12 music festivals in B.C. and beyond that are worth the road trip

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      Take my advice and just stay in Vancouver this year. The weather is supposed to be amazing, and we have our own great festivals that you won’t have to spend a bunch of gas money on. It’s going to be nutballs! (“Nutballs” is a thing, right?) 

      Such is my newfound sense of civic pride that I have personally pledged to spend the next three months visiting every park in the city, including the ones that don’t have names.

      If you choose to ignore the above advice and hit the road this summer, the following festivals, all within a day’s drive from Vancouver, will definitely be worth the trip.


      The Boom Booms play Victoria's Ska + Reggae Festival.

      Victoria’s Ska + Reggae Festival

      June 14 to 18 at various venues in Victoria

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Rhythm-and-blues legend Booker T. Jones might seem an odd fit for an event that bills itself as a ska and reggae festival, but it’s Booker T. motherfucking Jones, so who’s going to nitpick? Also on the bill are Tarrus Riley, Entangados, Skampida, Roots Roundup, the Boom Booms, and Mike Love (not the one from the Beach Boys).

      Big selling point: The fact that the Mike Love on the bill is not the one from the Beach Boys.


      Squamish fiddler Jocelyn Pettit is part of the Sea to Sky Gondola Friday Sunset Music Series.

      Sea to Sky Gondola Friday Sunset Music Series

      Fridays, June 16 to September 22

      Why you’re bumming a ride: You might not have heard of the Offroaders, the Hairfarmers, the Cole Patenaude Band, the Jocelyn Petit Band, or Bluesberry Jam, but my god, that view.

      Big selling point: The view. Seriously. Google it. And then imagine that view to the sounds of the Offroaders, the Jocelyn Petit Band, or Bluesberry Jam.


      Tegan and Sara are at Spirit of 150 Victoria.
      Pamela Littky

      Spirit of 150 Victoria

      June 30 and July 1 on the B.C. Legislature Lawns in Victoria

      Why you’re bumming a ride: There are certainly worse ways you could spend Canada’s 150th birthday than enjoying free performances by the Arkells, Tegan and Sara, Delhi 2 Dublin, En Karma, and the seemingly inescapable Funk Hunters.

      Big selling point: Here’s hoping Tegan and Sara will do a patriotic rewrite of that Lego Movie song and call it “Canada Is Awesome”.


      A Tribe Called Red brings its indigenous-fused hip-hop to Phillips Backyard Weekender.

      Phillips Backyard Weekender

      July 7 to 9 at the Phillips Brewery in Victoria

      Why you’re bumming a ride: The roster for this year is still a closely guarded secret, but last year’s party at the brewery featured Milky Chance, Bahamas, A Tribe Called Red, and the seemingly inescapable Funk Hunters.

      Big selling point: Beer.


      The Funk Hunters are playing Bass Coast.

      Bass Coast

      July 7 to 10 in Merritt

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Bass Coast sells out in, like, five seconds whenever tickets go on sale each spring, which means that, in the immortal words of Drake, if you’re reading this it’s too late. If you’re willing to pay $1,200 to some scalper on Craigslist, however, you are lucky in two ways—you get to go to Bass Coast, and you obviously have an enviable amount of disposable income.

      Big selling point: You’ll be able to put that coveted Bass Coast sticker on the back of your Westfalia and tell everyone you saw Righteous Rainbows of Togetherness, Unicorn Fukr, and the seemingly inescapable Funk Hunters.


      The String Cheese Incident.

      Element Music Festival

      August 3 to 6 at Snug Lake Amphitheatre in Princeton

      Why you’re bumming a ride: The String Cheese Incident, Steve Kimock and Friends, Garaj Mahal, Five Alarm Funk, Brickhouse, Big Easy Funk Ensemble, and Genetics—a blend of acts designed to appeal to those who are still kicking themselves because they never got to see the Grateful Dead. (Count us, by the way, among those numbers.)

      Big selling point: Element Music Festival will act as the official kick-off event for one of the province's newest venues, the Snug Lake Amphitheatre, which plans to host hard-rock and roots festivals in future summers. You know what that means, namely the chance to tell your friends you were there on the ground floor, camping beside a pristine alpine lake surrounded by unspoiled wilderness.


      Marijuana just might be legal in time for Willie Nelson's next visit to B.C.
      Bob Jagendorf

      Merritt Rockin’ River Fest

      August 3 to 6 at Merritt Festival Show Site in Merritt

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Given their ignoble history and reputation, it’s pretty easy to be cynical about country-music festivals that take place in Merritt. The Rockin’ River Fest really gets things right this year, though, striking a balance between twang-poppers (the Band Perry), bona fide music icons (Willie Nelson and Family), new-school outlaws (Kacey Musgraves), and banjo-wielding crossovers (Washboard Union). Also, whatever Toby Keith is.

      Big selling point: Willie Nelson is, like, 1,000 years old. Go see him while you still can.


      Chasing Summer

      August 5 and 6 at the Max Bell Centre Festival Grounds in Calgary

      Why you’re bumming a ride: If you like to dance, you’ll no doubt love doing so to the sounds of Tiësto, Zedd, W&W, Jauz, Tritonal, NGHTMRE, Infected Mushroom, and the seemingly inescapable Funk Hunters.

      Big selling point: Do you like to dance?


      Shambhala Music Festival

      August 11 to 14 at Salmo River Ranch in Nelson

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Dance in the forest to A-Trak, the Orb, Z-Trip, Beats Antique, Datsik, Dilated Peoples, Black Tiger Sex Machine, Excision, DJ Jazzy Jeff, LTJ Bukem, Lucent Dossier Experience, Pomo, Rob Garza, Stanton Warriors, and the seemingly inescapable Funk Hunters.

      Big selling point: Lucent Dossier Experience and Black Tiger Sex Machine would seem to prove that throwing words together at random is the best way to name an EDM project. With that in mind, I’ll be sneaking into Shambhala this year and performing a guerrilla set under the moniker Standstill Lonesome Wraith.


      Datsik plays Shambhala and Motion Notion.

      Motion Notion

      August 24 to 28 at Beaverfoot Lodge in Golden

      Why you’re bumming a ride: Some people—the sensible ones, it could be argued—go camping in the wilderness to get some peace and quiet away from all the noise of civilization. Others go to hear the likes of Datsik, Avalon, Dirty Phonics, Koan Sound, the M Machine, Minnesota, Fort Knox Five, Longwalkshortdock, Smalltown DJs, and the seemingly inescapable Funk Hunters blast the shit out of said peace and quiet through a 50,000-watt sound system.

      Big selling point: Why be quiet when you can be loud?


      Margaret Cho fans will want to head down to Bumbershoot.


      September 1 to 3 at Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington

      Why you’re bumming a ride: We always call Bumbershoot “Seattle’s best party”, and we’re just going to go ahead and do that again, given a lineup that includes Lorde, Flume, Odesza, Weezer, Big Sean, Die Antwoord, Haim, Spoon, Solange, Ekali, Deap Vally, the Roots, and Flo Rida. Plus, laughs from the likes of Margaret Cho, Todd Barry, and Judah Friedlander.

      Big selling point: It’s fucking Bumbershoot!


      Yukon Blonde plays Rifflandia.

      Rifflandia Festival

      September 14 to 17 at various venues in Victoria

      Why you’re bumming a ride: There’s always some joker. In last year’s out-of-town roundup, we told you about a performer going by the name of Fleetwood Smack (at the Tall Tree fest in Port Renfrew). This year it’s Fleetmac Wood at Victoria’s 10th annual Rifflandia. If someone would like to book Meatwood Flack for next year, we can call it a trifecta.

      Big selling point: Silly names aside, can you think of a better way to say goodbye to summer than by catching live performances by Zeds Dead, Bonobo, A Tribe Called Red, Yukon Blonde, Busty and the Bass, and Said the Whale, along with DJ sets by Moby and Hot Chip? No Funk Hunters this year, sadly.