Hit the road for these damn fine summer music fests in B.C. and beyond

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      There are very few things that make leaving Vancouver in the summer months worthwhile. There are, in fact, those who would argue that summer is the only truly bearable time to be in the city, given that every other season is usually dominated by an incessant, Old Testament–style downpour.

      If you do feel inclined to explore other places and enjoy some damn fine music while doing so, the out-of-town festivals listed below—each within a day’s drive of Vancouver—might inspire you to hit the road. Or, you know, hitch a ride with someone, because it can get lonely out there.


      Paradiso Festival

      June 15 and 16 at the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Do you like deadmau5? Sure you do! Everyone likes deadmau5. And also DJ Snake and Armin Van Buuren.

      Big selling point: You’re just going to have to trust Paradiso’s talent bookers, who are convinced that if you like deadmau5, DJ Snake, and Armin Van Buuren, you will also like Midnight Tyrannosaurus, Snails, Troyboi, and Tollefson.


      Sled Island

      June 20 to 24 at various venues in Calgary

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Ancient Pig, Bat Fangs, Deerhoof, Lambsbreath, Grouper, Moths & Locusts, botfly, Trash Hawks, BIRDO, Ducks Unlimited, Conversations With Bears, Woodhawk, Horse Girl, housepanther, and maybe even some acts that don’t have animals in their names.

      Big selling point: The aforementioned menagerie aside, it’s really the Flaming Lips, Mount Eerie, Thundercat, Wye Oak, Shabazz Palaces, Dirty Projectors, Mary Timony, and Cherry Glazerr who make Sled Island the only compelling reason to drive to Calgary, ever.


      TD Victoria International Jazzfest

      June 22 to July 1 at various venues in Victoria

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Macy Gray, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, the Jerry Granelli Group, Morgan James, Red Baraat, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and many others who will prove you don’t need a degree in jazz studies to enjoy a festival with jazz in its name.

      Big selling point: While you’re in Victoria you can pop into Clive’s Classic Lounge and order a #SquadGoals, an obnoxiously large tiki cocktail that includes Mount Gay Eclipse, Tanqueray gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, orange juice, coconut syrup, rosewater, and nori. The menu says it’s for four people, but who’s counting? (This has nothing to do with the festival, incidentally. We just like drinking.)


      Victoria Ska + Reggae Festival

      June 20 to 24 at various venues in Victoria

      Why you’re bumming a ride: The chance to see that music styles from Jamaica have truly conquered the world by catching ska bands from Mexico (Panteon Rococo) and South Korea (Kingston Rudieska).

      Big selling point: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Ozomatli featuring Chali 2na, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, and Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra will give you an excuse to wear a porkpie hat, checkerboard-patterned suspenders, and that vintage Specials T-shirt in public without looking like a dork. Well, to be honest, you’ll still look like a dork, but at least you’ll be in good company.


      Waterfront Blues Festival

      July 4 to 7 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Beth Hart, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Marc Broussard, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Ruthie Foster, the Mavericks, and Blues Hammer. Okay, maybe not Blues Hammer. Also something called a “harmonica blow-off”, which we’re told is a musical thing and we should get our minds out of the gutter.

      Big selling point: While in Portland, be sure to drop by In Other Words, the real-life feminist bookstore that was formerly most famous for being featured on Portlandia, but is arguably now most famous for the “FUCK PORTLANDIA!” sign posted in its front window.



      Harrison Festival of the Arts

      July 6 to 15 in Harrison Hot Springs

      Why you’re bumming a ride: This is the Harrison Festival’s 40th year, and Buffy Sainte-Marie, Chilliwack, Shari Ulrich, Archie Roach, and Cousin Harley are among those celebrating.

      Big selling point: The multifaceted fest also includes spoken word (Lit Café featuring Shane Koyczan), theatre (Talking With), and children’s entertainment (Bobs & Lolo).



      Rock the Shores

      July 13 to 15 at West Shore Parks & Recreation in Colwood

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Some might look at this year’s Rock the Shores lineup and think “totally random”, but others would call it “awesomely eclectic”. With Brian Wilson, Social Distortion, X Ambassadors, Bahamas, Juliette and the Licks, Bedouin Soundclash, Felix Cartal, and Frazey Ford all on the same bill, the festival’s target demographic seems to be “anyone who knows how to get to Colwood”.

      Big selling point: If there is a God in heaven, he or she will find a way to get Brian Wilson and Mike Ness on the same stage at the same time.


      Vancouver Island Musicfest

      July 13 to 15 at Comox Valley Fairgrounds in Courtenay

      Why you’re bumming a ride: This one leans toward the folk end of the spectrum, with performers including Arlo Guthrie, Passenger, Darlingside, Walk Off the Earth, Ry Cooder, and Don Ross.

      Big selling point: There’s an event called A Life in Music: Arlo in Conversation With Peter North. We’re hoping the star of My Horny Valentine, Fresh Tits of Bel Air, and Butt Bongo Bonanza will lob loads of deep, probing questions at the legendary folksinger.


      Mission Folk Music Festival

      July 20 to 22 at Fraser River Heritage Park in Mission

      Why you’re bumming a ride: The Matinée, Élage Diouf, David Francey, Pharis and Jason Romero, James Keelaghan, Twin bandit, and many more acoustic-guitar-wielding types.

      Big selling point: Sure, Jericho Beach is nice, and you could go to Vancouver’s own folk fest, if you feel okay about elbowing some unwashed hippie in the face to find a decent spot. But holy crap—Google image search “Fraser River Heritage Park” and tell us that ain’t one of the prettiest spots on God’s green Earth.


      Phillips Backyard Weekender

      July 20 to 22 at the Phillips Backyard in Victoria

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Given that Kelis is one of the performers, there’s probably a joke in here somewhere about it being beer, not milkshakes, that brings all the boys to the yard. The yard in this case being the parking lot of Victoria’s Phillips Brewing Company, and the boys being adults 19 years of age and older.

      Big selling point: That was a terrible attempt at humour, so let’s just list some of the other performers: Reggie Watts, the Revolution, !!!, Louise Burns, Keys N Krates, Frankie, I M U R, and the improbably named Electric Sex Panther.


      Country Crossings Music Festival

      July 26 to 29 in Central Point, Oregon

      Why you’re bumming a ride: At a time when awesome female artists including Kacey Musgraves, Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini, Lindsay Ell, and Maren Morris are conquering the country charts, someone decided to program a festival of wall-to-wall dudes. Which is kind of perversely fascinating.

      Big selling point: Hey, we have nothing against Cole Swindell, Eric Church, Alan Jackson, or Brad Paisley, but we do think Ashley McBryde and Lucy Cavalier might get a bit lonesome as some of the very few women on the bill.


      Element Music Festival

      July 26 to 29 at Snug Lake Amphitheatre, near Princeton

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Musically, the improv-happy Lotus—which plays three of the four nights—is the big draw, but with multiple sets from Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Spafford, Particle, Genetics, Yak Attack, McTuff, and GD/BC, jam-band fans will be in heaven.

      Big selling point: Speaking of heaven, Element boasts one of the most idyllic settings of any music festival we can think of, complete with a lakeside stage and stunning mountain views.


      Center of Gravity

      July 27 to 29 at City Park and Hot Sands Beach in Kelowna

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Wu-Tang Clan, Zedd, French Montana, Illenium, Action Bronson, Jaus, Keys N Krates, and several other acts that are presumably beloved by the sort of person who would attend a festival where beach volleyball, rugby, and motocross are as big a draw as the music. (We’re looking at you, Chad and Stacy.)

      Big selling point: Given that Wu-Tang Clan has something like 387 members, you can start a betting pool around which members will show up.


      Shambhala Music Festival

      August 10 to 13 at Salmo River Ranch in Nelson

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Black Tiger Sex Machine, Clams Casino, Z-Trip, and many others whose music goes bleep beep bloop, uhn tss uhn tss uhn tss, and/or wub-wub-wub-wub-wub.

      Big selling point: One of the longest-running of the “EDM in the forest” festivals and still arguably the best. Or at least that’s what some dude dressed like a fox told us. He was definitely on shrooms, though.


      Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival

      August 16 to 19 at Salmon Arm Fair Grounds in Salmon Arm

      Why you’re bumming a ride: It’s roots, and blues. Obviously. Highlights will surely include Michael Franti and Spearhead, Big Dave McLean, Colin James, Cindy Church, Daniel Lapp, Geoff Berner, Saltwater Hank, and the Paperboys.

      Big selling point: We’re going to resist our annual joke about attending this festival in order to find out whether or not salmon actually have arms. Willpower!


      Motion Notion

      August 23 to 27 at Beaverfoot Lodge in Golden

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Datsik, Fort Knox Five, Smalltown DJs, Stickybuds, Longwalkshortdock, and many others whose music goes bleep beep bloop, uhn tss uhn tss uhn tss, and/or wub-wub-wub-wub-wub. Did we already use that joke?

      Big selling point: “Experiencing music and art in nature helps people to feel the essence of Humanity, the Earth, and the Universe,” according to the MoNo website. That’s all well and good, but did anyone ask the squirrels how they feel about it?



      August 31 to September 2 at Seattle Center in Seattle

      Why you’re bumming a ride: J. Cole, the Chainsmokers, SZA, Fleet Foxes, Lil Wayne, Illenium, Portugal. The Man, RL Grime, Ludacris, Phoenix, Chromeo, Blondie, T-Pain, and way too many more to list here.

      Big selling point: They say that if you look in the mirror and say “Bumbershoot” aloud three times, Artis the Spoonman will appear.


      Rifflandia Festival

      September 13 to 16 at various venues in Victoria

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Out-of-town heavy hitters like Metz, Blitzen Trapper, Lights, Chad VanGaalen, and Mix Master Mike, along with killer West Coast talent including the Zolas, Hey Ocean!, the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, and Victoria’s own Current Swell.

      Big selling point: One last, feeble attempt at keeping summer alive before real life returns in all its autumnal misery.