Your Guide to Summer Music Festivals in BC


Summertime is festival time. Whatever groove you desire, whatever pocket of the province you happen to habitat in, there is a festival of delights awaiting to be discovered. This is your primer for the 2013 slate of the best and biggest music festivals BC has to offer.


Vancouver International Jazz Festival

When: June 21 to July 1
Where: Vancouver
Genre: Jazz

Since 1986, the Jazz Festival has been the main course for jazz aficionados, but the menu also includes R&B, blues, and a variety of international vibes and sounds. For true beatniks, there is a smorgasbord of jazz (Dixieland, vocal, smooth, bop, hard bop, atonal and fusion) to choose from. Even better? The amount of free outdoor gigs means you can get your jazz fix without dropping a nickel.

2013 Highlights: Herbie “Yeah I Knew Miles” Hancock, Dr. John, Patricia Barber, and Esperanza Spalding are among the heavyweight talent rolling through this year.


Vancouver Folk Music Festival

When: July 19 to 21
Where: Jericho Park
Genre: Folk and world music from all ports of call.

Founded in 1978, the Folk Fest has grown into a West Coast cultural tradition. Honestly, do you need a reason to spend three days in the oasis of sun that is Jericho Park? Well, how about this: Steve Earle and the Dukes, Kathleen Edwards, The Waterboys and Natalie Maines headline this year’s event.


Tall Tree Music Festival

When: June 28 to 30
Where: Port Renfrew
Genre: A bit of the rock, a bit of the rap and a bit of the DJ stuff

Founded in 2010, Tall Tree is a sapling among some of the robust evergreen festivals, but it has already acquired a reputation for being one of the best festivals around.

2013 highlights: The Hollerado, The Zolas and Gold &Youth are some of the highlights this summer. And while we anticipate these artists, we also look to be wowed by those acts that have flown below our radar so far. After all, isn’t that what festival culture is all about?


Vancouver Island MusicFest

When: July 12 to 14
Where: Comox Valley
Genre: Folk, bluegrass and country

Since its inception in 1999, the MusicFest has become one of the premier events the Comox Valley has to offer. The music is homespun, rustic and communal, where the emphasis is on tradition, not Flaming Lips-scope stage productions.

2013 Highlights: You can’t go wrong with a roster that includes The Indigo Girls, John Hiatt and the Wailin’ Jennys. That right there is worth the gas money and Coppertone alone.


Islands Folk Festival

When: July 19 to 21
Where: Duncan
Genre:  An eclectic mix of blues and folk

Founded in George Orwell’s favourite year, the Islands Folk Festival is another West Coast weekend getaway to simpler ideals. Of course, the music varies in all but one quality: excellence. They sure know how to pick ‘em in Duncan.

2013 Highlights: Connie Kaldor, The Wooden Sky and Jim Byrnes Blues Band are the bigger names to grace the Farm this year.


Rock The Shores

When: July 13 to 14
Where: Victoria
Genre: A solid dose of alt-rock

The wee little babe of the festivals turns two this summer! Rock The Shores organizers hope they have caught last year’s lightning (which almost derailed a set by the Tragically Hip) in a bottle. With big sponsors and big crowds getting behind the festival, this new kid on the block could be the next Squamish!

2013 Highlights: Aged hipsters Weezer will join City and Colour and Mother Mother at the festival this summer. The Sheepdogs, Sam Roberts and 54-40 convince me that this is the Mecca of Canadian alt-rock.


Bella Coola Music Festival

When: July 20 & 21
Where: Bella Coola
Genre: A mix of rock, folk, world, hip hop and funk spread out over two days in the pristine wonder of coastal British Columbia

Founded in 1998 as a family-oriented musical extravaganza, Bella Coola offers a modest array of talent.

2013 Highlights: Locarno, Jackie Treehorn (best ever Big Lebowski-inspired band) and Daniel Wesley bring it all back home.


Shambhala Music Festival

When: August 7 to 12
Where: Salmo River Ranch
Genre: Electronica

Founded in 1998, Shambhala remains the only large-scale collection of EDM artistry anywhere in BC, and has become world-renowned in recent years. Who’s up for a rave in the woods?

2013 Highlights: Mat the Alien, People Under the Stairs and Vokab Kompany.


Squamish Valley Music Festival

When: August 8 to 10
Where: Squamish
Genre: All kinds of rock, plus hip hop and electronica

It may be young, but Squamish strides among the other festivals wearing big boy pants. Which is why the Queens of the Stone Age are headlining and Rick Astley is not.

2013 Highlights: Queens of the Stone Age, Vampire Weekend, Pretty Lights and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis


Rifflandia Festival

When: September 12 to 15
Where: Victoria
Genre: a glorious jumble of alt-rock, punk and hip hop

Since arriving in 2008, Rifflandia has been the ideal swansong for festival season. Line-up announcements are forthcoming, so we can only speculate, but history suggests that 2013 will be the Rifflandiest of Rifflandias yet.

Previous years have featured Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jr., Aidan Knight, and Gold & Youth appear. No pressure there.

Jason Motz

Jason Motz

Jason Motz is a freelance writer and editor based out of Vancouver. Since 2011 he has been the Managing Editor of Positive Living magazine.