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A Guide To The North’s Music Festivals

A Guide To The North’s Music Festivals

Insights from a festival-goer who nearly hit them all last year
By Elaine Anselmi
Jun 30
From the July/August Issue

The festival circuit doesn’t stop south of 60—revellers from across the territories and from down south make the pilgrimage North for four rocking weekends of music that just happen to occur one after the other.

We asked one festival-goer who took in three of the four last summer—sorry, Alianait—to give us a taste of what each has to offer. Meet Jeff Dineley, a Yellowknife 30-something who likes music. A lot. (Full disclosure, he actually performed as part of two acts at Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife, but he share’s equal enthusiasm for all events.)

There are a few things you’ll find in common at the festivals: an eclectic line-up of musicians from both the North and the south, a mix of arts and crafts workshops or instalments throughout the festival, and familiar faces—it’s not uncommon for northerners, like Dineley, to make two or three stops along the circuit.


Atlin Arts and Music Festival

Where: Atlin, B.C.

When: July 7 to 9

Headliners: Joel Plaskett Emergency, Ben Caplan, Rose Cousins

Joel Plaskett Emergency - Live At T.U.R.F. from NOW Magazine on Vimeo.


Atmosphere: “Very laid back. It’s smaller and really relaxed. Here, you’ll find the biggest blending of performers with the crowd.”

Venue: “It’s probably the most beautiful setting: you’re near the lake at the foot of the mountains. The main festival is in a field with camping right there and pretty well all through town. It’s just such a beautiful town and there’s a lot of things going on at different venues there too, like an old movie theatre.”

Food: “There are a few vendors: food trucks, a taco truck, French fries, good festival food. There was a guy in Atlin selling these Dutch donuts … They’re delicious.

After party: “It was great. There’s different camping areas, some are quiet some are not so quiet. We played afterwards with Ryan McNally and his band. Hence the blend of performers and the crowd.”

Overall experience: “It’s a really cool festival. It’s small enough that it feels like a little community. It’s good because you can party but it’s also family friendly.”

For more, visit: www.atlinfestival.ca


Folk on the Rocks

Where: Yellowknife

When: July 14 to 16

Headliner: City and Colour and Shad

City and Colour – Weightless from Arts & Crafts México on Vimeo.

Atmosphere: “Folk is great because it feels like a community festival. Not so much like people travel to it, but like the whole community comes out for it. “

Venue: “The venue is amazing—to be right on the lake and able to go swimming and you’re just outside of town. You’re removed. You feel like you got away. But the sand—that’s the classic part of folk: everything is sandy. On the Monday after, there’s sand everywhere.”

Food: “I think we have good food. It’s always funny who comes out of the woodwork to set up a stand.”

After party: “Oh boy. Because I live in Yellowknife, it’s easier to access the after party than the other places. Now they’re usually organized at site, but a few years ago, there was an after party every night on the bay. A lot of the performers were really keen to party and hang out on the houseboats. People would host parties, and then there was the fabled Boom Boom Room…”

Overall experience: “It’s my hometown festival and I’m glad it is because it’s an amazing festival.”

For more, visit: www.folkontherocks.com


Dawson City Music Festival

Where: Dawson City

When: July 21 to 23

Headliner: Shred Kelly, The Courtneys, Kaia Kater

Shred Kelly - The Bear from Daniel Pender on Vimeo.

Atmosphere: “Dawson City is a party. Dawson City is the biggest party. Everyone’s got the fever.”

Venue: “The main part is all in a field and you’re pretty much right in town, so you can come and go. But the highlights for me are the smaller venues: the Palace Grand, the old church and my favourite bar in North America, the Snake Pit. They’re these incredible old venues with great acoustics. I remember seeing Wanda Jackson at the Palace Grand. It was wonderful. The Sojourners at the Palace Grand—there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.”

Food: “There are a couple vendors but the main thing they’ve got going is the pizza shop in town. It’s classic.”

After party: “The campground in the west, there’s a lot of partying. But the whole festival is a party in Dawson.”

Overall experience: “I love going to Dawson City, not even just for the festival. I just love that place.”

For more, visit: www.dcmf.com


And don’t forget:

Alianait Arts Festival

Where: Iqaluit

When: June 29 to July 3

Headliners: Joel Plaskett Emergency, Elisapie Isaac, Nomadic Massive

Joel Plaskett Emergency kicks off the festival on Thursday night, followed by four days and nights of music, film, theatre and workshops held primarily under a big-top tent.

For more, visit: www.alianait.ca