The best concerts and music festivals in Toronto this summer

Your guide to summer 2018 music includes Field Trip, NXNE, Lauryn Hill, Radiohead and the final Warped Tour


Catch rays at Field Trip

It’s a lighter festival season this year, with big events like WayHome taking the year off, but Field Trip has become the most reliable concert of the summer. You know there will be good vibes, good food, plenty of places for kids to play and jam out in their comically oversized headphones, and old favourites providing indie rock nostalgia. This year that’s Metric and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Also catch Alvvays’s sunny melancholy, rapper Noname, stoner rockers Partner and many others. 

June 2-3 at Fort York Garrison Common (250 Fort York). $80-$200. fieldtriplife.com.

Take in Drake and Kendrick’s mirror image variety shows

It seems like Drake and Kendrick Lamar have been moving along parallel paths their whole careers, and this year’s summer concert season adds another layer to that. Kendrick has his own version of OVO Fest – TDE: The Championship Tour. Coming to the spiritual home of OVO on June 12, the concert features basically the whole label roster, which is packed with talent: SZA, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and more. Drake, meanwhile, seems to have supplanted his usual variety show blowout with three Toronto stops of his Aubrey And The Three Migos tour at the Air Canada Centre, from August 10-12. Even if it’s not OVO Fest proper, it’s Drake’s big Toronto summer concert, so expect some special guests.

TDE: The Championship tour on June 12 at Budweiser Stage (909 Lake Shore West). $39.50-$175. ticketmaster.ca.

Drake and Migos on August 10-12 at Air Canada Centre (40 Bay). $122-$600. ticketmaster.ca.

IMG5-6479_PRINT.jpg

Samuel Engelking

Get specific at genre festivals unbeholden to genres

The big one-size-fits-all destination fests might be dwindling, but there are still a number of nichey genre festivals, and they have more to offer fans of all persuasions than their siloed styles. Toronto Jazz Festival, in addition to bigs like Herbie Hancock, Gregory Porter and Bela Fleck, also features Seal as a headliner and acts like weirdo Toronto indie rockers Weaves and Juno-nominated rapper Clairmont The Second. The purported EDM festival Veld – with headliners DJ Snake, Marshmello and Martin Garrix – meanwhile, is also a snapshot of the most popular rap acts of the moment: Migos, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Lil Yachty, A$AP Ferg and Nav, among others. Then there’s TONE, a festival of avant-garde music that defies all classification. There you can see artists like ambient saxophonist Joseph Shabason, Godspeed You! Black Emperor member-gone-solo Efrim Manuel Menuck and local kraut rock band Fresh Snow. Choices!

TONE runs from June 3-22 at various venues. $10-$18, passes $55-$95. tonetoronto.tumblr.com.

Toronto Jazz Festival runs from June 22-July 1. Various venues and prices, some shows free. torontojazz.com.

Veld runs August 4-5 at Downsview Park (70 Canuck). Single-day $110-$120 two-day pass $179.50-$199.50. veldmusicfestival.com.

NXNE Friday YDS

Zach Slootsky

NXNE, June 8 to 17

Rock out at NXNE’s return to Yonge-Dundas Square

The festival tried to refashion itself as a destination event at the Port Lands, but after sparse crowds and social media mockery (which it cleverly worked into its marketing) it has returned to its tried-and-true identity: shows at venues throughout the city (June 8-17), and free programming at Yonge-Dundas Square. And it’s going large on the latter – closing off Yonge and building a new stage as part of its Festival Village, then filling it with big-names like Azealia Banks, Jazz Cartier, Chvrches, Big Freedia, Lights and U.S. Girls, to name a few. 

June 15-17 at Yonge-Dundas Square. Free. nxne.com.

Say goodbye to Massey Hall

Don’t panic, it’s not going away forever, it’s just getting a two-year, very expensive makeover. Still, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to send off one of the true legendary concert halls in the city before its slumber. You’ve got a few chances. There will be a big adieu on June 14 with some major Canadian names like Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jim Cuddy and Sarah Harmer. And who better to send the venue into hibernation than a Canadian legend who’s played there more times than any other artist? Gordon Lightfoot has graced the stage 166 times, and after June 29, 30 and July 1, it’ll be 169. Hard to think of a more authentic way to spend Canada Day.

June 29-July 1 at Massey Hall (178 Victoria). $37.50-$124.50. masseyhall.com.

Electric-Island.jpg

Ded Agency

Get your rave on at Electric Island

The summer music series is back at Hanlan’s Point Beach after a washed-out 2017 season that forced the long-weekend dance parties to relocate to the mainland due to flooding on the Toronto Islands. The events have historically happened on holiday Mondays, but most of the remaining gigs are on weekends, which should be good news for anyone who abhors going back to work hungover. Green Velvet, Sydney Blu, Justin Martin, Jackmaster and Shiba San are among the DJs on this year’s lineup.

July 1, August 11 and September 2-3 at Toronto Islands. Season pass $159.99-$239.99 single tickets $39.99-$59.99. ticketweb.ca, electricisland.to.

Janelle-Monae-Rebel.jpg

Get Pynk at Janelle Monáe

R&B Afrofuturist Janelle Monáe used to be known for her no-nonsense, black-and-white suits. These days, she’s shaking pop culture out of complacency with the pink pussy pants she wore in her Pynk video. This is Monáe’s year. With the release of critically acclaimed third album Dirty Computer, she scored her first number one on Billboard’s top R&B albums and her North American tour is quickly selling out, including her date at Rebel. Resale tickets will run you between $100-$300, but Monáe’s electric live show is worth the investment.

July 16 at Rebel (11 Polson). $110-$338. ticketmaster.ca

unnamed-(41).jpg

Toast the final Warped Tour

The travelling punk festival has a checkered history that’s been unravelling since before #MeToo. It’s also where many teen music fans experienced their first concerts. Before calling it quits, it’s coming to Toronto one more time with a lineup that blends past and present. Older bands include Sum 41, Simple Plan, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and Silverstein. There are also bands with names that sound like the end of sentences (Every Time I Die, Assuming We Survive, In Hearts Wake) playing sub-genres that you didn’t know were still popular (but have intensely dedicated groups of young fans). It’s a bittersweet end, sure, but don’t pretend you don’t have some nostalgia.

July 17 at Budweiser Stage (909 Lake Shore West). All ages. $59.50-$69.50. ticketmaster.ca.

Lauryn-Hill.jpg

Get educated with Lauryn Hill

The hip-hop/R&B legend is being sampled left and right by the likes of Drake and Cardi B, and though she’s not one for nostalgia – her songs are often totally rearranged when she performs live – she’s getting in on the act. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of her classic/only solo album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, she’ll be playing it in its entirety. You never know what that might look or sound like, but it’s too tempting to miss.

July 18 at Budweiser Stage (909 Lake Shore West). All ages. $37-$199. ticketmaster.ca.

radiohead.jpg

Sing along at Radiohead’s return

They haven’t been here in almost a decade, and for tragic reasons – the last time Radiohead were scheduled to play, in 2012 at Downsview Park, a stage collapse killed their drum tech, Scott Johnson. As a lawsuit against Live Nation crawls through the courts, the veteran British art rock band – maybe the biggest cult band in the world – has stayed away from Toronto. But they’re finally returning, with two shows at Air Canada Centre. It’ll have the air of occasion, for better or for worse. 

July 19-20 at Air Canada Centre (40 Bay). $79.50-$99.50. ticketmaster.ca.

photo-extralarge_1515167257269.jpg

Witness a true legend in David Byrne

It’s not like David Byrne has been hibernating – he’s played in Toronto in recent years in collaboration with St. Vincent and with his Contemporary Color project, which came as part of Luminato in 2015 and in documentary form at Hot Docs 2016. But this year’s American Utopia is the legendary songwriter’s first proper solo album in nearly 15 years, and he’s calling the tour his most ambitious since the Talking Heads’ 1984 Stop Making Sense tour – widely considered one of the best and most inventively staged concerts of all time. And you know when Byrne – one of the most constantly innovating musicians ever – says that, he means it.

August 3-4 at Sony Centre (1 Front East). $61-$402. ticketmaster.ca.

Camp WL Stage.jpg

Kyle Laurin

Dance outside at Camp Wavelength 

When flooding kicked Camp Wavelength off the island last summer, the music festival rejigged for the mainland. This year, they’re sticking to dryer pastures and holding the music festival at the intimate, tree-lined park space of Garrison Common. Along with music from Suuns, Chad VanGaalen, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan and Tops, the festival will also feature comedy sets for the first time and grandiose art installations that will conjure the spirit of summer camps. On Saturday night, the festival will stay open for two hours after the last band plays so festival-goers can take in the art after dark. 

August 18-19 at Fort York Garrison Common (250 Fort York). $24-$38 early- bird. campwavelength.com

Get out of town at Rasberry Farm

Royal Mountain – the indie rock label started by Hollerado – has been on a major hot streak lately, and so it makes sense they’d want their own version of Arts & Crafts’ Field Trip. The one-day festival actually happens in Hamilton, in an idyllic new venue in the Royal Botanical Garden called Rasberry (no p) Farm, but it’s worth the trip (especially with fewer Toronto options this year). Catch sets by Mac DeMarco, U.S. Girls, Calpurnia (the new band from Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard), plus Ought, Dizzy, Tuns and more. 

September 2 at Rasberry Farm (20 Old Guelph Rd, Hamilton). $52.50. ticketmaster.ca.

Get more Hot Summer Guide 2018 here!

music@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto

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

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