By ELIZABETH CHORNEY-BOOTH
Calgary has a limited number of days when concert promoters can safely plan an outdoor music festival, so when the weather is hot and the sun is shining, the city turns into a hub for both big and small scale music festivals. Whether fans are looking to get their fix of country, hip-hop, or opera, music festivals abound all summer long.
Calgary Folk Music Festival
July 27 – 30
For those who like their music on the folkier side, the Calgary Folk Music Festival returns to Prince’s Island Park from July 27 to 30. As always, the programming skews towards an “a little bit of everything” philosophy, with artists like Blue Rodeo, City and Colour, Barenaked Ladies, and Basia Bulat appearing on the main stage and dozens of other bands playing the many side stages scattered throughout the island. “The Festival’s bucolic setting, programming diversity and community-based, egalitarian atmosphere and philosophy mean that all ages, cultures, backgrounds, and tastes happily co-exist,” says artistic director Kerry Clarke. “The site is like a small town of 13,000 a day that also includes creative artisans and the opportunity to chill in the family zone.”
July 28 – 30
Not all music fans are looking for summer sunshine—those who prefer to keep things a bit darker can head to Dickens Pub from July 28 to 30 for the Terminus Festival, a festival that specializes in dark electronic, synth, and industrial music. It’s a niche genre, but Terminus manages to attract bands (and fans) from all over the world, including acts like The Birthday Massacre, 3Teeth, and The Gothsicles.
Calgary International Blues Festival
July 31 – August 6
Getting back to the outdoor fests, the Calgary International Blues Festival takes place from July 31 to August 6, with main stage concerts at Shaw Millennium Park and “twilight dance parties” at the Kirby Centre over the weekend, and other special events happening throughout the week. This year’s line-up features a long list of respected blues players, like Muddy Waters’ son Big Bill Morganfield, living legends Bob Hall and Lil’ Jimmy Reed, and a performance by locals Amos Garrett and his band the Eh! Team who will be joined by Canned Heat front man Dale Spalding.
One Love Music Festival
Live Nation is bringing two festivals to the city this summer that take place over the same weekend at the same venue so that fans of both hip-hop and EDM can catch everything in one go. One Love is a one-day hip-hop festival being held on August 4. With artists including Ms. Lauryn Hill, Migos, and Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals, One Love is the biggest hip-hop event in the province and is expected to attract more than 23,000 fans.
Chasing Summer Festival
August 5 – 6
Immediately following One Love, music fans can stick around for Chasing Summer, Western Canada’s biggest EDM festival, stretching over August 5 and 6 and featuring electronic superstars Tiesto and Zedd as its key headliners. “Now in its fifth year, Chasing Summer 2017, Western Canada’s largest EDM festival, features a lineup of world class performers across three stages,” says Live Nation’s Sandra Merz. “This year’s event is expected to host over 34,000 electronic music fans from across the region for what promises to be one of the festival’s best years yet.”
Opera in the Village
August 10 – 13, 17 – 20
For something entirely different, Calgary Opera’s annual presentation of Opera in the Village returns this year over the weekends of August 10 to 13 and August 17 and 20 at Enmax Park. This year’s centerpiece show is Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, a Tony Award-winning musical that explores racial prejudice on a Pacific island during World War II. The festival is rounded out with family matinee performances of Cinderella, a one-act show that is an excellent introduction to opera for first-timers, and free musical performances throughout the day.
August 18 – 20
One of the newest—and biggest—festivals to hit the Calgary music scene is Country Thunder, a three-day country music extravaganza taking place August 18 to 20. The festival, which also has outposts in Arizona, Wisconsin, and Saskatchewan, debuted in Calgary last year to a sold-out audience. For 2017 the festival has made some improvements to its venue at Prairie Winds Park in Calgary’s north east, including a better flow for those looking to get food and beverage and more advantageous sightlines. The line-up is the real draw here, with 20,000 fans getting to see some of the genre’s biggest names like Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, and Thomas Rhett. “It’s a special festival because it’s a city festival as opposed to the camping festivals we do in other locations,” says Country Thunder’s Gerry Krochak. “You get to go and have fun all day in a festival environment but you’re not sleeping in a tent at night. It’s our boutique Thunder—our smallest and most intimate one, with audiences at the 20,000 mark.”
August 18 – 19
Finally, for one last hurrah, there are few experiences that scream “summer” louder than Reggaefest, taking place on August 18 and 19 at Shaw Millennium Park (there are also pre-events on August 17). “Rastagarians” unite to celebrate Caribbean culture, eat island-inspired cuisine, and, of course, groove out to some reggae music. As always, the line-up includes an international slate of performers including Etana from Jamaica, Mexico’s Antidoping, and local acts like Aktivate and Powerhouze.