Music Festivals in Toronto
By Raina Douris. Maybe it’s because winter is over, maybe it’s the vibrant music scene, or maybe it’s a combination of the two – but when spring arrives, Toronto explodes with music festivals. You’d be hard-pressed to find a weekend during the summer when there ISN’T a festival going on in our city. The best part? From rock to hip-hop, EDM to jazz; from festivals where you can camp all weekend to kid-friendly events, there’s something for everyone!
Canadian Music Week
May 2 to May 8, 2016.
The official sign that winter is over and the music is back, Canadian Music Week (or, CMW) is part multi-venue music festival and part conference. As the industry folk gather for panel discussions, you can grab a wristband and take in hundreds of indie bands at clubs and venues all over Toronto all week long. For a little extra money, you can also get into their bigger headlining acts, like Eagles of Death Metal or Collective Soul.
Perfect for: Finding that new unknown band.
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CBC Music Festival
May 28, 2016.
“CBC” and “beach party” may not be things you’d normally associate with each other, but this one-day Canadian-focused music fest brings artists like Whitehorse, Julian Taylor and the New Pornographers out to Echo Beach. Rich Terfry will do a DJ set.
Perfect for: Catching up on your Cancon.
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Field Trip Music & Arts
June 4 & 5, 2016.
Want the festival experience but don’t want to find a babysitter? Field Trip Music & Arts puts a big focus on being family-friendly: kids under 12 get in free, and there are lots of activities for the young ‘uns. But there’s lots for the older crowd too, including headliners The National, Robyn and July Talk. Held at the historic Fort York, Field Trip was founded by Toronto indie label Arts & Crafts (Broken Social Scene), so expect LOTS of Toronto love.
Perfect for: The “Festival Experience” without leaving downtown!
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June 11 & 12, 2016.
The second ever Toronto Bestival moves this year from the Island to a new, more accessible venue at Woodbine park. Artists playing rock, pop, EDM, hip hop and more will come together for two wild days in the sun. You’ll also be treated to immersive, visually stunning art pieces. Costumes are encouraged!
Perfect for: Getting a jumpstart on summer… and dressing up!
Sound of Music Festival
June 11 to 19, 2016.
Just west of the city, you can explore Burlington’s downtown and waterfront over nine fun-filled days! A kick-off concert featuring The Cult and The Watchmen starts the week off so you can rock out before you enjoy the street festivals, kids activities, carnivals and other adventures. Everything wraps up the final weekend with free (yes, FREE!) club shows from acts like Hawksley Workman and Mother Mother.
Perfect for: A little bit of everything, right on the water!
More: Sound of Music
North By Northeast
June 15 to 19, 2016.
After more than 20 years, North By Northeast (aka NXNE) is switching things up a bit this year. Instead of spread out club shows, most of the music this year will be concentrated in the Portlands on the east side of the city. There will also be a greater focus on the tech side of the festival, with competitive video gaming happening at Yonge-Dundas Square!
Perfect for: Watching music by the lake – or trying out that up-and-coming technology!
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TD Toronto Jazz Festival
June 24 to July 3, 2016.
The Jazz Festival shows up just in time to ease the NXNE party hangover with smooth sounds that take over the entire city. Over 30 years the Toronto Jazz Festival has become of one of the most well-regarded jazz fests on the continent. You can enjoy more than 1,500 musicians over 10 days – and several of the events are free at the mainstage marquee at Nathan Phillips Square in the heart of the city.
Perfect for: Taking in some serious culture.
More: TD Toronto Jazz Festival
Wayhome Music & Arts Festival
July 24 to 26, 2016.
After a wildly successful inaugural year in 2015, Wayhome returns to Burl’s Creek in Oro-Medonte for three days of camping and music. Headliners include The Killers, Arcade Fire and a recently reunited LCD Soundsystem. Though not technically within Toronto’s city-limits, Wayhome is set to become the Ontario version of Bonnaroo – in fact, it’s produced in part by one of Bonnaroo’s co-founders.
Perfect for: Totally immersing yourself in the magic. (Also, not showering.)
VELD Music Festival
July 30 and 31, 2016.
Another two days of electronic music, this time taking over Downsview Park in the north end of the city. for 2016, The Chainsmokers, Steve Aoki, KYGO, Canadian megastar Deadmau5 and more.
Perfect for: Practising your glowstick moves, getting really close to strangers.
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Boots & Hearts
August 4 to 7, 2016.
Get out your cowboy hat and your denim – this festival from the same people who produce Wayhome is a 3-day down home country jam. Huge stars visiting this year include Blake Shelton and Tim McGraw.
Perfect for: Ye-haws and plaid shirts!
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July 30 to 31, 2016.
Drake loves his hometown and one way he shows it is by throwing his massive rap and hip hop blow-out OVO Fest every summer in Toronto. For two days at the Molson Amphitheatre you can catch acts like J.Cole, Big Sean and, of course, Drake himself. Special guests are a closely guarded secret but with Drake’s connections you can bet they’ll be impressive. It all takes place on Caribana weekend so the party doesn’t have to stop when the show’s over!
Perfect for: Experiencing that hometown pride.
More: OVO Fest
About the Author
Raina Douris has hosted a couple of radio shows at a couple of radio stations, but now she’s come home to be the Morning Host at Indie88. In her spare time she goes to shows, draws, writes and yells at the TV. She once won money on a gameshow, and if you have a funny “Raina” nickname, she’s probably heard it.