2015’s music festival report card

There are more music fests than ever before: here's how they stacked up


An astounding number of music festivals took over the 6ix this year in addition to annual city takeovers like NXNE, CMW and the Toronto Jazz Fest. Even the most dedicated music fan couldn’t be faulted for feeling overwhelmed by the barrage of offerings. Here’s how some of the outdoor ones stacked up. 

FIELD TRIP, Fort York (June 6 & 7)

Kid-friendly programming makes this the best festival for the family, and this year was no exception. Father John Misty writhed around onstage just a minute’s walk from where Kevin Drew was high-fiving grade-schoolers.

Rating: NNNN


BESTIVAL, Hanlan’s Point (June 12 & 13)

While the first Toronto edition of the UK fest brought in major names – Jamie xx! Florence + the Machine! Nas! – the heavily electronic hippie mecca was hardly a utopia. Horrific ferry issues at night made the daily come-down pretty rough.

Rating: NNN


PANAMANIA, Nathan Phillips Square (July 10-26 & August 7-15)

Panamania’s downtown reign lasted over a month: 250 events, 340 hours of live music, 1,300-plus artists. With the now-famous neon TORONTO sign lighting the way, some of the world’s greatest performers, including Janelle Monáe and the Flaming Lips, played for free.

Rating: NNNNN


MAYHEM, Echo Beach (July 15)

Metalheads descended on Echo Beach to catch some of the genre’s all-time greats, including Slayer and King Diamond, but even after the event downsized from the Molson Amphitheatre to Echo Beach, attendance was sparse. We blame all the metalcore. 

Rating: NNN


WAYHOME, Burl’s Creek Park (July 24-26)

WayHome’s debut was pretty spectacular, filling Oro-Medonte with music lovers thirsty for Kendrick Lamar, Neil Young (who played for three hours) and, well, water. Few places to hide made the sun brutal, but even a star seems dim beside a performer like St. Vincent

Rating: NNNN


VELD, Downsview Park (August 1 & 2), and DIGITAL DREAMS, Ontario Place (June 27 & 28)

Both Veld and Digital Dreams broke EDM-loving hearts by cancelling whole days because of bad weather. It meant fans missed out on sets by Pete Tong, Armin Van Buuren, Eva Shaw and Duke Dumont. Refunds were (eventually) offered to ease the pain.

Rating: NN


TIME Festival, Fort York (August 15)

TIME was wonderfully weird, with South African oddballs Die Antwoord and goofball Mac DeMarco providing affordable good times for local misfits. But hour-long waits in the sun for water from only two taps were a drag.

Rating: NNN


CAMP WAVELENGTH, Gibraltar Point (August 28-30)

Picking up where ALL CAPS! left off, the inaugural fest had a DIY commitment to the best of what the (mostly local) fringes can offer: immersive art installations and never-ending, unpredictable sets that took the Island party deep into the night. Plus, we got to camp on the Island.

Rating: NNNN


TORONTO URBAN ROOTS FEST,  Fort York (September 18-20)

The third TURF was the biggest yet, and a brief downpour – defeated handily by Lucinda Williams – dampened things only momentarily. TURF’s programming skews toward dad rock, but lesser-knowns like Hop Along provided some discoveries.

Rating: NNN


RIOT FEST, Downsview Park (September 19 & 20)

Finding a muddy, freezing mess and an ailing Lemmy after trekking to Downsview Park is nobody’s idea of fun, but carnival rides, Weezer (doing full albums) and the return of the Prodigy made the weekend worthwhile.

Rating: NNN

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