Bring on the summer: Toronto’s hottest music festivals

Toronto skyline

Check out the Observer’s rundown of notable music fests hitting Toronto this summer, including:

  • Riot Fest
  • Veld Music Festival
  • Electronic Island
  • Edgefest
  • OVO
  • Digital Dreams
  • NXNE
  • TD Jazz Fest

[aesop_chapter title=”Riot Fest” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=””]

What event? Riot Fest

When is it happening? September 19-20

Where is it? Downsview Park

What’s it sound like? Punk, hardcore, metal and rock

How much does it cost? Tickets are not currently up for sale. Early Bird tickets were available through the Riot Fest website. The two packages included the following: 2-day general admission as well as a VIP package which includes admission to the event, priority VIP festival entrance, access to VIP lounge, access to air-conditioned restrooms. Stubhub is selling the two-day passes for $132.00


Avoid the mosh pit. Several over zealous rock fans may feel a slight tingle to jump into the mosh – this isn’t a Bon Iver show, proceed with caution.

Who’s this for? The typical Riot Fest audience is a mish-mash of heavy rock enthusiasts. You can see anything from a big pink mohawk to hipsters sporting elegantly disheveled heads of hair. The event is an opportunity for hard rock enthusiasts to head bang in unison.

Who is playing? Alexisonfire are reuniting for this event.

Other things to do? A wide variety of food vendors offering edible delights. The festival also acts as a carnival showcasing fire breathers, wrestling matches, midway games, etc.

How to get there? 

Downsview Park

What are people saying? 

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”Because it’s the only festival that caters to that style of music. If you want to discover some new awesome bands that expand beyond the mainstream, go to Riot Fest.” cite=”Keir Edward” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
[aesop_chapter title=”Veld Music Festival” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=”” bgcolor=”#888888″ revealfx=”off”]

What event? Veld Music Festival

When is it happening? August 1-2


Veld and raves in general are often associated with “party drugs” such as ecstasy and LSD; avoid purchasing any drugs inside the venue. Cell phone reception is notoriously bad at Veld so stay close to your friends. The festival is 11 hours and you will be expending a lot of energy; bring a large (empty) water bottle to refill at the designated stations. Bring sunglasses, a) so you can see the stage and the artists and b) because it looks cool

Where is it? Downsview Park

What’s it sound like? Electronic Dance Music (EDM)

How much does it cost? General Admission: $244
VIP: $304 (includes access to VIP-only bar)

Who’s this for? Young adults, late teens

Who is playing? Deadmau5, Hardwell, A$AP Rocky, Steve Aoki,

Other things to do? There is the VELD stage where the main artists will play and the Bacardi Stage, where hip-hop and trap artists usually play.

How to get there? 

Downsview Park

What are people saying? 

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”Once-in-a-lifetime experience, hearing DJs from around the world. It’s absolutely phenomenal and even better with Canadian DJs such as DVBBS and Adventure Club who always get the crowd going crazy! A tip for people going in: do whatever you gotta do before you get in because security is getting more strict.” cite=”Tony Salem” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
[aesop_chapter title=”CARIBANA ” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=””]

What event? Caribana. Although it was officially re-named the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival many people still refer to it as Caribana.

When is it happening? July 7 – August 2

Where is it? Opening ceremonies July 7 @ Nathan Phillps Square, Annual gala at Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex on July 25, King and Queen competition and show July 30 at Lamport Stadium, Kids carnival July 18 at Neilson Park, The big parade begins at The Exhibition Place and continues down Lakeshore Boulevard.


Find a place in the shade to camp and bring food from
home. The best way to enjoy Caribana is to be a part of the parade, especially with friends and family. Also, look up who won the float competition the year before and try to join their float. If you want a good costume, make it or order it well in advance of the parade.

What’s it sound like? Soca, Reggae, Calypso

How much does it cost? To enter the parade through Exhibition Place is $20-$25 but most of the parade happens along Lakeshore Boulevard, where it is free. Most of the events (minus the gala) are free to attend.

Who’s this for? People of all ages attend the events over the three-and-a-half week celebration, while mostly young to middle-aged adults participate in the parade.

Who is playing? TBA

Other things to do? There are lots of events taking place over the three weeks, whether it’s J’Ouvert, a pre-dawn party with steel pans and body paint or one of the Fetes (parties) either associated with Scotiabank or independently organized.

How to get there?

Exhibition Place and along Lakeshore Blvd

What are people saying?

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”I have been going to Caribana all my life. My parents took me every year growing up, and my godfather was one of the truck drivers so I was one of those privileged kids that got free food and drinks and I loved that. Since my parents listened to soca much more than any other music I learned to love it. When I became a teen and began going with my boys, I love it for the music but mostly for the girls.” cite=”Randal Medford” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
[aesop_chapter title=”Electronic Island” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=””]

What event? Electric Island

When is it happening? May 18, July 1, August 3, September 7


Suggested parking: Harbour front parking P2 at 225 Queens Quay West. Avoid parking in nearby LCBO parking lot (risk of being towed). Bring blanket, suntan lotion, cash (ATM on site) and flashlight. No lasers, fireworks or glowsticks allowed.

Where is it? Toronto Island 

What’s it sound like? Electronic, EDM, House, Techno

How much does it cost? (Age 19+): Early Bird Season Pass: $99

Early Bird Season Pass + Ferry Ticket: $127

Who’s this for? Fans of aforementioned genres in their ’20s

Who is playing? Adam Beyer, Dennis Ferrer, Green VelvetLee Burridge, Steve Lawler, Tom Trago, Ten Walls, Sasha, Recondite, Lee FossLoco Dice, Pan-Pot

Other things to do? Picnic (no outside food/beverages) and Food Vendors (Menu and Vendors TBA)

How to get there? 

Ferrydocks at 9 Queens Quay West (between Yonge and Bay). From there, the island can be reached either by ferry or water taxi.

Toronto Island

What are people saying?

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”I guess it’s the experience in itself: going downtown, hopping on the ferry, going to the island. It’s like getting out of the city without really leaving.” cite=”Millad Maki” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
[aesop_chapter title=”Edgefest” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=””]

What event? Edgefest

When is it happening? July 23, July 29, August 15

Where is it? TD Echo Beach – 909 Lake Shore Blvd. W. (on the east island of Ontario Place)


Listen to the artists on the bill beforehand so you can plan out your day. Make yourself a little schedule so you don’t waste your time wandering from stage to stage.

What’s it sound like? Rock, alternative rock, folk

How much does it cost? 3-Show Mega Ticket – $102+service fees (Pre-Sale starts Wednesday at 10 a.m. Tickets for all shows go on sale Friday, April 17 at 10 a.m.) Tickets can be bought at

Who’s this for? Fans of rock, alternative rock and other genres under the alternative umbrella

Who is playing?  Milky Chance, Elle King, X-Ambassadors, Incubus, Mother MotherKongos, Scott Helman

Other things to do? Food and beverage vendors, interactive exhibits, lifestyle displays

How to get there? 511 streetcar from Bathurst Station to Manitoba Drive at Strachan Avenue. 10-15 min. walk from there.

What are people saying?

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”The festival is kind of a mix between nostalgia and new music. It touches on the stuff you used to listen to when you were a kid and what you would listen to on the radio today.” cite=”Danny Foster-Roman” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
[aesop_chapter title=”OVO ” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=””]

What event? 6th Annual OVO fest 

When is it happening? August 1-3

Where is it? Molson Amphitheatre Toronto


“Expect a lot of theatrics sort of like a festival like EDC or VELD but on a lower scale.”

Salman Valimohamed

What’s it sound like? Hip-Hop

How much does it cost? $90-$311

Who’s this for? Rich kids wearing OBEY clothing

Who is playing? Drake, J. Cole, Big Sean

Other things to do? Kevin Hart will be kicking off OVO Fest with a comedy show on August 1 at the ACC (which will cost you another $100-$400)

How to get there? 

Take the 509 Harbourfront streetcar from Union subway station, or the 511 Bathurst streetcar from Bathurst subway station, and the 29 Dufferin bus southbound to Ontario Place (seasonal). Parking is limited, and costs $20.

Molson Amphitheater

What are people saying?

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”With this year’s OVO fest, it won’t be as Toronto-centric as it usually is … Go in expecting Drake to show his “Nothing was the Same” side as opposed to more energetic ballads like “Take Care – Thank Me Later”. Like previous years where he’s brought out special guests, this year is no different.” cite=”Salman Valimohamed” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
[aesop_chapter title=”Digital Dreams” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=””]

What event? Digital Dreams

When is it happening? June 27-28


It is suggested going to the washroom beforehand as porta-potties will not be readily accessible during the festival. There are no ins and outs for Digital Dreams. This means that if you leave the venue, you’re leaving for the day. Lockers will be available for rent at $25 a day and empty water bottles can be brought in and filled up at the free refill stations found within the venue.

Other things to do? Onstage visual effects and light performances, a variety of food vendors and alcohol dispensaries.

Where is it? The Flats at Ontario Place

What’s it sound like? Electronic Dance Music

How much does it cost? $189.99, VIP: $279.00 (VIP includes preferred viewing areas, exclusive lounge and bar service, VIP washrooms with full service flush toilets and running water)

Who’s this for? Young adults, generally within 16-24 years of age. A mix of upper-middle class suburbanites and hardcore ravers.

Who is playing? Carl Cox, Armin Van Buuren, Martin Garrix, Zedd, Steve Angello

How to get there? Take the subway to Union station. Take the 509 Exhibition streetcar to Exhibition Place and then walk from there to the Ontario Place.

What are people saying?

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”If you’re actually in the (EDM) scene, Digital (Dreams) is number one priority.” cite=”Alex Kamakaris” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
[aesop_chapter title=”NXNE” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=””]

What event? North by Northeast

When is it happening? June 17-21

Where is it? Budweiser Music House at the Horseshoe Tavern, The Danforth Music Hall, Handlebar, Lee’s Palace, Mod Club, Phoenix Concert Theatre, The Rivoli, Ryerson, The Berkeley Church, The Garrison, The Opera House, The Painted Lady, Yonge and Dundas Square

What’s it sound like? Primarily a varied music festival with filmmakers, artists and bands.


Don’t try to see everything. You’ll burn out way too quickly. Instead take your time and take in the acts, especially the ones you weren’t expecting.

How much does it cost? – $20.00 – $30.00 for any individual show.  Platnium Badges $60.00 .

Who’s this for? Young people who like to feel trendy and hip

Who is playing? Action Bronson, The New Pornographers, Rae Sremmurd, Best Coast, Ty Dolla $ign

Other things to do? Lots of really good docs like the recently made Kurt Cobain “Montage of Heck”. Also “Purple Rain” will be screened.

How to get there? There are a multitude of ways to get where you are going by streetcar, subway, cab, bike, car and foot. The best bet is to use Google Maps to put in your location and your destination.

What are people saying?

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”All year we are doing research on emerging talent both internationally and locally.” cite=”Cheryl Mason” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]
[aesop_chapter title=”TD Jazz Fest” bgtype=”img” full=”on” img=””]

What event? TD Jazz Fest

When is it happening? June 18 – 29

Where is it? Nathan Phillips Square plus several locations throughout the city.


Keep a program on hand and make yourself an itinerary for the day. There will be literally hundreds of concerts taking place all over the city’s core, so draft up a schedule.

What’s it sound like? With over 350 concerts taking place, the festival program offers a variety of genres, including, of course, jazz, R&B, soul and gospel

How much does it cost? Prices vary depending on the show: some are free, others require a cover as little as $10, others are a little pricier. For Oscar Peterson fans: the festival will be celebrating the late pianist’s 90th birthday. Advance tickets are $75.

Who’s this for? Enthusiasts of jazz and its ilk

Who is playing? Al Jarreau, Robert Glasper, Count Basie Orchestra, Gary Clark Jr. and more

Other things to do? Food stands and grandstand

How to get there? All festival events can be reached by Toronto public transit.

What are people saying?

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”right” size=”2″ quote=”Every summer I fall in love with Toronto all over again when the TD Jazz Fest comes around. From the amazing live music to delicious food, there’s something for everybody to fall in love with.” cite=”Sami Sey” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]

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Posted: May 20 2015 12:49 pm
Edition: Toronto
Filed under: Special Reports Arts & Life