With the first day of spring behind us, it’s nearly time to shake out your picnic blanket and head down to one (or a few) of Vancouver Island’s many summer music festivals!

Each of these festivals listed below offers something a little different, though the demographics and music styles are similar.  Click the images to be taken to each festivals official website.

Rock of the Woods Music Festival

A relatively small but sweet festival. I haven’t been to this one but friends tell me it has a great vibe. The festival performers are known to hang out in the crowd and sometimes break out into sessions with other musicians. Sounds like a lovely way to spend a summer weekend to me.

Rock The Shores Music Festival

Rock the Shores turns three this year, and happens over three days for the first time. Year one occurred during a rare thunderstorm which created havoc for the attendees and musicians, and plenty of horror stories from the friends who attended. We checked it out last year though – the organizers proved they learned at least some lessons from the year before, and beautiful sunshine turned the weekend into a hit. These organizers tend to bring in more mainstream acts like the Sam Roberts Band, Matt Good, and Weezer. So if you like what you hear on your local rock station then this is the fest for you!

Rifflandia Music Festival

Rifflandia has become our annual end-of-summer tradition and is the largest, most established of the listed festivals. We’ve attended the last 4 (or 5!) years. It happens in the middle of September, just as university is back in session and the city is flooded again with twenty-somethings. Unlike the other festivals, it happens over three days and 4 nights, at both outdoor and indoor venues. The music tends to be on the indie, less mainstream side, but they always bring in a few big names to maintain relevance with a wider audience.
The main outdoor venue is at Royal Athletic Park. Basically all the culture of Victoria dog piles in a baseball field for the weekend, and it works. Phillips Brewery takes care of what’s on tap and even brews a special Rifflandabrau for the event. I guarantee the first time you see this beer garden you’ll be impressed. All my favourite restaurants, coffee shops and food trucks in town set up shop too, including Pizzeria Prima Strada with their full size wood fired oven. Again, impressive! If you’re going to go, go hungry and go thirsty.
The park is fun and I have seen some great performances there, from Broken Social Scene to Big Boi. In my opinion though, the real icing on the cakes of this festival is the music that happens all over downtown at night. In past years my favourite acts have been musicians I’ve never heard of and have simply stumbled upon while wandering in and out of the many participating venues. It can be pretty magical (The Coppertone, Odessa and the Autumn Lovers), and it can get pretty weird too (Humans)!
I could go on and on about this one but I suggest you check it out for yourself. Tickets are still at the early bird price of $125 for the whole weekend, all venues – until the line-up is released.

Otalith Music Festival, Ucluelet BC

Otalith is another newbie on the festival scene – last year was their inaugural year. It’s another festival I haven’t made it to yet, but it sounds like a gem. From last years’ line-up it looks like they bring in BC’s’ best like Current Swell, Yukon Blonde, and Victoria’s homeboy Jon Middleton. A Google search on the meaning of Otalith led me to a comment by the orgranizers: “Otalith doesn’t really mean anything. Pronounced [o-tah-lith], we based it on the word for a fish’s inner ear bone, otolith. We’d like to think that Otalith means indie, folk and bluegrass in Ucluelet, BC…and a really fun weekend.” Certainly sounds worth the trip to the wester West Coast!

Tall Tree Music Festival, Port Renfrew BC

Tall Tree Music Festival has been gaining ground each year since its inception and it’s about time that it and I had a date. It’s located on a mountainside near Port Renfrew which must be heavenly when the fog lays low. This year it’s a mix of indie rock, indie folk, hip hop and electronic. I love how they’ve laid out the festival values on their website: “make your Mom proud.”

Vic Fest, Victoria BC

V.I.C Fest is the only one-day festival on this list and is walking distance from downtown. They’re packing some punch this year with a few popular acts – Bear Mountain, Towers and Trees, and Said the Whale among many others. This would be the perfect West Coast festival to check out if you’re visiting the area for a short time. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it this year but it’s on my radar for next summer most definitely.