A Guide To Toronto’s Summer Music Festivals

By Ayla Shiblaq & Kalina Nedelcheva

Toronto is a very musical city, and it’s got the summer festival line-up to prove it! Check out Ayla and Kalina’s opinions on each festival in chronological order, so you will know which ones to catch, which ones to skip, and when to grab your tickets.

Field Trip Music and Arts Festival

Broken Social Scene performing at the 2013 Field Trip festival, via Field Trip's Facebook page.

Broken Social Scene at the 2013 Field Trip festival, via Field Trip’s Facebook page

Since it’s creation last year, Field Trip is on its way to becoming a permanent staple in the Toronto summer music festival scene. Initially, the festival was planned as a celebration of Toronto-based record company’s Arts and Crafts tenth anniversary by showcasing homegrown talent. This year, it expanded to welcome notable artists from other labels including Interpol, Washed Out, and Chvrches. It has also expanded to cover the entire weekend rather than their modest single day beginning. With these improvements, its clear Arts and Crafts aims to relive the energy of last year’s success.

Field Trip has no shortage of reunions this year. Broken Social Scene returns to the stage this year serving as their only break from their “indefinite hiatus” (I am in no ways complaining, mind you) alongside the reunion of the Constantines, a reunion celebrating the Guelph band’s eleventh anniversary of their album Shine a Light. Alongside notable bands, Field Trip is also showcasing local talent including Maylee Todd, River Tiber, Megan Bonnell, and Zaki Ibrahim.

Field Trip’s talented line-up isn’t complete without the return of the festival’s unique additions. The Drake General Store is making a return to festival grounds to sell limited edition festival merchandise and partnering with local Toronto businesses including Crow’s Nest Barbershop, Pinky’s Nails, and Speakeasy Tattoo.

Based on last year’s almost flawless execution and improved line-up, Field Trip will definitely be one of the summer’s best festivals in Toronto.

The festival takes place at Fort York’s Garrison Common from June 7th-8th.

Alumni Include: Broken Social Scene, Feist, Jason Collett, Bloc Party, Stars

Must-Sees: Broken Social Scene, Interpol, Washed Out, The Kills, Kevin Drew, Constantines, Chvrches.


North by Northeast (NXNE)

We Are Scientists at NXNE 2013, via NXNE 2013 Official Flickr/Phill Brennen

We Are Scientists at NXNE 2013, via NXNE 2013 Official Flickr/Phil Brennen

The NXNE line-up is so long this year that, as I was scrolling through the bands, my fingers developed blisters and I had the time to grow a beard and move to Alaska. This year is going to be packed, folks! From dope beats to hipster indie, from garage Latino rock to ear-busting punk. Everything is one big intertwined mess, and that is why you should love NXNE. It is a chance for snotty teens to listen to the trippy, burn-out music of Absolutely Free, to cause a riot with Purfect Pussy’s angry girl music and, of course, to mellow out with some indie. A rap fan? No problem — B. Funk and Juicy J are completely capable of making you look super gangster. Have some feelings? The Kickback’s lyrics may help you get through those. It is a great festival that is capable of bringing together all the different music scenes in Toronto without the judgment. In all seriousness, music snobbery is my fuel — I’m pretty sure that punks and alternative-junkies feed off the hatred they have for One Direction-ers — but do not worry, because NXNE is not about that snobbery. I recommend that you look forward to some amazing acts by headliners Juicy J and St. Vincent, get psyched for some psychedelic noise rock from METZ, and just hope for some sunny weather.

The festival takes place across many Toronto venues from June 13th-22nd.

Alumni Include: The Flaming Lips, The Men, Iggy and the Stooges

Must-Sees: 100s, Amos the Transparent, Eaguls, Fuck Buttons, The Kickback, METZ


Edgefest Summer Concert Series

Mother Mother at Edgefest 2013, via Edge Photos/Walid Lodin

Mother Mother at Edgefest 2013, via Edge Photos/Walid Lodin

The line-up for Edgefest 2014 makes me want to simultaneously trash my room and curl up in a ball and cry. In the past, it was a rock utopia, a promise to give guitar junkies their fix. In recent years, however, it has become washed out. Although there are still artists to be announced, the current line-up still suggests we should all lose faith in this annual event. Yes, the Sheepdogs can be pretty cool, and Said the Whale have one or two good songs, but that does not allow them to compete with Stone Temple Pilots (Edge 2008) or Billy Talent (Edge 2012). To complete my full and utter despair, I also discovered that Monster Truck was playing yet again. So there is no confusion, I do enjoy their music and the crazy mosh pits it created last year, but to bring the same band to the same festival twice in a row is simply distasteful. Further, as if to prolong the suffering of many “rockers,” this year the festival has spread out across three separate dates in July and August instead of being contained to only one day in July. I don’t know if it is to create the illusion that Edge is on a constant mission to bring music to the people, but my advice is to spend your 102 bucks on another festival.

The concert series takes place at Echo Beach on July 1st, July 18th, and August 16th.

Alumni Include: The Lumineers, The Darcys, Tokyo Police Club, The Balconies

Must-Sees: The Sheepdogs, Monster Truck, Our Lady Peace


RBC Bluesfest

Weezer at RBC Bluesfest 2013, via Bluesfest Digital Lounge/Wayne Cuddington for Ottawa Citizen

Weezer at RBC Bluesfest 2013, via Bluesfest Digital Lounge/Wayne Cuddington for Ottawa Citizen

I am aware that this is no Toronto festival, but I could not bring myself to omit possibly the best festival of summer 2014: Ottawa’s Bluesfest. The selection of music genres is exemplary and the organizers have succeeded to get all the big iconic names to represent them, which is something missing in most of this year’s Toronto festivals. Are you a big alternative fan? Good, because Queens of the Stone Age and Blondie will rock your world. Want some indie pop? Tegan and Sara will be there for you. If you want to check out some hip-hop, Cypruss Hill and Snoop Dog will be lighting up the stage with both their beats and their doobies. The line up is so impressive that travelling to Ottawa and staying there for the whole week will be well worth it. If your bank account is drained after, do not despair, because you probably saw all the bands you ever needed to see in one epic festival. Make your dad jealous by sending him pictures of Journey and Foreigner on the stage, and if your mom is a big country fan, snap her one of Blake Shelton, known to us country nay-sayers as that judge on The Voice. There will be DJs, there will be folk, there will be blues, there will be jazz, and there will be Lady Gaga. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to get a pop star of her caliber to make an appearance. I am sure many people are looking forward to her obnoxious outfit this year. Maybe Bluesfest is the place where she will forsake the meat dress, don a pancake, ravish herself in maple syrup, and call it ‘art.’ Only one way to find out…

The festival takes place at LeBreton Flats Park from July 3rd-13th.

Alumni Include: The Black Keys, Neko Case, Dirty Projectors

Must-Sees: Queens of the Stone Age, Jake Bugg, July Talk, Tokyo Police Club


TURF – Toronto Urban Roots Festival

Flogging Molly performing at the 2013 TURF festival, via TURF's Facebook page/Jeff Ross.

Flogging Molly at the 2013 TURF festival, via TURF’s Facebook page/Jeff Ross.

TURF, another young festival in the game, is returning to Fort York’s Garrison Common delivering their usual big name headliners. TURF was graced by last year’s appearances of Yo La Tengo and Belle & Sebastian. This year, the festival lives up to its inaugural event with headliner Neutral Milk Hotel, an incredible opportunity for anyone who missed the reunion shows back at Kool Haus earlier in the year. Other notable artists include Jeff Tweedy, the founder of Wilco, alongside rising artists, such as July Talk and Born Ruffians.

In only its two years running, TURF, just like Field Trip, is becoming a permanent addition to the Toronto festival scene. With its rustic vibes and soulful tunes, this festival promises to be an addition rather than a competition with its predecessors (Field Trip, NXNE) and its successors (TIME, VELD). With its own set style of living up to their “urban roots” namesake, this festival is unique to the local showcases and electronic festivals Toronto is used to. I am expecting a weekend of great vibes and a lot of swaying. Gary Clark Jr., prepare for my uncontrollable fangirling.

The festival takes place at Fort York Garrison Common from July 4th-6th.

Alumni Include: Yo La Tengo, The Sadies, Belle & Sebastian, Kurt Vile and the Violators

Must-Sees: Neutral Milk Hotel, Local Natives, Gary Clark Jr. Violent Femmes, Beirut, Jeff Tweedy


TIME Music Festival

The promo poster for the 2014 TIME Festival, via Indie88.

The promo poster for the 2014 TIME Festival, via Indie88

After a four year hiatus, TIME Music Festival is returning to Toronto. With its move from Sunnyside Pavilion to Sound Academy and now to Fort York, the festival is clearly keeping up with the times (cue rimshot) and making use of one of Toronto’s hottest venues for summer music festivals. The festival features established favourites including headliners Grimes and Death Grips along with Charli XCX, Jon Hopkins, Action Bronson, Majical Cloudz, and Smith Westerns.

If the past is any indication, expect a beer market and a wild party. Oh and the early bird tickets are only $25 (score!). Although there isn’t much attention around this festival, the line-up suggests that this festival is going to be Toronto’s hidden gem…if Death Grips decides to show up.

The festival takes place at Fort York Garrison Common on July 19th.

Alumni Include: Crystal Castles, Flosstradamus, A-Trak

Must-Sees: Grimes, Death Grips, Jon Hopkins, Charli XCX


Veld Music Festival

Steve Aoki at the 2013 Veld Music Festival, via Veld Official Media/Visualbass Photography

Steve Aoki at the 2013 Veld Music Festival, via Veld Official Media/Visualbass Photography

The heaven of electronic music is diverse in its subcategories this year and caters dubstep, deep house, and even mash-up artists. One cannot help but notice the big radio names like Calvin Harris and Martin Garrix; however, there is still room for smaller artists, known only by true “electros.” The prognosis this year is pretty exciting — more and more people are looking forward to Armin van Burren’s sets and W&W’s mix of genres. However, the underdog of this year’s show will be Knife Party; they already had their 15 minutes of fame with “Internet Friends,” and it may be hard to rise to fame with a hard dubstep sound when everyone is looking for big room sounds, but the fact that the lead DJ, Rob Swire, is a sound engineer god helps Knife Party reach new levels of originality, and gets them that cheeky advantage.

As if sensing the potential and popularity of house music, the producers have made sure that no broke college students shall be in attendance. Jacking up the ticket prices to $230 will surely narrow down the crowd demographics so that only rich kids and the most committed are in attendance. If it is too expensive for you, you can always grab your horse mask and go listen from outside the venue. I’m sure it’s just as good.

The festival takes place at Downsview Park from August 2nd-3rd.

Alumni Include: Deadmau5, Avicii, Steve Aoki

Must-Sees: Knife Party, 3LAU, Armin van Buuren


Riot Fest

The Replacements at Riot Fest 2013, via Spin/Jess Baumung

The Replacements at Riot Fest 2013, via Spin/Jess Baumung

Riot Fest will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in Denver, Chicago, and Toronto this year since its birth in Chicago. Over the past three years of Riot Fest coming to Toronto, the city has normally gotten the shorter end of the stick line-up wise. Thankfully, this year Riot Fest has redeemed itself with bringing the most consistent line-up to all three cities. With all three cities sharing the presence of The National, The Flaming Lips, The Cure, and Rise Against – all of which are headliners – Toronto is not missing out on much that the Chicago set has in relative to years past (seriously, no Wu-Tang Clan?).

Unlike many festivals that have originated locally, Riot Fest brings a new take on a typical music festival in Toronto by adding a travelling exposition and an eclectic mix of bands. You see everything from punk rock in Title Fight, local sweethearts Metric, and even the South African Zef group Die Antwoord. This eclectic mix is sure to bring a diverse audience to the Downsview Park grounds.

In the past Riot Fest has maintained line-ups that appeal to a punk audience, but with this year’s drastic change in line-up styles, it seems as though Riot Fest is hoping to become more like Lollapalooza. It is clear Riot Fest is trying to garner a larger audience in a foreign land, a challenge they may face in the future with NXNE steadily improving.

The festival takes place at Downsview Park from September 6th-7th.

Alumni Include: The Replacements, Descendents, Andrew WK, The Dead Kennedys

Must-Sees: The Cure, The National, Die Antwoord, The Flaming Lips, Thurston Moore, The Afghan Whigs



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