Your Festival, Your Way
2017 dates: TD Toronto Jazz Festival (June 23 to July 2, 2017), Beaches International Jazz Festival (July 7 to 30, 2017)
Vibe: The nearly three-decades-old TD Toronto Jazz Festival is the elder (hepcat) statesman of Toronto’s festival scene, having showcased jazz’s biggest headliners, including Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Diana Krall, in the newly reopened Concert Hall and other venues across town. The Beaches International Jazz Festival adds visual art, youth programming, a street festival and even a charity run to enhance its eclectic lineup of jazz, blues, African, Caribbean and R&B performances.
Alt & Roots
2017 dates: Field Trip (June 2017), Toronto Urban Roots Fest (September 2017), Bestival (June 2017), WayHome (July 2017), Camp Wavelength (August 2017)
Vibe: Rock music’s coolest alt, roots and indie acts like Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket and Arkells have performed at Field Trip, which takes over the historic grassy field of Fort York National Historic Site, alongside food trucks and a kids’ camp, where wee hipsters can play, create art or catch shows on the kids’ stage. Also located at Fort York’s Garrison Common, Toronto Urban Roots Fest (TURF) features an eclectic mix of indie, folk, soul and roots acts, plus a kids’ area with musical arts and crafts, games and an acoustic stage. Another outdoorsy fest, Bestival brings the show to the verdant Toronto Island, where acts like Florence + the Machine, Nas and Wavves have performed for costumed fans, including “newlyweds” who got “hitched” at the Bestival Inflatable Church. WayHome and Camp Wavelength bring a similarly boho alfresco vibe to the festivities, overnight camping optional.
2017 dates: Salsa in Toronto (includes Salsa on St. Clair Street Festival, July 3 to 27, 2017), Small World Music Festival (September 2017)
Vibe: Held along a strip of St. Clair West that’s home to many of Toronto’s Latin American restaurants and businesses, Salsa on St. Clair is a high-energy street fest that features live music on multiple stages, dancing (including on-the-spot salsa lessons), a kids’ zone and plenty of food trucks and booths. The three-day Small World Music Festival presents a multicultural mix of international and Canadian artists at Fort York National Historic Site. The family-friendly fest includes on-site animation, vendors and food.
Toronto Caribbean Carnival
2017 dates: July 4 to August 7, 2017
Vibe: This three-week-long celebration of Caribbean music, cuisine and revelry is a don’t-miss event. Highlights include reggae, soca, steel drum and calypso performances, as well as the Carnival Ball (featuring a costume runway show), the competition for king and queen of the carnival, and, of course, the Grand Parade, which attracts more than one million spectators and participants each year.
2017 dates: North by Northeast (June 12 to 18, 2017), Canadian Music
Week (April 18 to 22, 2017), Riot Fest (September 2017)
Vibe: For diehards and industry followers in search of marathon spectating and scouting ops, North by Northeast (NXNE) and Canadian Music Week each bring hundreds of artists to 25-plus venues across the city. Both festivals also include films alongside the main event: an electrifying lineup of musical performances from up-and-coming indie bands and established mid-career acts alike. Riot Fest, meanwhile, captures the zeitgeisty vibe with a multi-day lineup of punk, alternative rock, metal and hip hop in a carnival setting.
2017 dates: Toronto Summer Music Festival (July 13 to August 5, 2017), 21C Music Festival (May 24 to 28, 2017)
Vibe: Classical music takes centre stage at the Toronto Summer Music Festival, which features top solo performers, orchestras and everything in between. Held at various venues across town, festival programming hews to an annual theme—last year’s was Music of the New World, in honour of the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. The Royal Conservatory of Music’s 21C Music Festival debuts cutting-edge compositions (performed by innovative artists)—from classical and jazz to pop and world music—all mostly composed in the 21st century. Past performers have included pianist and local indie darling Chilly Gonzales, string ensemble Afiara Quartet and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland.