Your Festival, Your Way

Catch your fave music acts in one epic weekend. But what if your travel dates don't sync with your dream festival? No worries. Here's how to DIY your own festival.


George Benson (Photo: Brent Lewin)

TD Toronto Jazz Festival, Beaches International Jazz Festival

2018 dates: TD Toronto Jazz Festival (June 2018), Beaches International Jazz Festival (July 6 to 29, 2018)

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.


Your DIY Jazz Fest Lineup

Catch live performances at the city’s leading jazz lounges:

Alt & Roots

Horseshoe Tavern (Photo: Jackman Chiu)

Field Trip, Toronto Urban Roots Fest, Bestival, WayHome, Camp Wavelength

2018 dates: Field Trip (June 2018), Toronto Urban Roots Fest (September 2018), WayHome (July 2018), Camp Wavelength (August 2018)

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.

Field Trip (Photo: Kayla Chobotiuk)

Your DIY Alt & Roots Fest Lineup

The Queen West strip is the best place to catch established and up-and-coming indie bands. Try these venues:

World Beat

Salsa in Toronto, Small World Music Festival

2018 dates: Salsa in Toronto (includes Salsa on St. Clair Street Festival, July 2018), Small World Music Festival (September 2018)

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.


Your DIY World Beat Fest Lineup

Feel the beat and kick up your heels at these salsa, Latin and world-beat music venues:


Toronto Caribbean Carnival

2018 dates: Parade weekend, August 2 to 6, 2018

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.


Your DIY Carnival Fest Lineup

“Caribana” is North America’s largest outdoor festival, so replicating the experience isn’t easy. But you can catch Caribbean music at these venues:


North by Northeast, Canadian Music Week, Riot Fest

2018 dates: North by Northeast (June 8 to 17, 2018), Canadian Music
Week (May 7 to 13, 2018).

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.


Your DIY Indie Fest Lineup

Catch the music you crave by mixing venues, big and small:


Toronto Summer Music Festival, 21C Music Festival

2018 dates: Toronto Summer Music Festival (July / August 2018), 21C Music Festival (TBD)

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.



VELD Music Festival, Dreams Festival

2018 dates: VELD Music Festival (TBD), Dreams Music Festival (TBD)

Vibe: Electronic music lovers have been flocking to five-year-old VELD for top international acts, including Toronto’s own Deadmau5.


Your DIY EDM/Digital Fest Lineup

Here are great places to catch EDM, dance and DJ sets:

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