hand buzz that will last all five days.
Sturgis North 2012
(July 18 to 22 at Motoplex Speedway in Vernon)
What you’re packing the Prius for: This one is all about classic-rock survivors, although there’s no guarantee that Blue Oyster Cult, Foghat, the Guess Who, or the Stampeders have any original members left. On the other hand, we’re pretty sure Kim Mitchell still has his original member.
Big Selling Point: There may be a motorcycle enthusiast or two in the crowd. Those folks aren’t known for their teetotalling ways, so it should be fun to watch them head for the beer garden en masse when they hear the opening riff of “Go for Soda”.
Mission Folk Music Festival
(July 19 to 22 at Fraser River Heritage Park in Mission)
What you’re packing the Prius for: One of the most truly global music festivals going, this one has the entire planet covered, with acts hailing from Greenland (Rasmus Lyberth) to New Zealand (Pacific Curls), and from India (Tālavya) to Ireland (Colum Sands).
Big Selling Point: If you close your eyes and just listen, you can pretend you’re actually in one of those far-flung locales. C’mon, Lotto Max numbers
(July 19 to 23 at Beaverfoot Industrial Road in Golden)
What you’re packing the Prius for: Back in the century before this one, your ancestors used to attend events known as “raves”, where they danced to music called “techno” and “house”. You can relive those heady days of yore by putting on Granddad’s old phat pants and busting an E-tarded move to the Crystal Method, Savoy, Dirty Phonics, Mat the Alien, Knight Riderz, and Phutureprimitive.
Big Selling Point: Any festival that features a “chill zone” has got to be good.
Rock the Peach Festival
(July 27 to 29 at King’s Park in Penticton)
What you’re packing the Prius for: Sorry to disappoint anyone looking for a replacement for the cancelled Merritt Mountain Fuck Fest, but “rocking the peach” is apparently not a euphemism for sex. This is just a music festival, with something for young folks and wrinklies alike, including the Sam Roberts Band, Three Dog Night, Jesse Cook, Good for Grapes, and Walk Off the Earth.
Big Selling Point: Rumour has it that Walk Off the Earth plans to gather every member of every act in the fest around a single acoustic guitar for a rendition of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”. Sorry, Merritt survivors—that’s as close as you’re going to get to group sex at Rock the Peach.
(August 3 to 5 at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington)
What you’re packing the Prius for: Actually, this is the real consolation prize for Merrit Mountain Music Fest fans, although strictly on a musical level rather than a carnal one. Watershed is pure country, featuring the likes of Dierks Bentley, Kix Brooks, Sara Evans, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Uncle Kracker, and Dwight Yoakam.
Big Selling Point: You know that retina-searing 1950s TV-cowboy outfit Marty McFly wears back to 1885 in Back to the Future Part III? The pink-and-blue one embroidered with atom diagrams? If there was ever an excuse to don a replica of it, this is it.
(August 10 to 12 at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria)
What you’re packing the Prius for: Folk music, obviously. That means everything from singer-songwriters to world-beat bands, including Aboubacar Camara and Doundounba, John Reischman and the Pine Siskins, the Abramson Singers, David Newberry, and the B.C. Fiddle Orchestra.
Big Selling Point: Vancouver’s own folk fest books the big names, but it also draws big crowds. Rather than elbow some hippie in the face to claim a decent spot, head out of town for an atmosphere that isn’t quite so cutthroat.
Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival
(August 17 to 19 at Salmon Arm Fairgrounds in Salmon Arm)
What you’re packing the Prius for: One of the longest-running, not to mention best, music festivals in B.C., now in its 20th year, with performances by the Trews, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Cuff the Duke, Delhi 2 Dublin, Bettye LaVette, and the Boom Booms.
Big Selling Point: The chance to finally settle the long-standing question of whether or not salmon actually have arms.
(September 1 to 3 at Seattle Center)
What you’re packing the Prius for: Choices. This annual music and arts celebration features a huge and wildly eclectic lineup, including Jane’s Addiction, Tony Bennett, Skrillex, Gotye, Mac Miller, Best Coast, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and dozens of other acts that you’ve actually heard of—which is a major difference between this and other festivals.
Big Selling Point: It’s Bumbershoot, and Bumbershoot is always awesome.
(September 13 to 16 at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria)
What you’re packing the Prius for: Giving Bumbershoot a run for its money in the coolness department, Rifflandia showcases alternative-minded acts both old and new, including the Flaming Lips, Cake, Dan Mangan, Sloan, Austra, Hey Ocean!, and Chixdiggit.
Big Selling Point: The chance to hang on to summer festival season just a little longer before it all becomes a hazy memory.