On any given night you can catch more live music in Winnipeg than almost any other North American city.
It must be something in the water, or perhaps — to paraphrase what has become a bit of cliché — our winters help breed creativity as you get an excuse to stay in and practice your musical chops.
Whatever the case, all across the continent The Peg is known as a music city — a place to go for good tunes. In turn it makes us a great draw for touring acts who relish this pitch perfect atmosphere (and, let’s not kid around, the people who put on our summer music festivals do an amazing job both drawing in this talent and putting on these incredible shows).
So without further ado, check out Winnipeg’s 2016 summer music festival lineup (in chronological order, at that) which is an embarrassment of musical riches if there ever was one.
TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival – Various locations in downtown Winnipeg but primarily the Burton Cummings Theatre and Cube stage, June 16-26
Always an upbeat number that combines jazz greats, along with some more experimental artists and big name performers who defy genres, this is downtown Winnipeg’s largest music festival. Four of its 10 days are free, with concerts taking place at Old Market Square’s outdoor Cube stage, while the other six days worth of shows are held in downtown venues.
The free shows at the Cube during Jazz Fest are a huge draw (Dan Harper Photography)
This year you can catch the likes of Swedish super group Peter, Bjorn and John (the dudes behind global hit “Young Folks” from the album Writer’s Block, which in Mr. Peg’s opinion is one of the best albums of all time – Friday, June 24 at the Burton Cummings Theatre), sax sensation Kamasi Washington (his 2015 debut The Epic made every music publication’s “best of list,” while he also arranged and played on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly – Tuesday, June 21, Burton Cummings Theatre), along with what are sure to be incredible performances from Andra Day (who has made numerous recent TV performances, including the 2016 GRAMMYs ), Moses Mayes, Oliver Jones, and the Dirty Catfish Brass Band (just to name a few).
Winnipeg Folk Festival – Birds Hill Provincial Park, July 7-10
The big kahuna. The national legend. The music festival that transcends to being an all-round cultural experience featuring fantastic food (all with an ethical, eco-conscious focus), arts and crafts, and music from an extraordinary collection of artists (a lot of whom jam together for daytime sessions that are often spectacular).
Winnipeg’s Chic Gamine playing a main stage show at Folk Fest (Travis Ross Photography)
This year’s headliners include Ryan Adams — the man who could have beat out Beck two years ago for album of the year at the GRAMMYs and who all the kiddies have gone ga-ga over lately for his T Swift cover album; Basia Bulat (so hot right now with her new album Good Advice); Sam Roberts Band (#stud); German sensations Milky Chance (their YouTube vid for single “Stolen Chance” has 245,726,333 views right now — how crazy is that?); and Seattle indie darlings The Head and the Heart.
For tickets, you can buy 4-day festival passes with or without camping (the campground itself is a cultural experience like no other, with jam sessions, drum circles and so much merriment that you’ll wish you could bottle it all up to take sips on to feel #folkfesthappy for the rest of the year), while you can also get individual day tickets.
For all the deets go to the official Winnipeg Folk Festival website.
Soca Reggae Festival – Old Market Square (the Cube stage) July 8-10
This FREE festival has been going strong since 2006, emanating awesome, chill vibes right in the middle of the Exchange District in Old Market Square. The lineup of performers has yet to be finalized, so you’ll have to stay tuned to their website for that, but I assure you, it’s always a good time for the whole family throughout the course of the weekend.
MEME (Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition) – The Cube stage, August 11-14
The most avant-garde and dancy of the summer music festivals, MEME celebrates (and educates) electronic music in all its forms. This is the place to catch some of North America’s best DJs and experimental digital composers, where you can get your glow sticks and your crazyiest outfit ready (unicorns are more than welcome; in fact, they’re celebrated) for a sweaty night of dancing either in front of the Cube outdoor stage (that shiny metallic stage sees a serious amount of music eh?) or in some of Winnipeg’s hottest clubs and venues.
(photo by Shawn Fillion)
For tickets, a list of performers, and more go to MEME’s website.
Insterstellar Rodeo – The Forks, August 12-14.
The new kid on the festival block, having just started last year, Interstellar Rodeo brings in some massive bands to The Forks’ gorgeous outdoor stage.
This year you can catch Chicago’s folk-rock legends Wilco, the superstar trio of case/lang/veirs (that being Neko Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs — have you heard the self-title album yet? Oh man, it is gorgeous!), Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (that S.O.B. song has been one of 2016’s biggest hits), along with great Canadian bands like Skydiggers (#legends), Wintersleep, and The Strumbellas (whose live shows are ridiculous, just check this out).
You should probably be smart about it and go to the Insterstellar Rodeo website right now and get your tickets before they are gone.
Winnipeg BBQ and Blues Festival, Burton Cummings Theatre and Smith Street, August 19-20
Last but certainly not least is the flavourful street party of Winnipeg BBQ and Blues, which this year is celebrating five years. This year’s lineup of performers includes legends Creedence Clearwater Revisited and James Cotton (both of whom are playing the Burt stage Friday and Saturday respectively) along with local legend Big Dave McLean, and stalwarts Jerry Doucette and Tinsley Ellis.
Plus, as a tasty bonus, you can also eat food from some of the North America’s best pit masters who will be competing for $10,000 in prizes at this Kansas City Barbecue Society Sanctioned Barbeque Competition.
Tickets are available for individual shows, full festival passes, and as individual site passes on their website.
Note: Lede photo from Winnipeg Folk Fest is by Heather Clark