summer music festivals toronto

The top 15 summer music festivals in Toronto for 2014

The top summer music festivals in Toronto for 2014 have become a defining feature of the city: as music fests large and small have become summer standards, Toronto's calendar has swelled with possibilities to keep you in the city limits rain or shine.

Party until dawn at one of the giant dance festivals, discover the latest indie acts on a deep festival lineup one weekend later, and catch some free jazz the next. While there are a fair share of fests to hit outside the city, here are my picks for how to make the most of your time as a music lover in Toronto this summer.

Dates: June 6 - 15
Cost: Free - $35 (for individual shows)
Venue(s): Various
Type of music: Various
On now and one of the most respected festivals in the city, Luminato brings together international musicians, visual artists, writers, filmmakers, and dancers for over a week of events. This year's music lineup sees The Roots, TV On The Radio, Ziggy Marley, Buffy St. Marie, Kid Koala, The Hidden Cameras, and more in town for a series of outdoor shows, some free, some ticketed.

Dates: Vol.3: June 13 (see Facebook for more dates)
Cost: $5-$10 per show
Venue(s): Double Double Land, Smiling Buddha
Type of music: Various
We've all heard the joke (but is it really?): Toronto has two seasons - winter, and construction. When the snow clears, the Long Winter series of shows now becomes Construction: a run of affordable, all-ages shows with up-and-coming acts in small venues to tide you over until the return of Long Winter. Tasseomancy headlined volume 1, The Dirty Nil topped volume 2, and Comet Control (ex-Quest For Fire) are on deck for volume 3. Follow Long Winter on Facebook for more dates as they're announced.

Dates: June 13-22
Cost: Free - $600
Venue(s): Various
Type of music: Various
No question: while similar to CMW, NXNE is "the big one". The 20th anniversary of the festival will span 10 days, host hundreds of bands in dozens of venues big and small, and has expanded to include film, comedy, art and interactive experiences. One wristband will get you in just about everywhere - but some of the biggest shows are free at Yonge & Dundas Square. It might seem a bit overwhelming, but they've got you covered with a user-friendly online schedule and an app that'll keep you on top of things while on the go.

Toronto Jazz Festival
Dates: June 19-28
Cost: Free - $210 (costs are for individual shows)
Venue(s): Various
Type of music: Jazz + various
With venues spanning the entire city (from Shops at Don Mills to the Sony Centre), the Jazz Fest lineup is hand-picked for jazz aficionados, with some room for bigger names like Earth, Wind and Fire, Melissa Ethridge, and Measha Brueggergosman (if that one counts). There's no festival wristband, but there are plenty of free events, possibly as close as your local pub, to keep you busy.

Digital Dreams
Dates: June 28-29
Cost: $100 - $12,000
Venue(s): The Flats at Molson Canadian Amphitheatre (Ontario Place)
Type of music: Dance/Electronic
One of two gigantic electronic music events in the city, Digital Dreams keeps the party closer to downtown by taking over Echo Beach and the surrounding area at Ontario Place. Tiesto, Justice, Deep Dish, Luciano, Dash Berlin and Eric Prydz are the names that will be taking you deep into the night, but rest assured there are enough DJs to keep things going over two days. You can get through the gates starting with general admission (16+), or go all the way up to bottle service packages for your entire crew.

Electric Island
Dates: July 1st
Cost: $30 - $55
Venue(s): Centre Island
Type of music: Electronic
Everyone loves a trip to Toronto Island, and the Electric Island concerts give you four chances to do just that - you've missed one already, so catch up! Day parties that transition into night, you'll get to spend time with some well known DJs. The event already past brought Sven V채th, Mano Le Tough and Daniel Avery to the island, and on July 1st, Dixon, the Martinez Brothers and Henrik Schwarz will headline. Two more events are still be announced, so check the website for updates.

Edgefest Concert Series
Dates: July 1, July 18, August 6
Cost: $48 - $102.10
Venue(s): Echo Beach
Type of music: Rock
Edgefest has been a Canada Day staple for years, delivering the necessary quotient of CanRock content for an entire summer in one day. This year you can get three times the patriotism with three different dates, three different line ups. Canada Day has current bands like The Sheepdogs and Monster Truck; a few weeks later has up-and-coming bands like USS and MS MR; a month later is a line-up of CanRock classics like Our Lady Peace, Sloan and I Mother Earth.

TURF (Toronto Urban Roots Festival)
Dates: July 4-6
Cost: $68 - $365 ($11 - $25 for Club shows)
Venue(s): Garrion Commons (Fort York)
Type of music: Rock
After confounding everyone with their 2013 debut, "what the heck is the Toronto Urban Roots Fest?" can finally be dropped. Put on by some of the most well-respected members of the Toronto music community, TURF has expanded to three days and seven club nights in only its second year. Headlined by Beirut, Sam Roberts Band, and Neutral Milk Hotel, there's a deep lineup behind those three with lots for fans of indie rock to love.

Beaches International Jazz Festival
Dates: July 18-27
Cost: Free
Venue(s): Woodbine Park/Queen St. E. (The Beach)
Type of music: Jazz
Having gotten too big for Queen Street East, The Beaches Jazz Festival has expanded in recent years to include events at Woodbine Park. Don't fret - the street festival still shuts down The Beach for three days, but there's now more jazz to go around. The Jazz Festival is one of the more family friendly options on our list, due to the cost (free!), the all-ages atmosphere, and the easy listening of the music on display (no heavy metal or pounding beats here). Best of all the fest is no longer feuding with Drake.

Dates: July 19
Cost: $25 - $50
Venue(s): Garrison Common (Fort York)
Type of music: Various
TIME is new for 2014, appearing on the Toronto scene to fill a necessary niche: an affordable festival compacted into one convenient day. With alterna-indie heavyweight Grimes headlining, the bill is rounded out with contemporaries like Charli XCX and Magical Cloudz, hip-hop acts Action Bronson and Death Grips, electronic acts Flume and Kaytranada, and more. Let's hope it's better than Grove was last year.

Dates: August 2-3
Cost: $225 - $305
Venue(s): Downsview Park
Type of music: Dance/Electronic
Taking place on the outskirts of the city and billed as "Canada's largest music festival," Veld is one of two must-see events for the EDM crowd. Veld keep the party in daylight hours, and this year's "chosen ones" are Armin Van Buuren, Calvin Harris, Ingrosso, Knife Party, Nero, Martin Garrix, and so many more manning the decks. As a bonus, it's all-ages.

Dates: August 3-4
Cost: $67 - $500
Venue(s): Molson Amphitheatre
Type of music: Hip-hop
Drake's annual gift to Toronto does something amazing: sell out shows based solely on knowing that it'll be a good time. This year brings reunited duo Outkast to town for day one, Drake headlines day two, with a lineup of "special guests" filling out both days. Last year's surprises included Lil Wayne and Kanye West, so buy your ticket and trust Drizzy to put together an unforgettable show.

Mad Decent Block Party
Dates: August 15
Cost: $45 - $75
Venue(s): Garrison Commons (Fort York)
Type of music: Electronic/Hip-hop
After Mad Decent's first trip to Toronto last summer, they're back for another round. With Diplo himself on the bill (Mad Decent's main man), complemented by Chance The Rapper, Flosstrdamus, Grandtheft, and more, you know it'll be one of the can't-miss parties of the summer.

Riot Fest
Dates: September 6-7
Cost: $180 - $290
Venue(s): Downsview Park
Type of music: Punk to indie rock
Don't get hung up on the name: The Cure are headlining. Day one will most likely cover the more riotous acts (Billy Talent, Rise Against, Social Distortion, Death From Above 1979), while day two may host the tamer fare (The Cure, City and Colour, The National, Flaming Lips, Death Cab For Cutie); just guesses until the schedule comes out. The move to Downsview means they can bring the carnival elements of the US dates (rides, Mexican wrestling, circus acts) to town.

Junction Music Festival
Dates: September 24
Cost: Free
Venue(s): The Junction (Dundas St. W.)
Type of music: Various
Five stages setup along the stretch of Dundas Street West that makes up the Junction makes up the home of this free music festival. The festival spans both day and night, and has activities for all ages. The 2014 line up has yet to be announced, but 2013 saw Zeus, Cuff The Duke, Zaki Ibrahim, Soul Motivators, Dinosaur Bones and lots more filling the stages. If you're already part of the community, just walk out your front door, if not, maybe it's time for a trip to the Junction.



What festivals are you excited for this summer? Let us know in the comments!

pure leafThanks to Pure Leaf for sponsoring our summer adventures. For more things to do this summer, check out our Best of Summer page.

Writing by Matt Forsythe. Photo by Brian Morton.

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