The top 20 folk & roots shows in Toronto for summer 2014
The top folk, blues, and roots shows in Toronto this summer arrive at the best time of the year to catch live music in the city - indoors and outdoors. For those who like their music with a country feel, there are plenty of great concerts coming up in the usual haunts.
Add to those the annual NXNE festival, and TURF and you've got a packed summer. With all the iconic names coming to town and under-the-radar showcases popping up, it can be a challenge sorting through all the artists performing.
Here are my picks for the top folk, roots, and bluegrass concerts this summer.
Scarlett Jane with Andrew Austin / June 5 / Drake Underground / $15
Andrea Ramolo and Cindy Doire (aka Toronto folk/noir duo Scarlett Jane) have toured cross-Canada, bringing their "sultry, boot-stompin' magic" and haunting harmonies wherever they play. They perform at the Drake Hotel Underground June 5 with Sarnia's Andrew Austin.
Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq / June 10 / David Pecaut Square / free
Luminato Festival 2014 presents a Northern Lights & Music double bill with Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq. The two iconic artists perform at David Pecaut Square on June 10 as part of a free concert. Buffy Sainte-Marie's career dates back to Toronto's '60's Yorkville folk scene, with early appearances in television (Sesame Street 1975) and film, and later Native American issues social activism. Tanya Tagaq brings traditional Inuit art of throat singing to the modern stage. Her artistry in multiple fields has led to international collaborations.
Ian Foster CD release / June 12 / Belljar Cafe / $10
One of Newfoundland's hardest-touring songwriters makes his way from St. John's through Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. Ian Foster's new CD, The Great Wave, combines the melodies and sounds of traditional folk with a modern approach. His local CD release will take place at the Belljar Cafe on June 12.
Showcase 13: the Concert / June 13 / The Assembly Hall / $13
Presented by Village Vinyl Music Emporium & Cafe, Showcase 13 is a rare chance to hear 13 artists for only 13 dollars. Like Village Vinyl, the event welcomes a range of genres. Folk and roots and bluegrass fans will hear The Wordman of Alcatraz, Erika Werry, the Barrel Boys, along with other diverse solo to full band artists. Tickets only available through Village Vinyl up until the date of the show.
NXNE / June 13-22 / various venues
This year's NXNE festival is packed with artists from Toronto to Iqaluit (Nunavut) to Sydney (Australia). Canadian artists in the folk and roots and bluegrass genres from coast to coast are well represented at the festival. Five showcases worth checking out:
- The Jerry Cans / June 21 @ 10PM / Tranzac
- Shawn William Clarke / June 14 & 15 / Harbour Parklands / June 18 @ 9PM / Baltic Avenue
- Skye Wallace / June 22 @ 11PM /Handlebar
- Whitney Rose / June 21 @ 3:30PM / Cameron House
- The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra / June 18 @ 1AM / Dakota Tavern
The Boxcar Boys and Combo Royale / June 15 / The Tranzac Main Hall / $15
The Boxcar Boys feature the combined talents of Rob Teehan, John David Williams, Karl Silveira, Ronen Segall, and Laura C. On stage they deliver a mix of gypsy, old-jazz, klezmer and folk - but it always adds up to a good time. Their next Toronto show is at the Tranzac in the Annex on June 15, with guests Combo Royale.
Skydiggers and Peter Cash / June 7 / Hugh's Room / $29.50
Co-founder Peter Cash returns to the Skydiggers as part of a special two-night concert at Hugh's Room on June 6 and 7. Now in their 26th year, Skydiggers bring their Canadian roots rock sound back to Toronto.
Johnny Cash Tribute / June 20 / Hugh's Room / $25
Michael Wrycraft presents In Cash We Trust, a concert tribute to Johnny Cash, at Hugh's Room on June 20. The talented lineup includes Paul Reddick, Jon Brooks, JD Edwards, The Rucksack Willies and others. Tickets are available through Hugh's Room. Expect folks to wear black.
Young Running at the Junction Solstice Festival / June 21 / 2 venues / free
The Junction's own Young Running blend folk, roots, indie, honesty and fun in their showcases. They'll be performing at the Junction Solstice Festival - a free, all-ages fest meant to celebrate the neighbourhood's diversity - on June 21. Their night begins with a set at the festival's beer gardens at 7pm; at 10pm, they'll move the party to the Hole In The Wall and play until 2 am.
Pheromone Recordings Night / June 21 / Horseshoe Tavern / $25
Five of Pheromone Recording's artists are set to play the legendary Horseshoe Tavern on June 21. Lineup includes Steph Cameron, Mo Kenney, double Canadian Folk Awards nominees The Wilderness of Manitoba, Bidiniband, and Joel Plaskett Emergency. The event is a NXNE ticketed event with wristband entrance depending on available capacity.
The Slocan Ramblers / June 25 / Shops at Don Mills / free
Toronto bluegrass band The Slocan Ramblers, will squeeze their June 25 appearance in between a BC tour in early June, a lengthy set of festival dates in July. The performance at Shops at Don Mills is part of a free Toronto Jazz Festival event.
Suzy Vinnick / June 26 / Nathan Phillips Square / free
Suzy Vinnick is known for her career in roots and blues music, her contributions to her peers' music, three Juno nominations, and her parlour guitar ("Mabel"). The Suzy Vinnick Quartet will be performing on June 26 at Nathan Phillips Square at noon as part of a free Toronto Jazz Festival event.
Toronto Urban Roots Festival / July 4-6 / Fort York July / Tickets vary
Fans of more than just roots music will find the Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) is aiming to impress with this year's installment. They'll get to hear the Sam Roberts Band, Ladies of the Canyon, Jenny Lewis, Sam Cash & The Romantic Dogs, the Willie Nile Band, and many others at the Garrison Commons (Fort York) from July 4 to July 6.
The Jessica Stuart Few / July 26 / Harbourfront Redpath stage / Free
The Jessica Stuart Few are a "Koto-toting folk-jazz power trio" making them the only one of their kind. Stuart's use of the the 13-stringed Japanese Koto (and guitar work) have helped build her a growing national fan base. They'll be finishing up their Western Canada summer tour with a free showcase at Harbourfront's Redpath Stage on July 26.
Joe Hall / August 9 / The Tranzac
Though Hall's been living in Peterborough for nearly 30 years, he's got a long history with the city, having been a fixture of the Queen St. scene in the late 70's. He's acknowledged for his wit and crafty songwriting, which he'll bring to the Tranzac on August 9.
The Kruger Brothers / August 12 / Hugh's Room / $27.50
Jens Kruger (banjo, vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar, lead vocals), and Joel Landsberg (bass, vocals) are internationally recognized as one of the finest composers and performers folk, Americana, and classical music today. Hugh's Room presents the band in a dining concert setting on August 12.
What did I miss? Plug your favourite upcoming summer shows in the comments below.
Thanks to Pure Leaf for sponsoring our summer adventures. For more things to do this summer, check out our Best of Summer page.
Writing by Ryan Ayukawa. Photo of Skye Wallace by Kurt Cuffy Photography from Facebook.