Summer music festivals 101

Can't-miss summer festivals: tips, where to fuel up and wacky artists' requests.

  • Bluesfest

    Ottawa, Ont. (July 4 - 15)

    This giant festival in LeBreton Flats in downtown Ottawa, has music from a wide array of genres on six stages. Alice Cooper, Blue Rodeo, City and Colour, Iron Maiden and Lauryn Hill will all be playing. (bluesfest.ca)

    Tip

    Buy tickets in advance or you will be waiting in two lines. Once inside, head next to the sound tent for the best aural experience. There’s a reason it’s located where it is.

    Fuel up

    There are six beer gardens in the grounds but head to the one on the West end of the field. It’s the furthest from the front gate but it has the shortest lines.

    Artist Request

    One artist was weary of the cool night temperatures and demanded propane heaters at the sides of the stage.

  • Bonnaroo

    Manchester, Tenn. (June 7-10)

    It’s known as the greenest music festival around. This year, watch the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phish, Alice Cooper, Feist, Ludacris and more. (bonnaroofest.com)

    Tip

    Don’t miss alternative rock trio White Denim.

    Fuel up

    Festival insiders call Prater’s booth the best barbecue in the country.

    Artist Request

    Bonnaroo is keeping mum, but if Eminem’s 2011 riders are consistent, he probably requested a koi pond.

  • NXNE

    Toronto, Ont. (June 11-17)

    NXNE (North by Northeast Festivals and Conference) is Canada’s answer to Austin’s SXSW. There are 650 bands, 40 films and 50 panels this year. (nxne.com)

    Tip

    Head to the Hyatt Regency Toronto’s NX lounge, to catch performers offstage.

    Fuel up

    Check out a NXNE party for great food with artists and industry insiders.

    Artist request

    Iggy Pop asked for “a garbage can disguised as a plant.”

  • Montreal International Jazz Festival

    Montreal, Que. (June 28-July 7)

    Two million concertgoers make it the world’s biggest jazz festival. This year’s lineup includes James Taylor, Norah Jones, Seal and Liza Minnelli. (montrealjazzfest.com)

    Tip

    Head to Balmoral Bistro and you may catch sight of your favourite artist eating.

    Fuel up

    Au Pied de Cochon serves poutine topped with foie gras. Or try La Friterie for a more traditional fix.

    Artist request

    An artist once asked for a specific perfume in 1985. Miles Davis, we’re looking at you.

  • Cavendish Beach Music Festival

    Cavendish, P.E.I. (July 6-8)  

    This year’s headliners at Atlantic Canada’s biggest multi-day festival are Rascal Flatts, Alabama and Dierks Bentley. (cavendishbeachmusicfestival.com)

    Tip

    Take the shuttle bus for a faster, greener, safer experience.

    Fuel up

    Grab some grub between 4 and 5 p.m. for minimal line wait times.

    Artist request

    The oddest request was for underwear, but all artists are given lobster dinners.

  • Calgary Folk Music Festival

    Calgary, Alta. (July 26-29)

    Seven stages will host 68 artists including Randy Newman, Sinead O’Connor, Beirut, Serena Ryder, Jeff Mangum and “tarpies”—fans who race to lay their tarps at the front of the stage. (calgaryfolkfest.com)

    Tip

    Head mid-field where giant screens give you great close-up shots.

    Fuel up

    Wait until Saturday to get your fix at Curry in a Hurry—lines will be half as long.

    Artist request

    One male artist asked for, ahem, gentlemen's magazines.

  • Lollapalooza

    Chicago, Ill. (August 3-5)

    Perry Farrell’s brainchild is the annual music festival that started it all back in 1991. Expect Black Sabbath, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Keys to take over Grant Park. (lollapalooza.com)

    Tip

    Headliners consistently stop by Kidzapalooza.

    Fuel up

    Bring a water bottle for the free water-refilling stations throughout the park.

    Artist request

    The Foo Fighters used a colouring book and word finds to spell out their needs.

More Articles