The Link’s 2016 Guide to Music Festivals

A Summer of Fun, Starting Right Here in Montreal

  • No need to leave the city, Montreal has some of Canada’s greatest festivals. Graphic Ocean DeRouchie

  • To the East you’ll find some Maritime vibes along with a refreshing dose of New York City. Graphic Ocean DeRouchie

  • West of Montreal, you’ll find that Ontario and British Columbia really bring it in when it comes to festivals. Graphic Ocean DeRouchie

  • As if three pages wasn’t enough, we even have a fourth if you’re headed to the West Coast. Graphic Ocean DeRouchie

With summer underway and students fresh off the school semester, what better way to spend your time then in the hot sun, dancing to equally hot tunes. In this guide, we’ve compiled all of the festivals you should look forward to, whether you’re staying in our fine city of Montreal, or traveling from coast to coast.

We’ve given each festival a rating out of five beers based on artists performing and the overall vibe in order to tempt your festival palate.

Local Festivals

Osheaga, QC

Between July 29 and 31 Montréal will host its annual music festival, Osheaga. Located on the St. Lawrence River, Parc Jean-Drapeau will see the lights of many notorious artists.

Looking to ignite the stage this year are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lana Del Rey, Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, and Disclosure.

Alongside these aforementioned heavyweights, there will also be grand performances from Skepta, Flume, Goldlink, Jazz Cartier, Gramatik, The Lumineers and a generous amount of other acts to check out. The lineup for this year’s festivities is as hot as Montreal’s summer vibe.

Part of this year’s festival will be largely influenced by visual components. Osheaga Arts will present installations from various Canadian artists that will enhance the all around experience of the shows. Montreal is known for its diverse offerings of both visual and auditory arts. It will be inspiring to see Osheaga Arts complementing the musical performances at this year’s festival.

Folk Fest, QC

The welcoming atmosphere of Montreal Folk Festival on the Canal returns this year with a vibrant array of musicians. Between June 15 and 19 people can enjoy themselves out in the beautiful summer weather with free performances from Sussex, Whitehorse, The Swindlers, Emma June, Friend of All the World and many more.

venues around the canal will have performances from John McEuen, Alexander Brown, Peter Mika, Katie Moore, Colin Perry, and other talented folk artists.

Folk Fest is a family friendly event with an inviting atmosphere that is sure to attract people, if only for one day of the festival. Plenty of food trucks will be dispersed along the canal and folks will have a variety of grub to choose from.

If you find yourself full of delicious snacks and want to take a break from the music, there’ll also be locally made handcrafted clothes, jewelry, art, food products and other fancy accessories to check out.

If you don’t feel like buying anything that is offered from the local artisans, then you can try your luck at the silent auction. Hopefully no one else will out bid you for those Shazam Fest tickets!

Heavy Montreal, QC

If you’re looking for some abrasive and relentlessly in-your-face shows to attend this summer, I would strongly suggest checking out Heavy Montreal. On the weekend of August 6 and 7, Parc Jean-Drapeau will accommodate the needs of metal fans with performances from Disturbed, Mastodon, Breaking Benjamin, Five Finger Death Punch, and Killswitch Engage.

If those artists alone don’t give you a fix of heavy metal, there will also be performances from Sebastian Bach, Sabaton, Black Label Society, Suffocation, and other heavy bands that’ll blow both your mind and eardrums alike.

Metal heads are absolutely manic and ready to have a good time, especially while at a live show around their peers. Each year at Heavy Montreal the audience is just as important and engaging as the performances themselves.

The mosh pits ooze of energy and passion that allow attendees to feel completely free and enjoy themselves at the shows. This is not a festival anyone should feel shy to attend; in fact, it’s the exact opposite. This is a festival to open yourself up to and to understand the fundamentals of what it means to be a heavy metal fanatic.

IleSoniq, QC

If you have no plans for the weekend of August 5 and 6, and heavy metal doesn’t interest you, then IleSoniq may cater more to your musical appetite. The two day event, which will take place at Parc Jean-Drapeau as well, will have Zedd and Skrillex headlining the electronic music festival, supported by many other fantastic producers.

Some other artists looking to light up the stage this summer include DJ Mustard, Pomo, Zomboy, Hannah Wants and many more acts that’ll tire you out by the end of the festivities. If you want to expand your knowledge and taste pallet on electronic dance music, then this is a perfect opportunity to engage with some new music.

In many ways similar to Heavy Montreal, IleSoniq will be chock-full of energy from the fans of electronic dance music. IleSoniq is a chance to explore what the EDM scene is all about, and there’s no better way to do so than with these phenomenal sets.

The headliners alone are a great indication that attendees will have an amazing experience dancing themselves all the way to the festival’s end. Make sure to stay hydrated during the day since your primary focus will be all about feeling the music and doing nothing else but losing yourself in it.

East of Montreal

Evolve, NB

Evolve is going through some exciting changes this year from July 7 to 10. After throwing down in Antigonish, NS, for sixteen years, this eco-friendly festival will be held in Beersville, NB, about thirty minutes north of Moncton.

Evolve craziness in the Igloo, circa 2014. Photo Ocean DeRouchie

A diverse array of performers from around the world will take the stage to give the audience an unforgettable experience. Participants of the fest can expect to see some great acts—Danny Brown, Dub FX, Keys n Krates, Chuurch, Featurecast among many more—but moreover, unforgettable sights that will have you telling stories of Evolve for years.

Dubbed “Canada’s greenest festival,” Evolve stands out from other music events as it strives to leave a small ecological footprint throughout the three days of partying.

Cleanup is simple during the festival with 35 brightly colour-coded recycling bins around the area. In the marketplace, festival-goers can find handmade clothes and souvenirs, local restaurant presence and food vendors using compostable and biodegradable food packaging.

Evolve is taking steps in influencing its attendees to be more conscious about their waste. If everyone can do their part cleaning up after themselves a festival, everybody wins.

Future Forest, NB

2016 marks the fourth year that Future Forest has been up and running and there seems to be nothing slowing the festival’s operation down anytime soon.

During the weekend of July 22 and 25, Wark’s Point Wilderness Getaway in Bright, NB will host the electronic-based music festival. Musicians from all over the globe will push their artistic efforts on stage to ensure everyone has an incredible time.

Renowned artists playing this year include Aaron Jackson, The Librarian, Wuki, Mack Instinct, BUKU and other highly influential producers. With over 80 acts performing at this year’s festival, there will be no time to feel like there is nothing to do.

Future Forest is one of the most engaging music festivals to be a part of. They’ll offer unique workshops on producing music, creating art, performing art, health and self care.

If you find yourself physically exhausted then try dropping by one of these workshops to pick up a thing or two while resting. You may also want to rest and view the many choreographed art routines that will be held by fantastic gymnasts.

Fire spinners, hula hoopers, aerial performers and pole dancers are few of the creative outputs that this music festival will offer up to attendees.

Panorama, NYC

Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire will take the stage July 22 to 24 at Panorama Music Festival in New York City. The city that never sleeps will host an array of unique talent such as the legendary Madlib, Broken Social Scene, Anderson .Paak, Free Nations, Kaytranada, Flatbush Zombies and plenty more entertaining shows to gawk at. Panorama is one of two major NYC festivals that takes place on Randall’s Island Park during the summer.

SappyFest, NB

Sackville, NB will host a variety of up-and-coming bands that have made their break within the past year. The weekend of July 29 to 31, SappyFest XI will see the likes of Ought, Cakes Da Killa, Nap Eyes, Un Blonde, She-Devil and a handful of other talented young musicians take the stage at the small but successful musical gathering. SappyFest lends itself to giving back to the community as much as any other festival does. The whole atmosphere of the grounds feels exactly how it would look: everyone pitching in to help establish an amazing few days of tunes for the pure enjoyment of music.

That is what makes SappyFest such a special experience to be apart of. The entire event is completely community driven and accepts as many volunteers as they can get. Created in 2006 by Sappy Records, the original intent of the festival was to bring friends together at a much more affordable cost and share long lasting memories together. It has still maintained that same rudimentary idea all these years, but now has opened itself up to more of the general public. It’s an inspiring feat to witness since we live in a time where nearly everyone is able to create and share something truly unique with those around them. SappyFest represents that in many wonderful aspects.

Push yourself to do something you haven’t done and free your mind from all the stressors you’ve experienced this past year. Whether it’s school, work or just your day to day life, take a break from it all and treat yourself to one of these magnificent music festivals.

West of Montreal

NXNE, ON

Between June 13 to 19, North by Northeast (NXNE) will host a slew of talented artists looking to show off their skills on stage. Performing at this years festival are Schoolboy Q, Father John Misty, Ghostface Killah, Mick Jenkins, Dan Mangan, Kamasi Washington, Mother Mother, Freddie Gibbs, MSTRKRFT and a ton more acts that will encompass the whole week. According to The Guardian, NXNE is crowned the best music event in Toronto. With a spectacular array of guests, it’s no mystery why they’ve received the title of one of the leading festivals.

During the week of the phenomenal event, there will be displays of comedy and film that will diversify the different kinds of arts being presented at NXNE. An Interactive conference will also take place during the festival and will engage with the idea of music and emerging technologies integrating as one. The cultural landmark event has so much going on that there is something for everyone. Whether you are a music nerd, funny guy, film junky or just an average joe, NXNE will have an overwhelming amount of material to check out.

Bestival, ON

Woodbine Park will host an assortment of artists at the eclectic music event Besitval Toronto. From the weekend of June 11 to 12, attendees of the festival can expect to see Tame Impala, Grimes, Odesza, and The Cure headline the main stages this year. Other fun and energetic performers looking to bring their all-time best around include Jamie XX, Porter Robinson, Girffage, Daughter, Madeon and many other talented musicians. Bestival Toronto has only established itself within the past two years and has already garnered the attention of many people and musicians alike.

Bestival’s Bollywood Stage on June 12. Photo Ocean DeRouchie

Aside from superb lineup, there will be a ton of activities for those who feel like exploring the seemingly endless festival grounds. Drag Queen Croquet will provide a fun time playing the sport while dressed up in the hottest drag attire! If you feel like dressing up in another fun fashion, then check out the Costume Party and Parade where you can spread positive vibes in the most creative get up you can conjure.

If you still need your fix of music even after the festival, then make your way over to the after parties while there’s still room! Four headliners have yet to be announced for the after parties but it will surely keep the good vibes flowing.

Wayhome, ON

LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, and The Killers will bring the house down at Wayhome Music Festival. An impressive turn out of performers will be making their way over to Oro-Medonte, ON from the weekend of July 22 to 24. As well as the legendary headliners, we’ll see performances from Kurt Vile and The Violators, BADBADNOTGOOD, Metric, Black Mountain, Major Lazer, River Tiber, FIDLAR and countless other gifted talents. With so much entertainment to check out in such little time, this year’s lineup is more than enough proof that no one will leave feeling even the slightest bit disappointed.

An incredible amount of work has been put into creating a well crafted lineup that there is no need for other activities besides the music. Wayhome has a reputation of always having incredible performers and with such pivotal headliners taking the stage. To think that there is still Vince Staples, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Wolf Parade, Glass Animals, Haim, Mac DeMarco, M83 and others who will be performing at this three day festival is unbelievable. If you’ve been planning to make a trip to Ontario, then try your hardest to score a pair of tickets to this uproaring music festival!

FYF, LA

For the weekend of August 27 to 28, Exposition Park in Los Angeles, CA will take the reigns with influential headliners Kendrick Lamar and LCD Soundsystem. FYF Fest’s lineup only continues to impress with Tame Impala, Anohni, Denzel Curry, Julia Holter, Shellac, Ty Segall and countless other shows that everyone will try to cram into the two day fest. It’s not possible to choose one day over the other; they’re both evenly stacked with incredible non-stop performances. Everyone in attendance can find something that will appeal to them. The lineup is diverse and offers a wide variety of acts to which you can dance yourself clean!

FYF Fest is one of the hottest festivals on the west coast. The event is a fantastic display of some of the greatest artists for the most popular music within the past year. If you are trying to expand your horizons when it comes to new music and you happen to be in Los Angeles towards the end of August, FYF Fest is without a doubt a fantastic opportunity. The warm summer air will match the crisp summer jams as everyone is put into a trance of dancing to the eclectic pieces of work.

Outside Lands, SF

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, CA will transform completely from August 5 to 7 with some extraordinary headliners. Acts include Radiohead, Lionel Richie, Lana Del Rey and returning heavy weights LCD Soundsystem. Outside Lands has been widely recognized within the most recent years for attracting big acts, both new and old. Joining the phenomenal headliners will also be amazing young up-and-coming artists: Major Lazer, Sufjan Stevens, Chance the Rapper, Vince Staples, Beach House and plenty of other popular young talents will be in SF performing for all their devoted fans.

The non-camping music festival will hold a lively party atmosphere with a wine and beer garden that will quench your thirst while listening to the music. When you feel the need to feed your appetite you can always look for one of San Francisco’s famous food trucks to satisfy any of your cravings. If you’re in California for the summer, it’s definitely worth the shot to try to score tickets for this festival while they last.

Pemberton, BC

Further up north in British Columbia are a handful of some of the most engaging festivals at which any music nerd can get their fix. One of them, is Pemby.

From the weekend of July 14 to 17, Pearl Jam, The Killers, and J. Cole will headline one of Canada’s most prominent music festivals that takes place annually. Other acts to pay close attention to are Hudson Mohawke, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, FKA Twigs, Die Antwoord. There seems to be a hip hop focus this year as a majority of the performing artists are rooted in the genre. However, the electronic and rock artists on Pemberton’s roster will surely be sufficient enough for those who may not look into hip hop as much as others.

What stands out about Pemberton is the night life activity buzzing from campsite to campsite. Games of beer pong can be seen nearly everywhere as ravers dance themselves far off into the night in the Northern campsite. You can find time to relax and recuperate in the Southern campsite should it appeal to those who want their rest for the next day of dancing. Either way, there is something for everyone at Pemby Fest which makes the event truly something to remember once you come back from the onslaught of partying you’ll be doing.

Shambhala, BC

Shambhala Music Festival is a renowned Canadian music festival that takes place in BC. On the brink of the Salmo River Ranch, Shambhala has showcased a number of talented artists since it began back in 1998. From the weekend of August 5 to 8, in Salmo River Ranch, BC, appearances from Questlove, The Gaslamp Killer, AlunaGeorge, Felix Da Housecat and XXYYXX amongst a ton of other artists will take place. A few local musicians from Montréal will also be taking the stage this year. Look out for acts from Snails, Frase, WYLN and Sweet Anomaly.

Shambhala also has a unique campground that differentiates itself from other camping-permitted music festivals. Unless you are paying for a RV/Car, camping is free of charge and campers have free-reign of where they set up, within reason. The festival is currently holding a contest for attendees to pitch ideas for a possible theme for the campgrounds. Selected theme winners will have a prime spot reserved at one of the designated camping areas. If you have any cool ideas for a theme that could occupy a space full of peaceful music attendees, you should submit your creation right away!

Levitation, BC

The Malkin Bowl in Vancouver, BC has been host to many artists who have stopped by the beautiful city on their tours. The weekend of July 16 to 19 will be the prime focus for the psychedelic and experimental music festival Levitation Vancouver. Hugely influential musicians such as Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Of Montréal, Com Truise and Shabazz Palaces will grace the stage with their funky production styles. New up-and-coming bands will show off their crazy sets with performances from FIDLAR, Thee Oh Sees, Holy Fuck, Suuns, Sumac, Dead Ghosts and more acts to anticipate.

Built in 1938, the Malkin Bowl is located in Stanley Park and is considered the heart of the city. Surrounded by beautifully lush trees and breathtaking landscapes that surround Vancouver, Levitation from the get-go lends itself to becoming a great atmosphere for a festival. If you end up making your way to Vancouver around the time Levitation, I would recommend trying to check out at least one of the days of the festival. Each day has been priced generously for the amount of performances and the kinds of artists you’ll get to see.

Now that you’ve read what all the hype is about, you should start coordinating plans with fellow friends to make some long lasting memories for the summer. Push yourself to do something you haven’t done and free your mind from all the stressors you’ve experienced this past year. Whether it’s school, work or just your day to day life, take a break from it all and treat yourself to one of these magnificent music festivals. If you aren’t sure which one to go to then the only assurance I can give you myself is the following: you won’t regret choosing any of them.

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