5 can’t-miss Toronto music festivals in fall 2018

Summer might be over, but festival season roars along. Each offers something different, from Chinese music to hardcore, psych, hip-hop and more


Venus Fest

Mod Club (722 College) and Opera House (735 Queen East), September 20-22

There’s an industry-wide push toward better gender representation in the typically male-dominated world of music festivals, and long-running Toronto events CMW and NXNE have pledged to reach gender parity in their lineups by 2022. Venus Fest, though, launched last year with a slate composed entirely of women and non-binary performers right out of the gate, and this year the local festival is doing it again.

It was an inspiring first year – NNNNN worthy – but this year there are more art installations, including work from Diana Vandermeulen, Sarah Cannon and Vanessa Rieger. And it’s expanded from one day to three, which means more diverse artists: gothy synth-pop singer/songwriter Zola Jesus, fist-pumping Nashville rock trio Bully and poet/electronic/noise/punk/hip-hop/everything-else musicians Moor Mother. Plus, the locals: a l l i e, VallensIsla CraigLOOM, Maylee Todd and TiKA, as well as Montreal’s Elle Barbara’s Black Space and Washington, DC’s OSHUN.

“We learned the importance and value of what we are doing,” founder Aerin Fogel tells us. “Venus Fest is unique in Toronto, with a unique purpose, which means we have carved out our own place and community.”

She’s right: Venus Fest is distinct in the city, and it’s worth following. Head here for the full day-by-day lineup.

Modern Sky Festival

Echo Beach (909 Lake Shore West), September 23

Is this the next big market for Chinese music? Modern Sky thinks so, and that’s why the Chinese music company is launching its festival – which has already spread from Beijing to New York, L.A. and Helsinki – in Toronto. The inaugural local version features Chinese rappers Tizzy T and Bohan Phoenix, Chinese folkies Yao 13 and Erbai, Taiwanese yacht rockers Sunset Rollercoaster and also a Canadian artist, former Arts & Crafts lo-fi rocker Calvin Love, who signed with Modern Sky’s label last year. 

Find an interview with Love and head of Modern Sky North American operations Michael LoJudice here

Night Owl Festival

Various venues, September 27-30

Get out your tie-dye shirt and pause your hair-washing schedule for this four-day festival of garage rock and psychedelia.

There’s a lot you can fit under that umbrella, and Night Owl has – from the operatic prog of Yamantaka // Sonic Titan to the carnival soul of King Khan and the Shrines to the paranoid art pop of Petra Glynt. Things also get carefree with Allah-Las, smooth and sweet with Michael Rault, and all-around fuzzy power chords galore. Also expect face painting, tarot reading and other psychedelic treats.

More info here.

Not Dead Yet

Various venues, October 11-14

The path to staying authentically DIY and punk in a rapidly shifting music and media landscape has become murky, but if there’s one festival that’s managed to stay clear of bullshit, it’s Not Dead Yet. The annual punk and hardcore festival crams 14 gigs across five days, plus art, book releases and more. Ticket prices are low, most of the shows are all-ages and they’re as accessible as they can possibly be. 

Unless you’re somehow reading every handbill wheatpasted on every telephone pole in punk scenes across North America, chances are you won’t know all of the bands playing here. Some bold names include Sheer Mag, Swearin, New Fries, Moul D, Mil Spec, Big Bite and Year Of The Knife. We’ll have some more picks for you in October, but you also can’t go wrong just picking a night and diving into the pit. 

Find the full list of bands here.

Red Bull Music Festival

Various venues, October 17-25

Red Bull dipped its toes into our city last year with its 3 Days In Toronto series, and the sugary energy-drink makers/music selectors must have had good results they’re now back with a whole festival. More than a typical branded festival, the six-show event feels embedded in the city, giving local artists opportunities to do interesting things at interesting places. 

Shows include Alice Glass and Floria Sigismondi‘s audio-visual team-up, a night of improvised duets with artists like Tanya Tagaq and Matthew Progress, a vogue ball at the Design Exchange, a conversation with Scott Storch, a collaboration between DVSN and members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and last but not least, a showcase of rising Toronto hip-hop with Lil BereteYasminethe SororityEbhoni and Pilla B.

Find full info here.

Also: 10 can’t-miss concerts in fall 2018 and our full Fall Entertainment Guide

richardt@nowtoronto.com | @trapunski

Leave your opinion for the editor...We read everything!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *