The Ultimate List of Summer Music festivals in Canada

Stone cold fact. Canadians know how to party. It’s been proven time and time again, and with any luck, should continue this way far beyond the time my bones turn to mush and my skin sags to old. One of the amazing things about Canada is the fact that no matter what time of day, or what season it is, there’s bound to be a festival somewhere. However, since summer is such a short season, and one of the only times you can get belligerent drunk and pass out outside without freezing to death, the masses have decided that summer is the best time for music festivals! No matter what part of Canada you’re in this summer, chances are you’re only a few short hours away from your nearest music festival.

Toronto NXNE Summer festival
Photo by nowhere3

NXNE – North by North East

June 14 – 20 – Toronto, ON

North by Northeast, as you may have guessed it, was based on the South by Southwest festival in Texas. NXNE is a yearly festival in Toronto, Ontario that brings five days of live music, film festivals, and conferences to keep that artistic monster you keep trapped inside at bay. The festival is held each year in June and brings about some of the most creative bands, writers, film makers, and people from all over the wrold. NXNE relies heavily on volunteers for their operations to be a success, so if you’re looking for work, or just to make some friends, you might want to look into this. If you’re big into the arts scene, you’d have to be higher than a kite to think about skipping this one.

Note: Virgin Mobile announced they’re sponsoring a free show with Iggy Pop & The Stooges alongside a huge lineup. Click here for the 2010 NXNE Lineup

Pemberton Fest BC
Photo by Kweezy McG

Pemberton Festival

Unfortunately cancelled this year – Pemberton, BC

The Pemberton Festival is slash was slash might be again a massive three day summer music festival. Unfortunately festival organizers, Live Nation, have cancelled the last 2 years in a row. However With any luck, the Pemberton Festival might play zombie and RISE FROM THE DEAD! The Pemberton music festival is/was/hopefully will be again a primarily rock and indie rock show, with a dash of hip hop to keep the thugs in harmony. Headlining the 2008 show was Coldplay, Tom Petty, Jay-Z, Nine inch Nails, The Hip, Flaming Lips, and about a billion other bands I feel deserve more credit than the headliners, such as Wintersleep, Death Cab for Cutie, Wolfmother, Sam Roberts Band, Vampire Weekend, Metric, Interpol, Grand Ole Party, MSTRKRFT, and many many more. Despite 2010 being a write-off for this summer festival, maybe, JUST MAYBE, 2011 will have better luck.

Cavendish Beach Music Fest in PEI

Photo courtesy of Cavendish Beach Music Festival

Cavendish Beach Music Festival

July 7 – 11 – Cavendish Beach, PEI

Between July 8th and 11, on the small island of P.E.I, semi trailors full of music gear heard towards the small town of Cavendish to put on a massive country festival. Country music’s favourite TayTay aka Taylor Swift will be there on Saturday, July 10th, while guitar slinging Keith Urban will be bustin chops on Thursday, July 8th. Emerson Drive, The Roadhammers, Little Big Town and Collin Raye are also performing this weekend. The whole shindig takes place between July 7th and 11th.

Photo by Troy Fleece

Craven Country Jamboree

July 15 – 18 Craven, SK

Craven Country Jamboree… home of fond memories, blurs, and the occasional hangover. This little prairie town in the middle of QuAppelle Valley becomes one of the largest cities in the province during the weekend of July 15 – 18. Craven is always a sell-out show, so prepare for loads of people, some competitive beer darts, and some honkin tonkin country music. Hands down one of country musics biggest Canadian festivals, and by far its funnest. You don’t have to enjoy country music to fall in love with this festival, if you happen to own a cowboy hat, or fancy yourself a borderline alcoholic, you’ll find plenty to do during Saskatchewans largest summer festival.

Note: Buy the taco-in-a-bag at the Grand Stands, it will sexify your tastebuds like no other.

Virgin Summer Music Festival Canada

Photo by  coaxeus

Virgin Festival

Multiple Dates – Multiple Locations

Virgin Festival is another annual event that typically takes place across Canada. The festival is North Americas take on the UK’s V Festival. They typically aim at bringing in as many big names in pop, rock, and hip hop to center stage in Canada’s largest cities. Strange thing about this one though is I’m not even sure if it’s still going on anymore. I have yet to find a bit of information regarding a 2010 show, so for all I know this one could be done. Then again, many of these so-called “annual” festivals end up taking a year off… *Cough* Pemberton Festival *Cough*. Whatever the case may be with Virgin Festival 2010, if you hear they’re going to be playing in town, be sure to look into it. Last year Toronto’s Virgin Festival had Ben Harper, the Pixies, Franz Ferdinand, Paulo Nutini, Nine inch Nails, The Von Bondies, and a whole bunch more. So keep your eyes and ears peeled.

Halifax Commons Festival - Kiss
Photo by Heavymetalmomma

Halifax Rocks

July 24, 25 – Halifax NS

A newbie but a goodie. Halifax Rocks is coming on it’s second year, and should be a blast. They’ve already announced that The Black Eyed Peas, along with Weezer will be performing this year, as well as a whole bunch of other artists to be announced. This music festival takes place in the Halifax Commons, which to those who’ve never been, is this cool massive park in downtown Halifax. Apparently it’s also the oldest urban park in Canada. This ones definitely one to keep your eye on, if not it, then watch what’s going on in the Commons. For the last few years there’s been a steady stream of concerts and festivals showing here, including Paul Mcartney, The Rolling Stones, KISS, Keith Urban, Sloan, Wintersleep, Joel Plaskett, amongst many more.

Evolve Festival

Photo courtesy of Evolve Festival

Evolve Festival

July 23, to 25 – Antigonish, NS

Evolve festival started off in 2000 as a music and cultural festival, aimed at bringing awareness to sustainable living and current environmental issues. This mega-eco-music-fest takes place in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, just a couple hours drive north of Halifax. Big acts who’ve played here include, K-os, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Xavior Rudd, The Trews, Hey Rosetta!, and many more. Tickets start at $110 for early bird tickets, and what’s a good hippie project without a tree getting planted for every ticket! Woop Woop!

Shambhala Festival
Photo by Doog

Shambhala Music Festival

Augst 6 – 9th – Salmo River Ranch, Kootenay Mountain Range

Shambhala is an anual festival that brings five days and four nights of love, art, and electronic music. It takes place in the Kootenay Mountain range, located in British Columbia. Shambhala’s been going on since 1998 at the Salmo River Ranch, and has grown to become one of the largest electronic music festivals in Canada. With six different stages, each with their own theme, you can wander from stage to stage, bumping into people wasted on fun, love, friendship and perhaps even some  mild substances. This festival is one of those lesser-known festivals that wants to keep its underground image as much as possible. However after attending, you’re going to have a tough time not talking about this one. You’re bound to meet some characters here and make some great new friends.

Osheaga Montreal Quebec
Photo by dragswolf


July 31 – August 1 – Montreal, Quebec

The Osheaga Music & Arts Festival is a two day festival in the beautiful french metropolitan city of Montreal. It’s held each year on Ile Sainte-Helene in the Parc Jean-Drapeau. Osheaga Festival, and Montreal in general, always seem to be able to bring in some superb acts. 2010 Osheaga takes place between July 31st and August 1, and will feature Arcade Fire, Weezer, Metric, The Black Keys, Pavement, The Nationa, and Gaslight Anthem. Is there a reason not to go? Heck no!

Calgary Stampede Concert
Photo by

Calgary Stampede

July 9 – 18 – Calgary, AB

The Calgary Stampede is a big one, but a good one. Considered by some as a drinking marathon, the Calgary Stampede runs for 10 days every summer, typically the first or second week of July. The Calgary Stampede is a massive combination of Music Festivals, Parades, Rodeos, and exhibitions of Alberta culture. It is the worlds largest outdoor rodeo and features an internationally recognized competition to boot. If you’ve never done a rodeo, this is where it should be done. Queue the country music, find yourself a cold brew, and be prepared for Chuckwagon Races, Cowboy hats, Yeehaws, and a whole buncha live music. The Calgary stampede attracts over a million visitors to Calgary, and usually has just over 300, 000 in attendence. The Calgary stampede has been going on in one form or another since 1886, so they’ve had well over 100 years to get it right. If you had started to think that the farmlands of Canada have little for culture, arts, and community spirit, chances are the Calgary Stampede will trample those thoughts. Then poo on them. Go cow patties!

Dawson City Summer Music Festival

Photo courtesy of Dawson City Music Festival

Dawson City Music Festival

July 16 – 18 – Dawson City, YK

Dawson City Music Festival has been bringing tunes way up North since 1979. If you were planing on doing the Yukon, this is a great way to start it all off. With three days of music, many in different venues, you’ll get a good tour of the city, along with hearing some superb Canadian and international acts. This remote part of Canada has an exciting history behind it, plenty to see and twice as much to do. Dawson City Music Festival kicks off on Friday afternoon with a free concert at the Gazebo on Front street, and closes Sunday Eve at Minto Park.

Folk on the Rocks - Yellowknife, N.W.T

Folk on the Rocks

July 16 – 18 – Yellowknife, NWT

Every Summer, on the shores of Frame lake, Folk on the Rocks sets up six stages and puts on one of the biggest festivals in the North West Territories. For three days, festival go-ers are treated with world class music from all over Canada and the world, along with a cultural area, where you can check out the local arts scene. Food-lovers shall rejoice as international and traditional food find their way into the festival. Wash down the music, food, and art with a cold one at the fan favourite Beer Gardens, where you can try some of Canada’s favourite beers. Each year Folk on the Rocks brings roughly 25 artists to put on this massive show. Recent artists who’ve set foot on stage include Buck 65, Sam Roberts, Digawolf, Old Man Luedecke, and many more.

Winnipeg Summer Folk Festival
Photo by Quiplash!

Winnipeg Folk Festival

July 7 – 11 – Winnipeg, MB

In the early weeks of July, hype around the Winnipeg Folk Festival rises and rises. The tension is instantly blissfully released as the first chords are struck on the festivals stage. Located in Birds Hill Provincial Park, the Winnipeg Folk Fest brings music performances, a folk school, programs for young artists, a food village which specialize in the use of local, organic, and fair trade products. Come evening, thousands of people find their way to the main stage to partake in some world class music, while taking in the prairie heat Manitoba so generously offers each summer. On top of the great music, great food, and great people, the Winnipeg Folk Festival was the first event to be officially certified by the Canadian Environmental Choice Program as an eco friendly festival. To even consider naming some of the artists in this festival would be next near to impossible, as there’s been hundreds of superb artists to have played over the years. There’s plenty of volunteer opportunities around the Winnipeg Folk Fest too, so if you’re looking for a way to see the festival without having to pay for the ticket, theres a good chance your hard work can get you in.

Ottawa Bluesfest Summer 2009
Photo by Kronick_

Ottawa Bluesfest

July 6 – 18 – Ottawa, ON

If the upcoming 2010 lineup isn’t enough to bring you to this summer music festival, I don’t know what is. The 2010 lineup includes heavyweights RUSH, Weezer, Keith Urban, Santana, Arcade Fire, The Flaming Lips, The B-52s, Great Big Sea, and a whole slew more. The Ottawa Bluesfest is a 3 day festival with multiple stages, showcasing everything from pop, rock, blues, r&b and just about every other genre in between. They aim at bringing a diverse variety of music to the festival, which in turn brings in people from all walks of life. This massive shindig takes place in downtown Ottawa Ontario, in LeBreton Flats Park. The Ottawa Bluesfest is the largest blues festival in Canada, and second largest in all of North America. If you’re anywhere near Ottawa during the second week of July, you’d be off-your-rocker crazy not to to look into tickets.

Hillside Festival

Photo courtesy of Hillside Festival

Hillside Festival

July 23 – 25 – Guelph Lake Island, ON

Another three day, multiple stage event (5 to be exact), that takes place during the summer in the fine city of Guelph, Ontario. The festival takes place near the shores of Guelph Lake, and apparently this festival is one of the reasons why Guelph is in the big list of Top Ten places to live in Canada. Due to the insane amount of success the Hillside Festival has had in recent years, the Festivals committee started a second annual festival, Hillside Inside. However, the REAL meat and potatoes still takes place during late July at the Hillside Festival, so by all means aim for the summer festival, your party bones won’t regret it.

Photo by Earle Macdonald

New Glasgow Riverfront Jubilee

July 31 – Aug 2 – New Glasgow, NS

Find your way to the picturesque scenery of Pictou County, Nova Scotia, in the middle of summer, a festival of massive proportion is constructed, showcasing the talent of East Coast Musicians, Canadian Artists, and International acts. For those who have trouble coughing up $200+ dollars for a weekend festival, cringe not fellow cheap friend, for the Riverfront Jubilee weekend pass’s go for a mere $45! This festival takes place on the East River, and promises to deliver some great music, and great fun, without the huge dent in your bank account. On top of the cheap tickets, somehow the New Glasgow Riverfront Jubilee still manage to bring in big names, along with some mega talented up & comers.

Havelock Country Jamboree

The Havelock Country Jamboree

August 19 – 22 – Havelock, ON

The Havelock Country jamboree is another big ol’ fashion ho-down gone extreme. This massive country music jamboree is held annually on the third weekend of August between Thursday and Sunday. Some big names who’ve played include Randy Travis, The Road Hammers, Corb Lund Band, George Canyon, Travis Tritt, Clint Black, Aaron Tippin, and a whole slew of other cowboys. The Havelock Country Jamboree is one of Canada’s largest country music festivals, come rain or shine, sunburndt or muddy, you’ll have a riot here.

Whats your favourite summer festival in Canada? If I’ve missed any crucial or memorable festivals, please be sure to comment!

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