Summer’s right around the corner, ushering in what many would describe as the most wonderful time of the year: festival season. Smatterings of springtime shows and samplers have ravers around the country (and the world!) itching to dance away entire weekends.


Photo: Allison Seto


A week-long house party, backyard BBQ and basement rave

Having earned votes of confidence from a comprehensive list of icons like Peaches and Andrew W.K., Sled Island’s proprietary blend of community spirit, venue hopping and bicycling fuels a week-long celebration of Calgarian culture and musical discovery. Going into its 11th year, and curated this time around by the ever-elusive Brainfeeder boss Flying Lotus, it’s a quintessential summer saturnalia for any Calgary music fan worth their salt—and it doesn’t require the fuss of long drives or camping, making it an excellent introduction to the marathon-esque nature of festivals.

“Sled Island’s programming has always been eclectic but I feel like this year is especially [so],” explains Executive Director, Maud Salvi. “Someone posted online that this year’s lineup was ‘seriously bizarre and all the better for it’ […] and I thought that was a great way to put it.”

Featuring electronic offerings from the likes of Jimmy Edgar, Seven Davis Jr. and Silver Apples—as well as more ‘conventionally Sled’ bookings like Faith Healer, Lab Coast and Marlaena Moore—the festival is eager to dispel “[the] misconception that we are a rock-only festival,” as Salvi puts it.

Bolstered by that Calgarian community spirit, Sled Island has established itself as a cornerstone of the local music scene while cementing Calgary as a global cultural contender. The uninitiated should consider stopping by the Sled Island Block Party, on Saturday, June 24th in Inglewood.

Photo: The Raven's Gaze

Photo: The Raven’s Gaze


A family-friendly bridge between underground and up-and-coming

Endlessly versatile, and with unbridled enthusiasm for mutations of audio and visual presentations, Astral Harvest has firmly established itself as both an approachable introduction to the sometimes overwhelming concept of a music and arts festival. Offering a wealth of opportunities for spectators to become participants, Astral’s strong family-friendly and inclusive approach has carried it into its 10th anniversary this year, for which it is set to offer even more innovation and support for unconventional initiatives.

“There have been a few big changes from last year. One is the re-vamped Angelica’s Basket which will morph into the Basket Live,” says Neveya Hoiness, Communications and Media Manager for Astral Harvest. “We will host a plethora of interactive and experimental performances there to give you another option to consider as you mosey through the festival grounds.”

“This season we will be showcasing headliners among all stages and the musical programing is based around a theme each night. We hope this will help to give each night a distinct feel, and promote cohesiveness festival-wide.”

Hosting a who’s-who of electronic Edmontonians and Canadians in general, Astral Harvest has also invited international collaborators like Iranian Dirtybird protégé Ardalan, French beatsmith CloZee, and the ever-versatile Marten Hørger, to name but a few. Throw in sets from Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza and cutting-edge genre blender Sorsari, and the result is a well-rounded musical roster providing a soundtrack as multifaceted and spacey as Astral Harvest itself.


Photo: Concert Socks/Neil McElmon


Nomadic, resilient and rooted

Unofficially inaugurated over a decade ago, FozzyFest was birthed out of a grassroots, just-for-fun approach that still governs their method today. “In the summer of 2005, our first year, 30 or so close friends went camping to celebrate the birthday of Shawn Lafleur A.K.A. ‘Fozzy.’ We rented some minor sound equipment to play some tunes while we were out in the bush of Kananaskis country,” explains Deanna Oliphant, FozzyFest’s Media Coordinator. “We had such a blast so we decided to do it again the next year and invite a few more people.” Needless to say, “a few more people” has today turned into an annual gathering of several hundred close friends.

That communal driving force—‘Collective Effervescence,’ as FozzyFest likes to describe it—has allowed the festival to overcome obstacle after obstacle, from miles of bureaucratic red tape to Acts of God. That wayfaring flexibility has taken the festival to its most recent location on picturesque Lake Koocanusa.

Community and friendship permeates every aspect of the festival, down to its almost-entirely (if not completely) volunteer-run nature. “We are not just a random group of people put together on a committee. We are long-time friends who truly care about one another. FozzyFest is a special time of year where we work collectively and pour our hearts and souls into this beautiful little festival,” says Liv Tarasewicz, FozzyFest’s Administration Coordinator. “We labour for FozzyFest because we love it. All of our time and energy is volunteered.”

While they’re keeping their bookings under wraps for now, FozzyFest guarantees that when the line-up does drop, regular and first-timers alike will continue to discover the best Canada has to offer while also having an opportunity to take in old-school favourites (and new visitors) from around the globe.

Photo: Z & L Media

Photo: Z & L Media


Celebrating the fringes

Ask around and many will tell you that Motion Notion is a paradise for those on the fringes, with a wealth of more out-there offerings like psy-trance and headier flavours of drum and bass. But as the gutsy Golden-based festival has grown, it remains clear that that same exploratory approach still governs the way it does things, while bringing out world-class acts and a wealth of non-audio offerings to round out the roster.

“I know this sounds cliché, but we’re absolutely taking Motion Notion to new heights for this one,” says Kevin Harper, Motion Notion’s newly appointed owner and operator. “We’re taking things further by becoming more than just a music-centric event—we’re combining unique art, entertainment, workshops (including music production classes from some of our headliners) and performances to enhance every hour of our festival.”

Add in some major overhauls to the notoriously trippy stages and the addition of many more art installations, and it’s clear that Motion Notion has come to play this year. Opting to move the festival to the end of August , in particular, working with Astral Harvest’s own rescheduling, is sure to result in a deliciously robust month of August for nomadic ravers.

Featuring staples like Datsik, the Funk Hunters and LongWalkShortDock, as well as a deluge of drum and bass from acts like ShockOne and S.P.Y, the result is a well-rounded roster for heads old and new.

Photo: Concert Socks/Neil McElmon

Photo: Concert Socks/Neil McElmon


Gathering of mad scientists and visionaries

Ever since its inception almost a decade ago, Bass Coast has been building momentum in tsunami-esque fashion—quietly at first, before unstoppably bearing down on the West Coast seemingly out of nowhere. But for discerning patrons, the hype’s been simmering away for a good long time now, fuelled by boundary pushing techno, bass music and art installations.

Co-founders Liz Thomson and Andrea Graham (A.K.A. The Librarian) have built an eclectic get together for industry leaders, mad scientists and uncompromising artists. “People are first drawn to Bass Coast for various reasons, be it music, the art onsite, the beautiful river, or because their friends invited them. But I believe that people return to Bass Coast because the entire experience provides people with connection,” explains Graham.

“We hear over and over again that Bass Coast opened up people’s minds to discovery. People fall in love, people discover new music, people find new friends, people laugh, people find inspiration within themselves to be more creative.”

That creativity and dissolution of self-consciousness bleeds through every iteration of the festival as attendees put their own spin on the festival’s theme. Last year’s ‘GOLD’ theme saw all manner of shiny shenanigans, from all-gold bodysuits and ambitious bodypaint to Goldmember himself. This year’s ‘SPACE’ theme is sure to yield equally interesting results.

Bass Coast’s heavy focus on the out-there flavours of electronic—brought to you by the likes of Sango, Roman Flügel, Doctor Jeep and B. Bravo, among countless others—is balanced with a strong emphasis on live interactive art.

If you’re aiming to get away from the stereotypes festivals tend to draw, Bass Coast might be just what you’re looking for.

Photo: Leah Gair

Photo: Leah Gair



The time-tested heavyweight

What summer festival guide would be complete without Shambhala? Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t been at least once. Featuring the most comprehensive selection of electronic music the West Coast festival scene has to offer across a half-dozen different stages, it’s an essential stop for any raver, whether they’re looking for a sampling of every genre imaginable or just want to dance every night away at a specific stage.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what it is about Shambhala that makes it such an important part of the Canadian festival circuit. Whether it’s the contagiously positive attitude (the ‘Shambhalove’ phenomenon), the consistently world-class bookings paired with spine-tingling up-and-comers, the ecstasy of midday river hangs… the list goes on. The fact remains that for many, Shambhala is the end-all be-all that inspires them to check out other offerings, and often serves as an introduction to the world of forest festivals.

Media and Marketing Coordinator Jake Langmuir believes it’s something to do with the “dichotomy of scales” that exists at Shambhala: somehow, the festival is in a constant state of flux, flipping from intimate to immense, based on what you’re up to.

“The size of the stages, crowds and the tangible energy in the air during peak hour can propel the festival to a grand scale, meanwhile during the day, and any other time you go to look for it, there is an attention to detail operating on a minute scale.” Langmuir says.

“Cozy nooks, nifty chill spaces, ancient art installations in the old growth, vital zones like the Sanctuary and Women’s Safe Space, programs like Camp Clean Beats, and a harm reduction team that is second to none—there’s always somewhere new to explore, someone new to connect with, and something new to experience.”

Featuring a dense and balanced lineup with well established acts like Ivy Lab, Liquid Stranger and Destructo played against exciting up-and-comers like Um.., Mad Zach and Ganja White Knight, the result is a 20th birthday that’s sure to be one for the books.

Sled Island runs from June 21-25 in Calgary, Alberta.

Bass Coast runs from July 7-10 near Merritt, BC. Tickets are sold out.

Astral Harvest runs from July 14-17 near Driftpile, Alberta.

Shambhala runs from August 11-14 near Salmo and Nelson, BC. Tickets are sold out. www.shambhalamusicfestival

Motion Notion runs from August 24-28 near Golden, BC.

FozzyFest runs from September 14-17 near Lake Koocanusa, BC.

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