The upcoming July 1st weekend usually kicks off Canada’s outdoor concert season which will again see the staging of literally dozens of major festivals from coast to coast ranging in style from classic rock to electro -dance, country, jazz, blues and even a Ska festival in Victoria B.C.
It’s a chance for music fans to see some of the biggest names at festival prices with the likes of Lady Gaga, Aerosmith, Eminem, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Blake Shelton and Billy Joel rubbing shoulders with major Canadian stars like Bryan Adams, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Trooper, The Sheepdogs and the Headstones.
We have festivals being staged at scenic vistas like the Pemberton Festival north of Whistler BC, The Squamish Valley Festival, on BC’s West Coast, Penticton’s Boonstock Festival on the banks of Skaha lake (watch out for the incoming planes!) and the Sturgis North festival located at the confluence of the Nicola and Coldwater Rivers in Merritt – and that’s just British Columbia!
Ontario has its usual schedule of major festivals with Brad Jones’ Rock The Park London festival (July 23-26) now facing competition from Kitchener’s Big Fest.
Mark Higgins is a promoter who thinks big – even when he was running a successful festival in Belleville he was eyeing a bigger prize – and he finally found it at Kitchener’s McLennan Park. July 11-12-13.
“Kitchener to me is the perfect location, there’s like one million people within a 100 kilometre radius – it gave me the ideal platform to establish a major concert platform,” explained Higgins in announcing the relocation of his event. “I realize that people in this area can’t always go to Toronto to catch the major shows so it was my objective to set up an event here where we were in easy reach of a large population”.
Higgins notes that the key element is the show’s pricing. “When you consider other shows, one day tickets are $69.50, can you image what you would pay to see Aerosmith anywhere else. Other than their appearance in Cape Breton, this is their only other appearance in Canada this year – same with Bryan Adams, he’s only playing a few select dates and one of them is in Kitchener.”
From its modest beginning when 5,000 fans attended a Clarence Clemmons at Majors Hill Park, The RBC Ottawa has grown into a phenomenal event, lasting 11 days July 3 to July 13 and encompassing a total of 164 acts. Director of Communications, director of communications, AJ Sauve notes the selling points are the festival’s low daily prices and the variety of world class talent.
“I mean where else can you see the likes of Lady Gaga, the Killers or Blake Shelton for less than $40,” noted Sauve. “And the great thing is that you don’t have to wait all day in the elements to watch the performances. The events are scheduled in a way that anyone can leave from work and still catch a show.
Developed by artistic director, Mark Monahan, and rated as one of North America’s top 10 outdoor festivals by Billboard Magazine, Bluefest was originally a showcase for blues musicians but as the concept of the festival expanded and developed, other elements were introduced, to the point that now, superstars like Lady Gaga, Queens Of The Stone Age and Killers are complemented by a strong country music lineup starring Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum and The Band Perry, a major dance/hip-hop element featuring Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill and Tyler The Creator, classic rock acts like Journey, Foreigner, Styx and Procul Harum along with Cancon talent such as Tegan & Sarah, Barenaked Ladies, Moist and The Sam Roberts Band plus a number of local bands, and you have a pretty impressive lineup.
The new kid on the block of Ontario Fests is the Lachie Music Festival Canada Weekend (June 28/29) at Cayuga Speedway, Hagersville, ON. Boasting a big lineup featuring the Headstones, the Trews, Treble Charger, Gob and indie darlings July Talk, and hosted by the Trailer Park Boys, what was a little festival is now making some serious noise.
The same mentality is adopted by the Quebec City Summer Festival which takes place during the same time frame July 3rd to 13th on the Plains Of Abraham. For just a $78 festival pass, you can attend all the concerts over the 11-day period which features over 200 acts.
These include Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Bryan Adams, Soundgarden and a host of other familiar names such as Blonde, Steve Miller Band, deadmaus 5 , and Canadian talent such as Serena Ryder and the Sam Roberts Band.
Launched originally in 1968 by current program director Louis Bellavance, the Quebec City Summer Festival has developed into one of the province’s premiere summer attractions and now sells over 1 million passes for each festival with it’s focus on rock music, francophone, hip-hop, world and techno dance.
Even though most of these big festivals are heavily sponsored by government or corporate funding, there’s still room for the little guy to do his own festival. Spanish Ontario , recreational director, Ron Spolar is continuing with his 5th annual Come Rock N Roar festival at the scenic North Lake Huron spot, this year attracting the likes of Randy Bachman, Trooper, Honeymoon Suite and Helix to the two-night festival August 15&16 to his idyllic Four Seasons Waterfront Complex.
Likewise, Vancouverite Ray Sasseville is out to establish the Merritt B.C. Campgrounds, formerly the site of the Merritt Mountain country music festival as a major rock concert site when he re-launches the Sturgis North Festival August 21st-24th.
Linked to the established Sturgis South Dakota event, which is a major biker draw, Sasseville is hoping to establish a similar festival north of the 49th parallel. With the reunion of Canadian-U.S rockers Alias as a drawing point, Sturgis North will also feature Burton Cummings, Actress/country music singer Katey Sagal (Mrs Bundy), Canned Heat, Molly Hatchet and an impressive Canadian rock lineup featuring Coney Hatch, The Stampeders, Nick Gilder & Sweeney Todd, Jerry Doucette, The Killer Dwarfs, Moxy, Teenage Head and Burton’s support band, The Carpet Frogs.
Country music fans won’t be disappointed this year with summer festivals being extremely popular events. Kicking off with the Dauphin Country Fest in Dauphin, MB June 26-29, many of the major festivals have attracted the same top artists.
Blake Shelton is a headliner at Dauphin and also appears at the Cavendish Beach Festival July 4th-6th in scenic Cavendish Prince Edward Island along with Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker and Hunter Hayes.
Hayes is also on the bill along with Shelton at the Boots And Hearts Festival which runs July 31 to August 3rd at Bowmanville, Ontario before sprinting across the country to appear at the Big Valley Jubilee in Camrose AB which also runs July 31st -August 3rd and also features headliners the Zac Brown Band and Miranda Lambert.
Sandwiched in between is the famous Craven Country Jamboree, staged at Craven SK, July 10th to 13th which this year features Keith Urban as a headliner with the Charlie Daniels Band and Luke Bryan.
The Maritimes maybe a bit off the beaten track as far as major festivals go yet they still plan to stage a number of events, aside from the Cavendish Beach Festival, last year’s main event was the Grand Falls Salmon Fest event staged in Grand Falls Newfoundland. The Eagles were last year’s main draw and this year’s event, to be staged on Saturday July 5th features Maroon 5 with Pitbull and Simple Plan.
Upper Sackville Nova Scotia stages it’s one-day Weir-In Festival August 24th with Colin James and Rik Emmett performing as headliners and The Sappyfest event has been refinanced after a troubled 2013 and is back at Sackville New Brunswick with a mainly local lineup August 1-3 with The Constantines and Julie Dorion acting as headliners.
The Big news from the Martimes is the staging of Cape Fest 2014 September 12th at Sydney Nova Scotia’s Open Heath Park featuring Aerosmith, Slash with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators and Antigonish’s favorite sons, The Trews. This concert marks the first time that a major festival has been attempted in Cape Breton.
FESTIVAL CONCERT SCHEDULE 2014
June 26th-29th Dauphin’s Country Fest – Dauphin MB.
June 26th–July 6th Montreal Jazz Festival – Montreal QC
June 27th-29th Tall Creek Mud & Music Festival – Red Deer AB
June 28th-30th Tall Tree Music Festival – Port Renfrew ON.
June 28th-29th Lachie Music Festival – Hagerville On.
June 29th-30th Digital Dreams – Toronto ON.
July 4th Vans Warped Tour Toronto Molson Ampitheatre
July 4th Cavendish Beach Festival – Hunter River PEI
July 4th-14th Quebec City Summer Festival – Quebec City PQ.
July 4th-6th Sabstock – Pembroke On.
July 4th-7th Toronto Jazz Festival – Toronto ON.
July 5th Vans Warped Tour Montreal QC – Jean-Drapeau Park
July 5th Salmon Festival – Grand Falls Nfld
July 10th-13th Cornwall Lift-Off Festival Cornwall On.
July 10th-14th Winnipeg Folk Festival – Winnipeg MB.
July 11th-14th Craven Country Jamboree – Craven SK.
July 11th-13th Big Fest Kitchener ON.
July 12th-14th Vancouver Island Music Festival – Vancouver Island BC.
July 18th-19th Rockaganza – Drummond QC
July 18th-19th Armstrong Metalfest – Armstrong BC
July 16th-20th Pemberton Music Festival – Pemberton BC
July 23-26th Rock The Park – London On
July 24th-26th Empire Festival – Belleville On.
July 24th Voyageur Days Mattawa On.
July 25th Rockstar Energy Mayhem – Toronto On
July 25th-28th Calgary Folk Festival – Calgary AB.
July 25th-27th Hillside Festival – Guelph On.
July 25th-27th Centre Of Gravity – Kelowna B.C
July 28th-August 3rd Calgary Blues Festival – Calgary AB
July 31st-August 3rd Big Valley Jamboree – Camrose AB.
July 31st-August 3rd – Boots And Hearts – Bowmanville Ont.
August 1st-3rd Boonstock Festival – Penticton BC
August 1st-3rdh Osheaga Festival – Montreal PQ.
August 1st-3rd Kenora Harbour Fest – Kenora On
August 1st-4th Canal Days – Port Colborne On.
August 2nd-3rd Veld Music Festival – Toronto ON
August 3rd Edgefest- Toronto On
August 1st-3rd Sappyfest – Sackville NB.
August 1st-3rd Rockin The Fields of Minnedosa – Minnedosa MB
August 3rd-13th Quebec City Summer Fest – Quebec City QC
August 3rd-4th- OVO Festival – Toronto ON.
August 7th-10th Kitchener Blues Festival – Kitchener On.
August 8th-9th K Days Festival Edmonton AB
August 8th-10th Dutch Mason Blues Festival – Truro N.S
August 8th-10th Festival of Friends -Hamilton On
August 8th-10th Squamish Valley Festival – Squamish BC
August 9th-10th – Heavy Montreal – Montreal QC
August 10th Praire Jam – Winnipeg MB
August 15th-16th – Come Rock N Roar – Spanish On.
August 20th Rockstar Energy Uproar – Toronto ON
August 21st-22nd Sudbury Summerfest – Sudbury ON.
August 21st-24th Sturgis North Festival – Merritt B.C
August 22nd-24th Rock The River – Saskatoon Sask.
August 25th-27th Lumberjack Festival – Kapuskasing On
September 9th-14th Harvest Jazz Blues Festival – Fredericton NB.
September 12th Cape Fest 2014 – Sydney N.S
September 17th-21st Pop Montreal – Montreal PQ.
October 2nd-5th h Breakout West – Winnipeg MB.
October 21st-25th Halifax Pop Explosion
Headstones Photo: Chad Maker
Burton Cummings, Trooper, Coney Hatch Photos: Ted Van Boort
Randy Bachman Photo: Dee Lippingwell