Here is a subjective overview (not an exhaustive list) of music festivals in and around Victoria this Spring and Summer.
Play! Circus Festival for Families
Coming up this weekend, May 1st-3rd at the beautiful Sooke River Campground in Sooke, is a super fun, family-friendly weekend camp-out event. If you are ready to shed all traces of winter and get outside with your hoola-hoop to sweat away your worries to some electronic dance music, this first-of-the-season outdoor festival has your name written all over it. The schedule is full of circusy performances and workshops for the whole family as well as dj’s, such as the famous Adham Shaikh, late into the evening. Play! is put on by the Dream Collective. You can find the schedule on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thedreamco
Concerts in the Park
It’s kind of like a festival, except its more of a concert series. Starting in mid-June and carrying on through until September you can stroll through Beacon Hill Park and hear some tunes in the Cameron Bandshell every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Mondays from 1:30pm-3:20pm. It’s a shady and beautiful spot to relax, and if you don’t like the music the ducks will also be playing all day.
Standing Nation Drum, Summer Solstice and National Aboriginal Day Pow Wow
Everyone is welcome to this non-competitive traditional Pow Wow held at the Songhees Wellness Centre on June 21st. This event features an artists market, multiple dance and drum categories and a traditional feast. Check it out at: https://www.aboriginalbc.com/events/standing-nation-drum-summer-solstice…
Just a ten minute walk from downtown Victoria is Fernwood, one of the funkiest and well-loved neighbourhoods on earth, but don’t take my word for it. On June 20th and 21st saunter over to the 20th annual Fernfest and discover its lovability for yourself. You can find out about all the great family friendly events, markets, and musical offerings at: www.fernwoodnrg.ca/events-directory/fernfest/
Sooke River Bluegrass Music Festival
For foot-tapping, fiddles and banjos Sooke River is the place to be from June 19th-21st. With great local acts like the Sweet Low Down and Daniel Lapp playing in this west coast woodsy spot, this is sure to be a welcoming scene. http://sookebluegrass.com
TD International Jazz Fest
Victoria’s Jazz Festival, held at a wide variety of locations downtown Victoria from June 19th-28th, is not just for Jazz aficionados. The name may be misleading, to people who are decidedly anti-jazz due to the inaccessibility of certain styles, but Jazz Fest includes everything from gospel to rock and hip hop music. Go to their website and click on a genre to see who is playing the music that interests you: http://schedule.jazzvictoria.ca.
Victoria 16th Annual Ska and Reggae Fest
Ska Fest, happening from July 1st -5th at various locations around Victoria, has been bringing life and culture to this once sleepy town for a steady long while now. Ska, which hails from Jamaica, is grandfather (or grandmother) to so much of the great music we all listen to today including reggae, soul, hip hop, punk and jazz. This years schedule is bigger than ever with cultural icons of this roots music scene including Morgan Heritage and Clinton Fearon, as well contemporary stars such as Sticky Budz and Dubmatix among so many other great acts. With free concerts in the inner harbour as well as ticketed shows, workshops, beer (which you don’t have to drink in a cage anymore!), and so much more, Ska Fest (which now includes reggae in the title for those who were previously unaware of the link) is a great way to celebrate music and enjoy Victoria at its most vibrant. http://victoriaskafest.ca
Victoria International Buskers Fest
From July 17th -26th 2015 you can walk around downtown Victoria and be impressed by the rare oddities that show up to brighten our streets with their music and performance art. Returning and new buskers come from all over the world, and play at stages set up in the inner harbour and bastion square and at “Busk Stops” along Government St. It’s very entertaining. Don’t forget to tip. http://victoriabuskers.com
Victoria Harbour Festival
From June 27th- September 4th it is officially Harbour Festival season in Victoria (who knew?). The Inner Harbour includes the lower causeway and Ship Point and its a great place to take out-of-towners, or to gawk at out-of-towners while enjoying local musicians and performance artists, Songhees Nation artists, food trucks and now a night market at Ship Point.
Rock the Shores
Rock the Shores, July 18th and 19th in Colwood, is kind of a big deal for our little city. It’s not often that we get mega-acts like Jane’s Addiction and the Black Keys coming to town and playing the same event, not to mention a dozen other amazing acts. Atomique productions, which also brings us the Backyard Weekender and Rifflandia, has been working hard to create a scene that will support both local and international acts to succeed here on the island. Go give them some love! http://rocktheshores.com
Phillips Backyard Weekender
Some weeks close with only a weekend, but July 25th-27th in Victoria BC, sunglass clad beer swillers, and eager foot stompers get to have a weekender. This 3 day festival is held in the funky industrial lot of Phillips Brewery in Victoria BC. They have not released this year’s line-up yet but they always manage to impress us with a mix of local and international acts playing hip hop, reggae, funk and more. It’s pretty hip (but clearly I am not since I still say that). http://backyardweekender.com
Victoria Tango and Latin Music Festival
From August 1st-3rd this annual festival will present dancers and musicians performing stunning works in Tango as well as other Latin and fusion styles. Stayed tuned: http://www.passion4tango.com
Rifflandia, September 17th- 20th and its ancillary Festivals, Thinklandia and Artlandia, are truly the icing on the cake, with the cake being summer-time in Victoria. From Royal Athletic Park and Sugar night club to random back alleys and parkades this festival breathes new life into the dusty corners of our fair town. There is always a huge variety of music, both big names and lesser known acts, interactive arts spaces, panels of intellectuals and of course, amazing food carts. This one will help you get through the winter festival drought to come. http://rifflandia.com