Your Guide To The Best Summer Festivals In B.C.

With the Squamish Music Festival’s rise in popularity and very sudden cancellation this year, some of you would-be festival bums will be looking for a replacement summer destination. B.C. is home to well over thirty music festivals every year ranging from jazz to EDM to country and we thought we’d help to narrow down your search with a guide of our province’s best. There is a little something for everyone, and these summer getaways are practically in your own backyard. While every year many people cross the border into The States for their live music fix, the Canadian dollar—a much talked about subject this week and a killer when it comes to vacation travel—may turn many off of the trek. Most 2016 lineups for B.C.’s many festivals have yet to be announced, but already people are itching to buy their tickets. So whether you head into the interior, to the island, or stay in your own area, your attendance not only generates moments to look back on fondly, but also helps the B.C. economy. So grab your camping equipment, a hoola hoop and a weekend’s supply of water and start planning your musical summer.

TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival
June 24-July 3, 2016
Vancouver, B.C.

Source: Facebook - Coastal Jazz
Source: Facebook – Coastal Jazz

This year’s lineup for the large jazz festival is truly impressive. An exciting and strong musical collaboration between K.D. Lang, Laura Veirs and Neko Case will give fans the record case/lang/veirs in July, and Vancouver audiences will get to see this iconic team at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for the first time ever. Jo Jackson, Ms. Lauren Hill and Sarah McLachlan were also just announced as headliners. For the major guitar fans out there, it will be the Tedeschi Trucks Band that draws the most excitement. Derek Trucks—friend to Eric Clapton and owner of Rolling Stone’s #16 spot on the “Top 100 Guitarists of All Time” list—is an exhilarating performer, and his wife Susan Tedeschi’s voice drives the twelve-piece band into full force. The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival is the longest and most formal of this guide, but stands apart as a mixture of the refined and the eclectic.

Fvded in the Park
July 2-3, 2016
Holland Park, Surrey, B.C.

Source: Fvded in the Park Facebook
Source: Fvded in the Park Facebook

Continuing the celebratory spirit after Canada day, this Blueprint and Live Nation event is a must see for EDM fans, particularly those who cannot take a lot of time off work and need something easily accessible. For Vancouverites, Fvded in the Park is absolutely perfect—often a club series, Fvded leaves the nightlife for the fresh air in July. Last year’s lineup included deadmau5, The Weeknd, Afrojack and Tyler, the Creator, and Fvded’s success promises an equally fabulous lineup this year. Accessible by skytrain, the short festival features large stage backdrops akin to those of bigger festivals. The upcoming event is already garnering excitement as event coordinators tease announcements on Facebook—the bulk of Vancouver’s DJ scene heads to this event, many of whom are affiliated with Blueprint.

Bass Coast
July 8-11, 2016
Merritt, B.C.

Source: Bass Coast-Vasho Photography
Source: Bass Coast – Vasho Photography

If you love Shambhala, fellow electronic festival Bass Coast is a great accompanying getaway—those life long friends you met at Shamb in the Fractal Forest most likely head to the Merritt event as well. This intimate electronic extravaganza boasts more than 100 local and international artists on its grounds, and the Coldwater River provides a much-needed cool down. Merritt’s desert-like environment gives Bass Coast an ambiance of small-town vibes and wide-open skies and spaces. Small in comparison to Shambhala, Bass Coast is a great way to connect with the music and people in a less flurried or claustrophobic way. In fact, I know someone who met her husband there and now they travel to the many festivals of North America today in marital and bass-loving bliss.

Center of Gravity
July 8-10, 2016
Kelowna, B.C.

Source: Center of Gravity Facebook-William Selviz
Source: Center of Gravity Facebook-William Selviz

Having more or less absorbed the failed Keloha Music Festival, sport and music festival Center of Gravity has grown exponentially within the last few years making it the top beach festival in B.C. Last year saw such heavy-hitters as Diplo, Flo Rida, Zeds Dead, Phantogram and Yukon Blonde perform off the shores of the Okanagan Lake. Often called “Kelownafornia”, K-Town’s weather has been one of the top reasons for the festival’s success. The Okanagan city is also home to a thriving local music scene that lends itself beautifully to COG. Once termed “Center of Guidos” by various locals who will go unnamed—swarms of muscled 20-somethings in neon descend on Kelowna in quite alarming quantities for the festival—COG has thankfully started to attract a more varied crowd that includes not only jocks and EDM fanatics, but also indie fans. To get the full Kelownafornia experience, leave the COG grounds here and there to explore the orchards and vineyards surrounding the city and visit one of downtown’s small yet charming bars.

Pemberton Music Festival
July 14-17, 2016
Pemberton, B.C.


This rock/hip hop/electronic/heavy metal/comedy/indie rock four-day festival brings in a massive crowd every year, and 2016 visitors will be clamouring for tickets in light of Live Nation’s Squamish cancellation. Things are looking good for the New Orleans-based Huka Entertainment–run event, and their open-grass and more down to earth setting focuses on the organic experience of absorbing music rather than focusing heavily on ways to make a dollar. Despite the tragedy at Pemberton the year before, festival coordinators were able to tighten up security the following year. 2015 featured an amazing line-up for the festival that included Kendrick Lamar, The Black Keys, Hozier, Kid Cudi and Missy Elliot. With Squamish out of the picture Pemberton is the leader of the pack with Rifflandia climbing up the ranks as well.

Vancouver Folk Music Festival
July 15-17, 2016
Jericho Beach Park, Vancouver, B.C.

Source: Vancouver Folk Music Festival - Facebook
Source: Vancouver Folk Music Festival – Facebook

In its fifth decade, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival is one for the entire family. This is where a child first discovers the daisy crown and the city embraces a wide range of folk genres and artists in all its outdoor glory. Last year’s line-up included the likes of Adam Cohen, Said the Whale and Blind Pilot. The festival has been known to bring in over 38,000 attendees to multiple stages over its duration, and coastal vibes and strong volunteer-driven coordination have kept it popular for years. Critically-acclaimed every year my numerous local publications, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival is polished and continuously attracts the best of Canada’s folk scene.

Rock The Shores
July 22-24, 2016
Colwood, B.C.

Source: Rock the Shores Facebook
Source: Rock the Shores Facebook

Want to festival it up on a budget? Rock the Shores’ two day production by Atomique Productions LTD. boasts some of the best former lineups in BC with past acts including Father John Misty, The Black Keys, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Jane’s Addiction. Short but very, very sweet, festivals like this one are great for those who want to take on a few experiences rather than one big one—visit two festivals this year for the price of one!

Rockin’ River Music Festival
July 28-31, 2016
Merritt, B.C.


Heading back to Bass Coast host Merritt but jumping into the country genre, the Rockin’ River festival is basically Merritt Mountain Music Festival 2.0. The former country festival had its fair share of financial troubles and eventual ticket sales plummets. However Rockin’ River—a new effort—has proven to be successful so far and the 2016 lineup has already been released. The festival boasts artists that include Sam Hunt, John Michael Montgomery, Brent Lee and Dean Brody, and visitors can expect a good ol’ country time along the Coldwater River. For the full country experience, grab yourself a Molson at the classic Coldwater Hotel and shoot a game of pool before checking out the Country Music Capital of Canada’s Walk of Stars. Merritt is home to murals of such country icons as Alan Jackson, Paul Brandt and Reba McEntire, and the handprints of the likes of Tanya Tucker, Johnny Cash and Tim McGraw.

August 5-8, 2016
Salmo River Ranch, B.C.

Source: Shambhala Facebook- Ricardo Hubbs Photography
Source: Shambhala Facebook- Ricardo Hubbs Photography

Without a doubt the most popular electronic music festival in B.C., if not in all of Canada, Shambhala has become a staple summer event. Do you feel trapped by work, stressful relationships and the pressures of day-to-day life? Shambhala is all about dancing and being free, with an expectation of peace and respect. It is not unusual for die-hards of the festival to get the “Shambhalove” tattoo, and visitors to abandon their usual clothing choices for next-to nothing, tutus or “tribal gear”. Set on a 500-acre working farm, Shambhala has an entirely organic and freeing feel to it along the Salmo River. The music and lights are continuous and lineups year after year continue to cover the massive scope of electronica available to fans now. If you are ready to let go of your hang-ups and get weird, this is the festival for you.

Rifflandia Festival
September 15-18, 2016
Victoria, B.C.

Source: Rifflandia Facebook- Shane Deringer Photography
Source: Rifflandia Facebook- Shane Deringer Photography

According to the CBC, Rifflandia is one of the festivals that could benefit most this summer from the Squamish cancellation. Set at multiple venues within Victoria, Rifflandia’s main competition has always been Squamish and Pemberton—with one of those out of the picture, the festival’s beautiful setting and potential very well may bring in record audiences this year. Past acts include Modest Mouse, Julian Casablancas, Kiesza, Mother Mother, Tokyo Police Club, Neon Indian and Chad VanGaalen, and organizers believe that Squamish’s cancellation will send acts their way. Coming in at the end of the summer, Rifflandia will appeal to those who just aren’t quite ready to call it quits and settle into the fall. On the other hand, the festival’s late date also conflicts with the beginning of the school season. But still, coordinators are optimistic and we can expect a heightened effort this year.

But wait, there are so many more! If you are thirsty for even more of what B.C. has to offer this festival season, check out these:

Ponderosa Arts & Music Festival
Khatsahlano! Music & Art Festival
Rock of the Woods
Starbelly Jam
TD Victoria International Jazz Festival
Vancouver Island MusicFest
Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival
Sunshine Music Festival
Kispiox Valley Music Festival
Bandfest in Ladner
Country Fest
Bella Coola Music Festival
Robson Valley Music Festival
Golden Sound Festival
Sunfest Country Music Festival