A hot 26 music festivals and concerts worth staying in Vancouver for this summer

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      We know what you’re thinking: the summer of 2017 is almost here and it’s finally sunk in that, with both the Squamish Valley Music Festival and Pemberton Music Festival now wiped from the planet, you have zero reasons to get out of town. That’s actually a positive thing, and not just because you won’t be spending three days using overflowing portable toilets and listening to people screw in a tent that’s 11.6 inches from yours.

      Instead of heading up the Sea-to-Sky, you now have the budget to check out the following Straight-approved hot-ticket summer shows. And then, when you get home after each and every hot and sweaty gig, think about how lucky you are to have access to a shower. See? Life really isn’t so bad.

      Festival d’été Francophone De Vancouver

      There’s an old saying that there’s nothing better than Paris in the spring. Montreal in the summer isn’t too shabby either. The annual Festival d’Été Francophone de Vancouver on West 7th Avenue is also famously great, the talent this year including—but hardly limited to—electro-pop breakout artist La Bronze, singer-songwriter Paul Piché, and Vancouver’s own Isabelle Longnus.

      When and where: June 14 to 27 at various locations.

      Suggested retail price: See Le Centre Culturel website for full details.

      Dress code: If you’ve ever walked Montreal’s St. Denis Street, then you’re well aware that no one struts around in flip-flops, lululemon yoga pants, and Señor Frog’s tank tops. So, even if it’s only for 14 days, how about asking yourself “What would Marion Cotillard or Jessica Paré do?”, instead of scrounging around in the laundry hamper for anything that looks semi-clean.

      Fan profile: Cultural tourists whose idea of a great French-themed mix includes not only Serge Gainsbourg and Gilles Vigneault but also Les Georges Leningrad and Melody’s Echo Chamber.

      Lee Fields.

      Red Truck's Truck Stop Concert Series

      Nothing goes better with summer than beer and music, the good vibes doubling when you can get outside for the 12 weeks when it doesn’t rain like the first 90 minutes of Brad Pitt’s Seven. Thank heaven, then, for another edition of Red Truck’s Truck Stop Concert Series, featuring headliners Cut Copy, Drake White and the Big Fire, and Lee Fields and the Expressions.

      When and where: June 17, July 15, and August 12 at Red Truck Brewery.

      Suggested retail price: $35 per show; $75 Tailgate pass for all three.

      Dress code: East Van craft-beer chic, which starts with full-sleeve tattoos and fuller beards for the guys and vintage trucker hats (sleeves optional) for the gals.

      Fan profile: With a lineup that showcases everything from retro soul (Fields) to homegrown dream pop (Young Blood) and paisley country (Real Ponchos), watch for an audience that’s as colourful as the city we live in. Except with better musical taste.

      Kandace Springs.

      TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival

      You don’t get to be one of the biggest, longest-running, and most popular cultural events in Vancouver without some seriously passionate leadership. The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival once again delivers a program designed to push boundaries much in the way genre giants like Miles Davis and John Coltrane once did. That means everything from the thrillingly experimental (Achim Kaufmann’s Grünen) to the endlessly classy (Branford Marsalis with the VSO) to the tear-jerkingly beautiful (Seu Jorge Presents: The Life Aquatic—A Tribute to David Bowie).

      When and where: June 22 to July 2 at various locations.

      Suggested retail price: Visit the Coastal Jazz website for full details.

      Dress code: Use your imagination, and, in the spirit of jazz, don’t be afraid to write your own rules according to who you’re seeing. That can mean anything from accessorizing your Ziggy Marley dreads with a smartly tailored Thievery Corporation suit or matching a Kandace Springs ’fro with a Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox–inspired cocktail dress.

      Fan profile: It’s kind of funny to think that jazz started out being blackballed as “the devil’s music” before becoming the art form of choice for Prohibition nightclubs, beatniks, and forward-thinking heroin addicts. Today, thanks to enduring institutions like the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the genre has gone mainstream while staying admirably wild at heart.

      Ryan Adams

      Need proof that sometimes even eternal fuckups can find success if they hang in there? Look no further than former alt-country bad boy Ryan Adams playing gorgeous soft-seaters like the Orpheum. For the longest time, the onetime Whiskeytown frontman was famous not only for recording every song idea that popped into his head, but also for delivering rambling, belligerent, and semi-out-of-it live shows. "Clean and mostly sober" seems to fit the man these days, with recent outings like 1989 and Prisoner getting not only some of the best reviews of his career, but also the ticket sales to match the praise.

      When and where: June 27 at the Orpheum.

      Suggested retail price: $59.50 to $35, plus service charges.

      Dress code: A Bryan Adams Reckless T-shirt, but only if you’re sitting in the front row and curious as to whether Ryan Adams really has mellowed out as much as he claims.

      Fan profile: Die-hards in faded vintage Whiskeytown T-shirts, middle-agers who’ve been onboard since Heartbreaker, and casual fans hoping to hear “Summer of ’69”.

      The Chainsmokers.

      FVDED in the Park

      With the collapse of Squamish Valley Music Festival last year and Pemberton Music Festival this year, FVDED in the Park has become, by default, the biggest multiday destination event for those too lazy to make the trek down to Washington state for Sasquatch. Where initial installments were weighted toward EDM, this year’s edition leans increasingly on hip-hop, with heavyweights including Wiz Khalifa, Dillon Francis, and Ty Dolla $ign. Those showing up for glitter-spackled anthems and deafening bass drops, meanwhile, will be all about the Chainsmokers, Yellow Claw, and Matoma.

      When and where: July 7 and 8 at Holland Park in Surrey.

      Suggested retail price: Visit FVDED in the Park website for full details.

      Dress code: Sunglasses and a tank-top undershirt that highlights the tattoos that cover your arms, upper chest, most of your neck, and part of your face. Same for you, fellas.

      Fan profile: Young, blazed, half-dressed, and completely urban, which is kind of funny, considering that Surrey was once as suburban as things got. Yes, the times have changed.

      The Zolas.

      West 4th Avenue Khatsahlano Street Party

      In a short half-decade, the West 4th Avenue Khatsahlano Street Party has officially become the Vancouver indie music scene’s marquee event, with some of the city’s top-flight acts playing for crowds of thousands. The staff at Zulu Records has this year once again curated a lineup that’s as brilliantly diverse as Vancouver; for the cost of nothing but getting yourself down to Kits, you get a bill that only starts with alt-pop kings the Zolas, garage-pop queens the Courtneys, pioneering punks D.O.A., and indie-rock darling Louise Burns. But as veterans of past Khats street parties know, the undercard is equally rewarding—you’re going to be thrilled by standouts like Twin Bandit, Art D’Ecco, Actors, and V. Vecker Ensemble. And that’s just the tip of a bill that’s 40 bands deep.

      When and where: July 8 on West 4th Avenue.

      Suggested retail price: Free.

      Dress code: Time to pull that vintage tie-dyed Painted Ship poncho out of your great grandparents’ tickle trunk, mostly because there’s no better way to show you know where Vancouver’s fabled independent music scene truly started.

      Fan profile: DIY disciples, which is to say folks whose visits to Zulu aren’t restricted to the day Khats takes place.

      Queen + Adam Lambert

      We know what you’re thinking: Queen without Freddie Mercury is pure rock ’n’ roll sacrilege. But considering Freddie and his half of a mike stand aren’t coming back from heaven anytime soon, console yourself with the fact that it could be worse. Have you ever heard The Cosmos Rocks by Queen + Paul Rodgers?

      When and where: July 2 at Rogers Arena.

      Suggested retail price: $175 to $49.50, plus service charges.

      Dress code: What better way to pay tribute to the late Mercury than with a white tank top, nut-hugging white pants, and that famous half of a mike stand? The mustache and sexy overbite are optional.

      Fan profile: Believe it or not, there are a whole lot of people out there who never get sick of hearing “We Will Rock You” at NHL games.

      Rhiannon Giddens.

      Vancouver Folk Music Festival

      With hard-core and politically aware leftie Billy Bragg among the headliners at this year’s 40th-anniversary celebration, imagine the euphoria on-site should Donald Trump walk the impeachment plank down in the States. After all, if the Vancouver Folk Music Festival is famously about anything, it’s building alliances, not walls. On the subject of working together, Bragg will find himself performing with Joe Henry, the two concentrating on songs from their collaboration Shine a Light: Field Recordings From the Great American Railroad. If we’re lucky we’ll see other headliners like Shawn Colvin, Rhiannon Giddens, and the Barenaked Ladies in various workshop tents.

      When and where: July 13 to 16 at Jericho Beach Park.

      Suggested retail price: Visit the Vancouver Folk Music Festival website for full details.

      Dress code: This year’s lineup spotlights talent ranging from Canadian alt-country queens (Kathleen Edwards) to Egyptian folk agitators (Ramy Essam) to African electro-tribal alchemists (Mbongwana Star). With that in mind, ask yourself what a global villager would wear. Or, failing that, go for a giant straw hat, shorts, and flip-flops, and don’t skimp on the sunscreen.

      Fan profile: Socially aware to the max, not just politically but also artistically. More than ever, the world needs to be inclusive rather than divisive. The Vancouver Folk Music Festival has been preaching that message since its inception.

      Matchbox Twenty and Counting Crows

      With Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Scott Weiland, and Layne Staley all now in a better place, it’s getting harder and harder to indulge in good old-fashioned alt-’90s nostalgia. Enter a double bill of acts that were almost as big as Weezer back when MuchMusic actually aired videos rather than endless reruns of Idiotsitter.

      When and where: July 16 at Rogers Arena.

      Suggested retail price: $115 to $39, plus service charges.

      Dress code: Fake dreadlocks, mostly because if Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz has been able to rock them without ridicule for three decades, you can get away with it for a night.

      Fan profile: Aging parents who haven’t been to a concert since Kurt Cobain joined the 27 club.

      J. Cole.

      J. Cole

      Sometimes you can tell a person’s worth simply by the crew he runs with. Take J. Cole, for example, who was the first artist signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label. When he’s not releasing self-produced No. 1 albums like Born Sinner and 2014 Forest Hills Drive, he’s behind the board helping craft tracks for fellow superstars such as Kendrick Lamar and Janet Jackson. But speaking real volumes about Cole’s worth is the fact that he remains active in the North Carolina community where he was raised, with ventures including providing free housing for single mothers. Class is something that can’t be taught.

      When and where: July 18 at Rogers Arena.

      Suggested retail price: $125.50 to $29.50, plus service charges.

      Dress code: As a shout-out to the nonprofit artists’ label founded by Cole, a red hoodie emblazoned with the DreamVille Records logo.

      Fan profile: Progressive to the core.

      Bob Dylan

      The temptation is to pitch living legend Bob Dylan as a must-see simply because, at age 76, the odds of him touring in the future get slimmer each year. But weirdly, given that Keith Richards, Neil Young, and Pete Townshend are still at it, 70-something appears to be the new 40 in rock ’n’ roll terms. So rather than going to see Dylan because you’re afraid he’s going to die, go see him in the hope not only that he’ll play “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, but that you’ll actually be able to decipher more than every 19th word.

      When and where: July 25 at Rogers Arena.

      Suggested retail price: $112 to $46.50, plus service charges.

      Dress code: Blue jeans, tan belt buckle, and a bare chest emblazoned with the words “Soy Bomb”. It was an insanely good look when Michael Portnoy sprung it on a surprised Dylan at the Grammy Awards in 1998, and it’s just as out-there as Dylan today.

      Fan profile: Dylan is one of the lucky-few artists whose fan base spans all generations, which means everyone from beat-generation historians to modern alt-country upstarts.

      In addition to his career achievements—which include winning five Grammys—Bruno Mars also keeps Procter & Gamble alive with his hairspray consumption.

      Bruno Mars

      With Prince having ascended to heaven on purple wings, Bruno Mars is now America’s favourite purveyor of radio-ready funk- and soul-tinted pop. As with his 2014 Super Bowl performance, expect plenty of synchronized dancing, perma-smiling faces, and wardrobe choices that would impress the Jackson 5 circa Dancing Machine.

      When and where: July 26 and 27 at Rogers Arena.

      Suggested retail price: $190 to $40, plus service charges.

      Dress code: If Sly Stone had no problem rocking gold bellbottoms accessorized by a green satin shirt, pink feather boa, and Huggy Bear–brand hat, nothing should be stopping you.

      Fan profile: Funk-soul pop fans who’ve never heard of Sly Stone but can name every song ever recorded by Bruno Mars.

      Ed Sheeran.

      Ed Sheeran

      Every now and then a good guy wins, the feat being all the more impressive when said victor gets to the top largely on good old-fashioned charisma. Ed Sheeran is a rarity in today’s ADHD world: a classic acoustic-guitar-wielding troubadour whose fans are more interested in surprisingly soulful songs than spectacle.

      When and where: July 28 at Rogers Arena.

      Suggested retail price: Visit the Live Nation website for full details.

      Dress code: One seldom goes wrong with a plaid shirt, which—assuming you’re not trying to make a postgrunge fashion statement—is simple and unpretentious, much like Sheeran.

      Fan profile: English expats, proud gingers, connoisseurs of intelligent, no-frills pop where the soul undertones never sound forced.

      Kendrick Lamar.

      Kendrick Lamar

      On the gushing-accolades front, Kendrick Lamar might just be the biggest MC in the game, with major achievements including seven Grammys and a 2016 nod from Time as one of the 100 most influential people on the planet. His 2015 full-length To Pimp a Butterfly was hailed universally as nothing less than insanely dazzling, and this April’s Damn racked up an almost perfect 96-out-of-100 score on Metacritic. This is an artist who could not be more on top of his game.

      When and where: August 2 at Rogers Arena.

      Suggested retail price: $215 to $70 on Ticketmaster, plus service charges.

      Dress code: Lamar has been completely open about his admiration for the pioneers of West Coast rap, citing giants like Ice Cube and Tupac Shakur as seminal influences. Given that, no one’s going to go wrong with a red front-tie bandanna and vintage L.A. Raiders jacket.

      Fan profile: Hard-core West Coast gangstas. And also suburban hip-hop heads whose moms have let them attend Kendrick Lamar on the condition they and their posses be at the Surrey Central SkyTrain station for pickup in the minivan at 11:20 p.m. sharp.

      Trombone Shorty.

      Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival

      By landing the great Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue alone, the Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival has delivered one of its strongest-ever bills. Throw in a supporting cast that mixes top-flight imports (Little Miss Higgins), Canadian masters (Matt Andersen), and B.C. greats (Leeroy Stagger), and you’ve got a lineup that’s almost as wonderful as the idyllic setting of Deer Lake Park.

      When and where: August 12 at Deer Lake Park.

      Suggested retail price: Visit the Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival website for full details.

      Dress code: Break out the Tipitina’s baseball cap.

      Fan profile: Folks who bleed Mississippi-hued blue.

      Lady Gaga.

      Lady Gaga

      Honestly, we’d have loved Lady Gaga forever even if she’d stopped pushing the envelope with her now-legendary dress made out of real meat. Instead, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta remains one of the most creative and forward-thinking megastars in pop music. Consider her appearance at this year’s Super Bowl. After treating Donald Trump’s new America to cleverly coded acceptance anthems like “Born This Way”, she actually caught and spiked a football. Don’t ever change.

      When and where: August 1 at Rogers Arena.

      Suggested retail price: $250 to $45, plus service charges.

      Dress code: If you’ve been to Gaga’s past Vancouver spectacles, you know that anything goes. So go all out with a Saran Wrap thong and nothing else but a smile.

      Fan profile: Monsters—but not the red-baseball-cap-wearing real monsters who’ve taken over America.



      If you’ve seen the documentary Searching for Sugar Man, then you know the tale: Sixto Diaz Rodriguez made two great albums in 1970 and 1971 (Cold Fact and Coming from Reality), completely disappeared from sight in 1975, and then slowly became a cult hero in South Africa. That led to the 2012 film, which sparked a second wave of interest in North America and beyond. Normally, that means a quick victory lap in small rooms like Vancouver’s Venue (which Rodriguez played in 2012). In this case, the rebirth has had legs, which is why the late-to-stardom singer-songwriter has now graduated to soft-seaters.

      When and where: August 5 at the Orpheum.

      Suggested retail price: $115, plus service charges.

      Dress code: This is one case where it’s okay to be yourself. It certainly worked for Rodriguez, even if it took 35 years for the world to appreciate his genius.

      Fan profile: Those who appreciate Big Star, the 13th Floor Elevators, and Anvil. Not necessarily for their music, but more because they’ve all been great comeback stories.

      Mother Mother.

      PNE Summer Night Concerts

      Imagine being able to tell your 16-year-old, ’80s-MTV-watching self that one day you’d not only be catching ZZ Top, Rick Springfield, the B-52s, and Huey Lewis and the News in a relatively intimate outdoor setting, but that you’d do so for free. Welcome to the 2017 edition of PNE Summer Night Concerts, which will feature performances by those platinum-selling icons, as well as by Chicago, Colin James, Tom Cochrane, and the Pointer Sisters. For those whose radio dials are tuned to the Peak rather than to Jack FM, Vancouver’s beloved Mother Mother kicks the series off on August 19.

      When and where: August 19 to September 4 at the PNE Amphitheatre.

      Suggested retail price: Free with PNE admission.

      Dress code: Depending on the night, chin-to-crotch hillbilly beards, Pink Flamingos–inspired trailer-trash chic, and, well, you get the idea.

      Fan profile: Once you get beyond Mother Mother, folks who remember when MTV actually played videos instead of endless reruns of Catfish: The TV Show.


      The greatness of Metallica is that the only songs non–hard-core fans can really name are “Enter Sandman”, “Enter Sandman”, and “Enter Sandman”. That’s a sign that almost all of those who’ll pack out the biggest venue in the province will be there for underground classics like “Ride the Lightning” and “One”, rather than, you know, “Enter Sandman”.

      When and where: August 14 at B.C. Place.

      Suggested retail price: $183 to $55.50, plus service charges.

      Dress code: Pay tribute to the early glory years of the band by opting for a stringy unwashed mullet and Grade 11 power-mechanics mustache.

      Fan profile: Lifers who’ll argue the worst thing that ever happened to Metallica was hooking up with Bob Rock for the “black album” and then going 20-times-platinum thanks to “Enter Sandman”.


      Rancid/Dropkick Murphys

      Two heavyweights not only team up for a dream bill, but throw in ska pioneers the Selecter and underground vet Kevin Seconds as a bonus for your welfare buck. From the West Coast, you get ska punks Rancid, who’ve scored big radio hits like “Time Bomb” without ever selling out. From the East Coast come Celtic punks the Dropkick Murphys, who’ve become an internationally respected treasure thanks to hits like “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”. Bring a mouthguard if you plan to spend time in the pit.

      When and where: August 15 at Thunderbird Stadium.

      Suggested retail price: $60 to $40, plus service charges.

      Dress code: Considering the cross-pollination spirit of the tour, a multicoloured Marlin-style Mohawk, complemented by a neatly pressed neon-tartan kilt.

      Fan profile: Punks who appreciate that there’s nothing more punk than playing by your own rules.

      Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

      Survivors of Pemberton Festival 2008 might remember that it wasn’t headliners Jay-Z or Nine Inch Nails that everyone was talking about after the dust settled. Instead, the weekend belonged to grizzled classic rocker Tom Petty, who had everyone singing en masse to mix-tape standards like “Free Fallin’ ” and “Into the Great Wide Open”. Yes, there’s a reason why the 66-year-old is still headlining hockey rinks when most rockers of his generation are on-stage at the Skagit Valley Casino Resort.

      When and where: August 17 at Rogers Arena.

      Suggested retail price: $175 to $40, plus service charges.

      Dress code: For nothing but the surreal factor, see Petty’s getup in “Don’t Come Around Here No More”.

      Fan profile: Classic-rock fans, along with a healthy smattering of those whose hatred of classic rock is matched only by their love of Tom Petty.


      Who would have thought back in the “Loser” days that Beck Hansen would become anything other than a one-hit wonder? In the 30 years that have passed, the former DIY kid has solidified his status as an American icon, dabbling in everything from white-boy funk to heartbreakingly melancholy Americana.

      When and where: August 24 at the Orpheum.

      Suggested retail price: $85 to $45, plus service charges.

      Dress code: Start by getting crazy with the Cheese Whiz, and then reach for a powder-blue tux with a ruffled white shit, carnation optional.

      Fan profile: Gen-Xers who—as sure as one’s got a weasel and the other’s got a flag—thought Beck was going to be famous for “Loser” and nothing else but.



      As first-wave L.A. punk acts went, Descendents never got the respect of Black Flag, X, or the Circle Jerks. The band’s songs were probably too short and too funny. (Remember how “Weinerschnitzel” clocked in at 11 seconds?) Bespectacled singer Milo Aukerman and his cohorts are, however, getting the last laugh, headlining rooms the size of the Commodore while staying relevant with records like last year’s Billboard-Top-20 outing Hypercaffium Spazzinate.

      When and where: August 24 and 25 at the Commodore.

      Suggested retail price: $42.75, plus service charges.

      Dress code: As every Descendents fan knows, the group is obsessed with coffee, coffee, and more coffee, to the point where it actually has its own signature bean: Hypercaffium Spazzinate Whole Bean Coffee.

      Fan profile: First-wave punks on an evening pass from the retirement home, and kids who realize that Descendents are the closest they’re probably getting to the spirit of the long-gone-from-these-parts Warped Tour.

      Die Antwoord.

      Die Antwoord

      The official word—which the band has been flip-flopping on—is that South African zef rappers Die Antwoord have one final album on deck, after which project founders Ninja and Yolandi Visser will be pulling the plug. If that’s true, the group will leave behind one of the most stunning legacies the rap world has ever seen, mostly because no one in the game has so seamlessly fused music and fucking insane street art. And before you go disputing that, feel free to revisit the video for “Fatty Boom Boom”.

      When and where: August 27 at Thunderbird Arena.

      Suggested retail price: $49.50 to $32.50, plus service charges.

      Fan profile: Art renegades, freak-flag flyers, South African white trash, and rap fans who don’t give a shit that Ninja will never be placed on the same pedestal as Eminem, Nas, or even LL Cool J. Sometimes attitude is everything.

      Dress code: See the video for “Fatty Boom Boom”. Or “I Fink U Freeky”. Or “Fat Faded Fuck Face”. And then emulate—if you dare.

      Guns N’ Roses

      The temptation is to obsess over what might have been: just when Guns N’ Roses became the biggest band in the world, infighting, addiction, and other dramas led to Axl Rose declaring war on his fellow founding members (most notably guitarist Slash and, to a lesser extent, bassist Duff McKagan). For years and years and years, Guns N’ Roses fans were reduced to following a band that had zero original members other than Rose, the hired guns including a guitarist who played in a white Michael Myers mask with an upturned fucking KFC bucket on his head. Thanks to a surprise 2015 reconciliation, a whole new generation gets the opportunity to lose its shit to “Welcome to the Jungle”.

      When and where: September 1 at B.C. Place.

      Suggested retail price: $275 to $35, plus service charges.

      Dress code: A top hat and a cigarette, or a bandanna and a kilt. The choice is yours.

      Fan profile: Punks, metalheads, classic rockers, and blues-boogie disciples. The beauty of Guns N’ Roses was that they were a band for everyone, even back when musical boundaries were nowhere near as blurred as they are today.


      Vince Staples.

      Westward Music Festival

      The past couple of years (see the Squamish and Pemberton collapses) have made festival-loving rock and hip-hop fans wonder why the hell God has a hate-on for Vancouver. Thank the ghost of Billy Graham that we’ve finally got some good news, with the birth of Westward Music Festival, which will feature a winning mix of international and local talent spanning genres that range from new-school hip-hop (Vince Staples) to throwback punk (Pup) to emotionally charged pop (Hannah Georgas).

      When and where: September 14 to 17 at various venues.

      Suggested retail price: Visit the Westward Music Festival website for full details.

      Dress code: Summer will be winding down, so get one final week out of the shorts and T-shirts you’ll soon be mothballing for the nine-month monsoon season that runs from October to June.

      Fan profile: Westward Music Festival has too many genres to come up with a blanket description of its target audience, so how about Vancouver rock and hip-hop fans desperate for a multiday festival to call their own?