22 BC music festivals to check out this summer

The early reports of festivals failing across B.C. appear to have been greatly exaggerated

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The death of the summer music festival due to increases in operating costs was a trending news topic earlier this year.

Surrey’s FVDED in the Park and Merritt’s Rockin’ River both pulled the plug. The Vancouver Folk Music Festival was initially cancelled this year and the society behind the 45-year-old event was at threat of being dissolved. Other events, such as Squamish Constellation, also expressed desperate financial need. The Vancouver Jazz Festival significantly reduced its size, as did others.

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A one-time B.C. government fund worth $30 million launched in February to aid support for festivals, fairs and other community events as part of pandemic recovery saved some other well-established events teetering on possible cancellation.

Then the snow melted and, as the grass greened, so did the festival dollars.

On March 1, Salmo’s long-running Shambhala Music Festival announced it was sold out. Bass Coast in Merritt followed suit. Events from AltiTunes at Big White, Cowichan’s Laketown Shakedown and Sunfest and Victoria’s venerable Rifflandia announced some of the best lineups in their histories.

With global promoters such as Live Nation announcing more tours than ever and artists such as Coldplay adding several Vancouver dates to its stop here, the issue around festivals folding now seems to be more about not being able to get the acts due to demand rather than the costs.

Nick Blasko runs Rifflandia, which features names such as Iggy Pop, Herbie Hancock, Paul Oakenfold and Diplo this year.

“It didn’t feel any more difficult booking this year, because we knew it was going to be difficult due to the competition from event all over the world,” he said.

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“In the end, there are only so many artists to go around, and we made the decision last fall to get dozens and dozens of conversations going with artists and managers than ever before. In the end, we have the most eclectic collection of high-profile artists we’ve ever had together, where some festivals can become top heavy without much underneath.”

A festival is always a risky proposition, says Blasko, and success is surprisingly random.

Rifflandia has chosen to avoid a too-tight genre focus, but openly admits that focus has been the very formula that has given electronic-dance-music-heavy events like Shambhala and Basscoast such a devoted following. Active since 2008, with no evens taking place in 2019 and 2020, he saw market changes that had to be addressed.

“The most significant change for us was seeing a huge part of our audience age out into, well, life and the responsibilities that come with jobs, families, etc.,” Blasko said. “So we have really focused in on families for the second weekend, catering to the kids with their area where the VIP zone would normally be, so parents can have a drink and hang out with their friends and families and have fun. That doesn’t lose sight to the things we do at night, but the audience has changed.”

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“The amount of concert traffic right now is unbelievable, and I expect that, too, will run its course as we are still coming out of that long, strange period we’ve been in.”

People seem to want that in-person action, which is why the Vancouver Folk Music Festival rose from the ashes to take place this summer. New board member Fiona Black took on booking the event and arrived at a lineup that packs considerable punch. As an experienced presenter, she drew upon the event’s reputation to ring in artists.

Black said just a week after the early March cancellation, the first meeting was held to discuss reviving the event.

“Thanks to the respect the festival has in the artistic community and its history, we managed what I see as one of our better lineups. Plus, a lot of the ones who got away know we’re still here and want us to keep in touch for 2024.”

With three more acts to be announced, the mix reflects the folk music festival’s recognition as a place to discover new rising talent such as Indigenous singer/songwriter William Prince, rather than superstar-powered niche acts. In the ever-shifting festival sweepstakes, this may be a winning formula.

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William Prince performs
William Prince performs at this year’s Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Photo by LARRY WONG /Postmedia Network

25 B.C. festivals to check out this summer

Big or small, taking place nearby or in destination locations, summer music festivals are a fixture of the seasonal cultural landscape of Canada. Reports of their demise were clearly exaggerated as this limited list of B.C. events below demonstrates. Here are a few festivals taking place in the province this summer that are worth adding to your calendar.


• June 11-18: 5X Fest, Surrey: The sixth annual flagship celebrating and elevating South Asian youth culture.

• June 16-18: Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival, Duncan: B.C.’s biggest bluegrass and old-time music event is a picker’s delight.

• June 16-18: White Rock Jazz and Blues Festival, White Rock: Several locations host live music by local and national stars.

• June 16-18: ScotFestBC, Coquitlam: The B.C. Highland Games and World Music Festival has been going for 91 years.

• June 21-25: Victoria Ska Fest, Victoria: Another great Victoria event that manages to book big names every year, including rapper Chali 2Na, the Aggrolites and Maxi Priest.

• June 22-July 2: Victoria International Jazz Festival, Victoria: A mix of jazz, world, blues and more.

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• June 23-July 2: Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Vancouver: Also having had some ups and downs in recent years, this dynamic event is back with legends such as the Sun Ra Arkestra and The Bad Plus.

• June 30-Jul 2: Laketown Shakedown, Cowichan: Shaggy, Classified, DJ Shub and the Boom Booms are only a few of the funky crews playing this year.


• July 6-16: Indian Summer Festival, Vancouver: With concerts by Shabazz Palaces and Sarathy Korwar as well as a heady offering of literary, dance and other arts from South Asia and elsewhere.

• July 7-16: Harrison Festival of the Arts, Harrison: Long-running music, arts, theatre and more. Among the artists appearing are James Keelaghan, Celeigh Cardinal and Kizaba.

• July 8: Khatsahlano Street Party, Kitsilano: Seven stages featuring such popular acts as Pink Mountaintops, Bratboy, Hip Hop Mecanix and many, many more.

• July 14-16: Island Music Fest, Comox: Headliners include Sarah McLachlan, Rickie Lee Jones and New Orleans spectacular funk legends Galactic.

• July 17-28: Queer Arts Festival, Vancouver: The 16th annual lineup for this years Queer In Space event features arts “providing an escape from mainstream, heteropatriarchal societies.” Always illuminating.

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• July 20-23: Fort Langley Jazz and Arts Festival, Langley: Several stages showcasing Juno-winning jazz Phil Dwyer’s Connections Quartet, Five Alarm Funk and many more.

• July 21-23: Mission Folk Music Festival, Mission: A heady mix of Celtic, Cajun, blues, soul, singer-songwriters and more, including David Francey and Tanika Charles.

• July 27-Aug. 5: Early Music Vancouver Summer Festival, Vancouver: This year’s focus is Women in Sight, inspired by the writings of Christine de Pizan (1364 — 1430).


• Aug. 3-6: Sunfest Country Music Festival, Cowichan: Blake Shelton is among the headliners.

• Aug. 4 – 6: Kaslo Jazz Summer Music Festival, Kaslo: With a floating stage out in the lake, and acts such as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, this one swings.

• Aug. 5 – 6: Powell Street Festival, Downtown Eastside, Vancouver: One of the longest-running community arts festivals in Canada never fails to showcase great music, art and food.

• Aug. 4-13: Harmony Arts Festival, West Vancouver: Music, dining, visual arts and family entertainment around West Vancouver locales.

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Weezer performs
Weezer will appear at the Ambleside Music Festival. Photo by Christinne Muschi /MONTREAL GAZETTE

• Aug. 10-13: Nanaimo Blues Festival, Nanaimo: Canadian blues powerhouses Tom Lavin & Powder Blues and Downchild Blues Band to singer Thornetta Davis, Rich Estrin & The Nightcats and many more.

• Aug. 12: Burnaby Blues + Roots, Burnaby: Free and featuring legendary folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie, rising star Allison Russell, Arctic soul duo the Trade Offs and others.

• Aug. 17 – 20: Salmon Arm Roots & Blues, Salmon Arm: One of the most consistently great genre mixers. This year headliners include Allison Russell, Sarah McLachlan and many more.

• Aug. 19-20: Ambleside Music Festival, West Van.: Classic rock from Third Eye Blind, Weezer, Bran Van 3000 and indie rockers Said the Whale, among others.


• Sept. 7-9, 15-17: Rifflandia, Victoria: Diplo, Run the Jewels, Chet Faker and much more over two weekends.

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