Summer festivals let music fans show their love


— Dave Lichterman
— Dave Lichterman

Sold out, full of sell-outs, so shell out

Line-ups for this summer’s music festival season are now being unveiled, bringing with them the inevitable yearly waves of excitement and cynicism.

Criticisms of large music festivals are widespread and mostly valid. Artists like Mumford and Sons, The Black Keys and The Flaming Lips show up on almost every line-up, year after year.

Festivals are massive advertising machines for telecommunications, alcohol, and other big corporations — and there’s certainly no shortage of barely-teenagers putting every substance under the sun into their lungs, mouths, noses, and veins.

Yet these festivals have become a big part of the music industry and our culture as a whole. Hundreds of thousands of music lovers will attend music festivals this summer to camp out under the stars, crowd around stages, and make lifelong friends.

— Dave Lichterman
— Dave Lichterman

Hundreds of bands will reach huge, receptive audiences for the first time, giving their careers that jump-start that can be so hard for artists to find.

[pullquote]”The summer music festival scene is a huge, ugly, wonderful beast.”[/pullquote]

The summer music festival scene is a huge, ugly, wonderful beast that, love it or hate it, is a vital part of how today’s world shows its appreciation for music.

In terms of local festivals, this year’s Squamish Valley Music Festival has excellent value, with a good mix of big artists and local talent for only $150 if you grab an early-bird pass.

Stoner-rock titans, Queens of the Stone Age and quirky New York natives Vampire Weekend are headlining the festival. The lineup is sprinkled with hip-hop artists like Macklemore and Childish Gambino. Canadian indie rock artists like Dan Mangan, Yukon Blonde, and Said the Whale round out the line-up.

Squamish’s festival hasn’t been around long (its first year was 2010) but it has flourished into an eclectic and exciting festival in its short lifespan.  This year’s edition of Live at Squamish runs from August 8-10.

Other local music festivals worth paying attention to are the Vancouver Folk Festival and the Burnaby Roots and Blues Fest, headlined by Blue Rodeo this year.

Just south of the Canadian border is Sasquatch, one of the bigger music festivals in North America, from May 24-27. Sasquatch is famous for featuring the best in Pacific Northwestern music, a ridiculously picturesque location at the Gorge Amphitheatre, and for its wild campsite parties.

[pullquote]”Hundreds of bands will reach huge, receptive audiences for the first time.”[/pullquote]

This year’s line-up features The Postal Service, who reunited after a long hiatus. Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Ros, Australian buzz-kings Tame Impala, Canadian electronic pop star Grimes, and plenty of solid hip-hop acts like Earl Sweatshirt and Killer Mike are also spotlighted.

The major summer music festival in the Southern USA is Bonnaroo, which takes place in Manchester, Tennessee and garners over a hundred thousand attendees a year.

This year’s Bonnaroo is heavy on artists that were big from the 1960’s up until the 90’s, featuring Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, David Byrne of The Talking Heads, ZZ Top, Weird Al Yankovic, and Billy Idol, and big 90s artists like Bjork, Wilco, and Wu-Tang Clan.

This only scratches the surface of the music festivals taking place across North America this summer. Sled Island takes place in downtown Calgary and is a showcase of local and international music talent that brings out around 20,000 music fans a year.

Further east there’s Osheaga in Montreal and RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest in Ottawa, both of which consistently draw big names and huge crowds.

With so many festivals over the coming months, there’s truly something for everyone.

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