Hot town? Summer in the city? Back of your neck getting dirty and gritty? No thanks.
While Toronto’s summer music season is stacked, many feel the need to flee the concrete and condos for fresher air and greener acres. For them, we offer suggestions for out-of-town festivals and concerts, in any of the compass’s major directions.
North: Elvis, Gravenhurst blues and cottage country jamborees
This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the Collingwood Elvis Festival, a five-day celebration of hip-swivelling, lip-snarls and sideburns. Elvis was absolutely all right with the blues, so he’d be in favour of Peter’s Players, a plus-sized home-concert venue in Gravenhurst that often stages touring blues guitarists. This summer’s seventh-chord stars include Matt Schofield (Aug. 8), Ronnie Baker Brooks (Aug. 19) and Albert Lee (Aug. 26). Nearby, the Muskoka landmark venue Kee to Bala holds beery waterside shows by Big Sugar (Aug. 2), David Wilcox (Aug. 23) and Sam Roberts Band (Aug. 30 and 31). Further north, the venerable Festival of the Sound salutes classical music to Aug. 10 in Parry Sound on Georgian Bay, while Huntsville hosts the brand-new Muskoka Sound Music Festival (Sept. 12 to 14), which boasts Hawksley Workman, Walk off the Earth and Serena Ryder as headliners.
West: Hillsides, where the Eaglesmith flies and gorging yourself in Elora
The bucolic Hillside Festival of songwriters and indie artists is the main attraction in Guelph this weekend, with Basia Bulat, Hey Rosetta! and Amelia Curran among the must-sees. Down the line, the big-eared Guelph Jazz Festival attempts to blow minds from Sept. 3 to 7. In the nearby village of Elora, the 35th-annual Elora Festival celebrates song in classical and jazzy ways until Sunday. Next month in the same town brings the park-set Riverfest (Aug. 22 and 23), with headliner Blue Rodeo, the Stompa-singing Serena Ryder and the devastating soulman Charles Bradley. Elsewhere we find the great Ontario songwriter Fred Eaglesmith making himself available constantly. He’s on the bill at the first annual Pelee Island Music Festival on Lake Erie (Aug. 2 and 3), and he’s got his own show at the lovely Canada Southern Railway Station in St. Thomas (Aug. 14) before hosting his annual picnic in Aylmer (Aug. 15 to 17).
East: Peterborough Folk, Prince Edward County and Havelock will travel
Prince Edward County, the once sleepy water-set region south of Belleville, is now home to wine producers and a haven for hipsters. Inside a beachy provincial park, the inaugural Sandbanks New Waves indie-music festival (Sept. 13) showcases the talents of the Hylozoists, Bry Webb and Cuff the Duke. For a relaxed happening, drop in for the roots-music maven Colin Linden when he gives a barn concert on the grounds of the Chadsey’s Cairns Winery in Wellington, on Aug. 9. Later in the season, the Prince Edward County Music Festival (Sept. 19 to 28, in Picton) boasts church concerts and classical music talents such as pianist André Laplante. Other events to the east of Toronto include All-Canadian Jazz (Sept. 5 to 7, in Port Hope), the major hootenanny that is the Havelock Country Jamboree (Aug. 14 to 17, Havelock), the country music blowout Boots & Hearts (July 31 to Aug. 3, in Bowmanville), the Shelter Valley Folk Festival (a traditional folk gathering, Aug. 29 to 31) and the Peterborough Folk Festival (Aug. 22 to 24).
South: Moonlit wineries and Daniel Lanois’s picnic of food and sound
The Shaw is the Niagara region draw, but the amphitheatre-set summer concert season hosted by the Jackson-Triggs Winery is worth the trip on its own. Shows under the stars there are given by the indie-pop stalwarts Stars (Aug. 9), Cowboy Junkies (Aug. 16) and the alt-rockers Arkells (Sept. 5). The Arkells hail from Hamilton, as does the superstar producer and musician Daniel Lanois. He’ll emcee his annual Greenbelt Harvest Picnic (Aug. 23) on the grounds of the Christie Lake conservation area. Guests include Gord Downie and the Sadies, Ray LaMontagne, Bruce Cockburn, Los Lobos, Sarah Harmer and Ron Sexsmith.