Embrace the heat at out-of-town festivals
Bum a ride this sweltering summer and catch some top-notch live music from Portland to Yellowknife and all points in between.
Whether you call it “global warming” or “climate change”—or even if you dismiss the whole notion as a pseudoscientific liberal lie designed to attack big business, while you crank the AC and pretend it isn’t happening—it’s going to be a long, hot summer. In the short term, there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it, so you might as well learn to enjoy it.
And by that, I don’t mean sitting around the house in your sweat-stained underthings rewatching all seven seasons of Mad Men, or filling your bathtub with ice cubes and lying in it until they have all melted. No, I mean getting out there and experiencing it for yourself. It’s not all bad news. After all, the hotter it gets, the fewer clothes humans tend to wear. This is an especially positive development if those shedding the layers happen to be the sort of humans you find attractive. Attractive humans have been known to gather at music festivals, and guess what? There are plenty of those happening, both locally and within a day’s drive or so of Vancouver.
Of course, the opportunity to ogle hot strangers might not be enough to get you motivated, so what follows is a more or less comprehensive guide to what’s happening and why you want—nay, need—to be there. And for the love of Mother Earth, please don’t just load up your gas-guzzler and hit the highway. Do the right thing and bum a ride from someone. Preferably an attractive stranger in some state of heat-induced undress.
Oh, and here’s hoping you like the Funk Hunters, because if you go to enough festivals this summer, you will be seeing Nick Middleton and Duncan Smith at some point.
TD Victoria International Jazzfest
June 19 to 28 at various venues in Victoria
Why you’re bumming a ride: This year’s highlights include Britain’s vibraphone-led Cloudmakers Trio, Cocktail Nation survivors Pink Martini, the perennially horny Tower of Power, postmodern piano trio GoGo Penguin, Israeli “Ethio-jazz” sensation Ester Rada, and Adonis Puentes and the Voice of Cuba Orchestra.
Big Selling Point: As usual, there’s lots of overlap with Vancouver’s jazz festival, but if you stay in town you won’t have an excuse to take a ferry ride. Any excuse for a ferry ride, I always say!
June 24 to 28 in Calgary
Why you’re bumming a ride: A carefully curated cross-section of left-field pop, rock, and hip-hop, including the legendary likes of Daniel Lanois, De La Soul, Swervedriver, Pentagram, Drive Like Jehu, Yo La Tengo, and Television; plus the buzzworthy Tough Age, Viet Cong, Iceage, the Coathangers, and the delightfully named Bullshit Hardcore Band. No Funk Hunters, though.
Big Selling Point: There’s always a chance that the Elbow River will jump its banks and flood the entire city of Calgary. Danger is exciting!
Tall Tree Music Festival
June 26 to 28 at Brown’s Mountain in Port Renfrew
Why you’re bumming a ride: The Funk Hunters, the Funkee Wadd, Five Alarm Funk, and a bunch of other acts that don’t have the word funk in their names. Those include many, many DJs, plus performers like Bend Sinister, Daniel Wesley, Hot Panda, Delhi 2 Dublin, the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, and Humans.
Big Selling Point: This might well be the only reason you ever have for visiting Port Renfrew, so make sure to hit the excellent nearby hiking trails while you’re up there. (Or down there, or whatever direction it’s in.) In Avatar Grove you will presumably get to chill with the resident Na’vis and see what is billed as “Canada’s gnarliest tree”, which is not only gnarly but also rad, excellent, and totally tubular.
Victoria Ska + Reggae Festival
July 1 to 5 at various venues in Victoria
Why you’re bumming a ride: Formerly just the Victoria Ska Festival, but the organizers threw that “+ Reggae” in this year to show that this is more than a one-genre fest. With acts like Hepcat, the Slackers, Third World, Kutapira, Carmanah, Breakestra, the Boom Booms, and the Real McKenzies on the bill, they could just as easily have called it the Victoria Ska + Reggae + Afrobeat + Folk-Rock + Soul + Funk + Dub + Celtic-Rock Festival.
Big Selling Point: What—ska, reggae, Afrobeat, folk-rock, soul, funk, dub, and Celtic rock aren’t enough for you?
TD Concerts At The Pier
Saturday nights July 4 to August 8 on the waterfront in White Rock
Why you’re bumming a ride: This weekly concert series includes performances by Good for Grapes, Fast Romantics, the Boom Booms, Gary Comeau & the Voodoo Allstars, the Matinée, Téa Petrovic, David Sinclair & Keith Bennett, Rich Hope, Tonye Aganaba, Bend Sinister, Ben Rogers, Lester Quitzau, Sarah Wheeler, Colleen Rennison, and Blue Moon Marquee.
Big Selling Point: Okay, so technically White Rock isn’t quite “out of town” in the way that, say, Victoria is. After all, you can get there in under an hour. But if you’re like most Vancouverites, you don’t spend much time on White Rock’s charming waterfront, which is a shame, because going there is just like being out of town, only not quite.
July 10 to 13 at Active Mountain Resort in Merritt
Why you’re bumming a ride: Not that it’s any of my business what someone chooses to call their festival, but until the sea level rises and all of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley are swallowed up by the Pacific Ocean, Merritt will remain a good three-hour drive from the nearest coastline. Don’t let geographical inaccuracy stop you from enjoying sets by Tyler Stadius, Lighta! Reggae and Dub Jam, Zebra Katz, Woodhead, Longwalkshortdock, Blondtron N Waspy, Foxy Moron, Max Ulis, Willisist, Smalltown DJs, Taal Mala, and those ubiquitous Funk Hunters.
Big Selling Point: It’s a lot more appealing a notion than the Treble Coast Festival.
Vancouver Island Musicfest
(July 10 to 12 at Comox Valley Fairgrounds in Courtenay)
Why you’re bumming a ride: Vancouver Island Musicfest does a commendable job of programming things to appeal to all ages, and this year that means everything from children’s fave Major Conrad Flapps to 15-year-old blues-rock wunderkind Quinn Sullivan to honest-to-God music legends like Buddy Guy, Graham Nash, and Lyle Lovett. But the surest sign of all that this is a multigenerational festival is the fact that both Barney Bentall and Dustin Bentall are playing at it.
Big Selling Point: This is one festival that you can bring your kids and parents to without anyone getting all pissy about it.
Harrison Festival Of The Arts
July 11 to 19 in Harrison Hot Springs
Why you’re bumming a ride: That Barney Bentall sure does get around. In Harrison, he’ll be playing bluegrass with the High Bar Gang, an ensemble that also includes Colin Nairne, Shari Ulrich, and others. Vancouver blues duo the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer are also on the bill, as well as acts from further afield, including Newfoundland’s the Once, Mali’s Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba, and Scotland’s Breabach.
Big Selling Point: In addition to evening concerts at Heritage Memorial Hall, the Festival of the Arts features lakeside performances with a lush backdrop of mountains, all of which seems designed to make you want to put your 200-square-foot Yaletown condo on the market and move to the Fraser Valley.
Folk On The Rocks
July 17 to 19 in Yellowknife
Why you’re bumming a ride: Okay, so Yellowknife might be a little more than a day’s drive from Vancouver. But it should be worth the epic trek to catch some genuine northern artists—like Tanya Tagaq, Iva, Leela Gilday, and Quantum Tangle—alongside some from the opposite end of the world, like Australia’s Kim Churchill and Jamaican-born reggae star Mikey Dangerous. Throw in appearances by Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, Corb Lund, and, of course, the inevitable Funk Hunters, and that’s a festival right there.
Big Selling Point: You’ve never been to Yellowknife. Well, have you? Didn’t think so.
Rock The Shores
July 18 and 19 at West Shore Parks & Recreation in Colwood
Why you’re bumming a ride: If you’re wondering where the hell Colwood is, rest assured that it’s not in the middle of nowhere. It’s a mere 25-minute drive from Victoria, and while that basically makes it the burbs, it’s a nicely verdant location in which to take in the likes of the Black Keys, Jane’s Addiction, Father John Misty, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, TV on the Radio, the Sheepdogs, Current Swell, 54-40, the Glorious Sons, and No Sinner.
Big Selling Point: Colwood is a hell of a lot easier to get to than Yellowknife.
July 23 to 27 at Beaverfoot Lodge in Golden
Why you’re bumming a ride: The EDM-oriented event that those in the know call MoNo features Infected Mushroom, Noisia, and many, many acts that you have never heard of, including Doctor Werewolf, Farfetchd, Mustard Tiger, Inf1n1te, HumDrumMachine, Egorythmia, Flowjob, Bro Haven, Crazy Daylight, Dirtyloud, Amplidude, Skiitour, Sonic Species, Mister Mxyzptlk, Huglife, Perkulator, Fat Pat, DJ Dill Weed, Om Unit, Plastic Influx, Blue Lunar Monkey, and Far Too Loud. Some of those we totally made up, but you’ll probably never guess which ones.
Big Selling Point: A chance for all you amateur naturalists to observe the effects of pummelling bass frequencies on the unsuspecting flora and fauna of a pristine wilderness area.
PDX Pop Now!
July 24 to 26 at AudioCinema in Portland, Oregon
Why you’re bumming a ride: This one stretches the definition of pop in a major way. Unless you’re a Willamette Week subscriber, you have almost certainly never heard of any of the performers, but with names like Marriage + Cancer, Cool Nutz, Appendixes, Hot Victory, Rap Class, and Weresquatch, you’ve got good reason to head down to Portland. Namely, curiosity.
Big Selling Point: There’s never a bad reason to head down to Portland. Also: free admission!
Center Of Gravity
July 24 to 26 at City Park and Hot Sands Beach in Kelowna
Why you’re bumming a ride: Given that it’s sponsored by an energy drink and its big draws are actually things like beach- and grass-volleyball tournaments, a slam-dunk competition, and a veritable dudesplosion of BMX, skateboarding, and wakeboarding events, it can be easy to overlook the fact that Center of Gravity does indeed have a musical component. Diplo, Flo Rida, Knife Party, Zeds Dead, Delhi 2 Dublin, Yukon Blonde, Phantogram, and Blondtron N Waspy will provide the soundtrack. Oh, and the Funk Hunters. Of course.
Big Selling Point: Do you like butts? Because with all that volleyball, plus the inevitable bootyquake of twerking that seems to break out everywhere Diplo goes, you’ll be seeing a lot of them.
Mission Folk Music Festival
July 24 to 26 at Fraser River Heritage Park in Mission
Why you’re bumming a ride: As usual, the Mission fest is a celebration of music with a truly global character, featuring songs from the Camino de Santiago with Ialma & Quentin Dujardin; voices of Africa with King Sunny Adé, Black Umfolosi, and Bongoziwe Mabandla; new sounds from the Carpathian Mountains with Poland’s Volosi; Canadian folk icon Sylvia Tyson; the Canadian-Irish venture of Pierre Schryer and Martin Nolan; Scotland’s Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson; and Basque trikitixa with Eneko Dorronsoro. No idea what trikitixa is, but it sure is fun trying to say it.
Big Selling Point: Fraser River Heritage Park is one of the prettiest spots on God’s green Earth—or at least the Fraser Valley—and it’s a great place to experience trikitixa in all its glory. Whatever trikitixa is.
July 31 to August 2 at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington
Why you’re bumming a ride: Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line, Mark Chesnutt, Hunter Hayes, Jana Kramer, and various other slick and soulless disgraces to the legacies of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.
Big Selling Point: If you call yourself a country fan but have zero interest in anything released before Garth Brooks was king of the charts, you’ll find yourself right at home. You are probably also a terrible person.
Electric Love Music Festival
(August 1 at Cheam Fishing Village in Agassiz)
Why you’re bumming a ride: Feel the EDM and hip-hop love with Pegboard Nerds, Swollen Members, Mat the Alien, Kyprios, Evil Ebenezer, Checkmate & Concise, Kanabliss tha Supaspliff, Astronaut, Goa Pete, Decibel Empire, and Illvis Freshly. That’s right—Illvis Freshly!
Big Selling Point: According to the festival’s website, “When one is deeply, emotionally involved with quality stereo sound a space of light, colour and energy can open up within and the listener becomes the sound.” What the website doesn’t mention is that when you become the sound, you can see through time.
August 7 and 8 at Fort Calgary in Calgary
Why you’re bumming a ride: The Funk Hunters, mais bien sûr! Plus Tiësto, Kaskade, Dash Berlin, Afrojack, Morgan Page, Will Sparks, Jordan Suckley, James Bayliss, David Stone, Tang Twinz, and other highly photogenic headphone models.
Big Selling Point: Hey, girls! B-boys! Superstar DJs—here we go!
Shambhala Music Festival
(August 7 to 10 at Salmo River Ranch in Nelson)
Why you’re bumming a ride: A lineup of electronic-music artists so big and wide-ranging that we are practically obligated to use exclamation marks. Skrillex! Datsik! DJ Jazzy Jeff! Bonobo! Excision! Pretty Lights! Zomboy! Mix Master Mike! Fort Knox Five! Skratch Bastid! Smalltown DJs! ETC!ETC! (For real: ETC!ETC! is the name of one of the performers.)
Big Selling Point: Unless you’ve booked them to play your end-of-summer kegger, this is your last chance to catch the Funk Hunters this season.
Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival
August 14 to 16 at Salmon Arm Fair Grounds in Salmon Arm
Why you’re bumming a ride: Blues and roots, not necessarily in that order. We’re talking Canned Heat, Amos Garrett, Marty Stuart and his Magnificent Superlatives, Current Swell, Geoff Muldaur, Oysterband, the Duhks, and Tony McManus. All this and John Oates, who apparently doesn’t just vanish when that other guy isn’t in the room.
Big Selling Point: The chance to finally settle the long-standing question of whether or not salmon actually have arms. (I make this joke every year because it never gets old. Never, I say! Never!)
(August 21 to 23 at Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon)
Why you’re bumming a ride: Portland’s largest music festival features Foster the People, Belle and Sebastian, Beirut, Modest Mouse, Misterwives, the Tallest Man on Earth, Milo Greene, Twin Shadow, Danny Brown, the Helio Sequence, Battles, Lost Lander, Strand of Oaks, Pure Bathing Culture, Title Fight, Lady Lamb, Cayucas, Talk in Tongues, Sales, Divers, Alialujah Choir, and Beat Connection.
Big Selling Point: The opportunity to see for yourself if it’s true that the dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland.
August 21 to 23 in Rock Creek
Why you’re bumming a ride: Join Ben, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe for an impressive cross-section of (mostly) B.C. music, including Mounties, the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, Bear Mountain, Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party, High Ends, Gay Nineties, Fake Shark, Catlow, Cathedrals, and Tiger Moon.
Big Selling Point: Isn’t Rock Creek where they make that cider?
September 5 to 7 at Seattle Center
Why you’re bumming a ride: With all due respect to the other fine festivals on this list, Bumbershoot is the one to beat. Just look at this lineup: the Weeknd, Chance the Rapper, Faith No More, Ellie Goulding, Cake, Flying Lotus, Fitz & the Tantrums, Zedd, Social Distortion, Brand New, Neko Case, Bassnectar, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Brandon Flowers, the Airborne Toxic Event, the Cave Singers… Hell, the only thing missing is the Funk Hunters.
Big Selling Point: You’ll have fun spotting your fellow Canadians; they’ll be the ones who pronounce “bumbershoot” properly, while the Yanks perversely insist on saying “bumpershoot”.
September 17 to 20 at various venues in Victoria
Why you’re bumming a ride: Chromeo, Julian Casablancas and the Voidz, Kiesza, Arkells, Joey Bada$$, Tokyo Police Club, Neon Indian, Blonde Redhead, Doomtree, Big Data, the Underachievers, Emancipator, the Dears, Wild Ones, Little Hurricane, Frog Eyes, Moon King, Highs, Grounders, and probably lots and lots of other stuff that only the organizers know and aren’t telling anyone about yet.
Big Selling Point: Having branched out in recent years from Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park to encompass a variety of club and theatre shows, the always-impressive Rifflandia seems to be positioning itself as a Bumbershoot-style event that, unlike Bumbershoot, you don’t need a passport to get to. You will have to take a ferry, but no one ever complained that the scenery along the Strait of Georgia isn’t pretty.