Seven Hidden Gems of the B.C. Music Festival Circuit

From Atlin to Ymir, get up-close-and-personal with the best of B.C.'s flourishing music festival scene

Credit: iStock / legenda

Seven B.C. music festivals that are off the beaten path

With no shortage of shows and stages across the province to catch your favourite artists perform, British Columbia has proven itself to be the place for summer music festivals. While major events like Squamish Valley Music Festival and Pemberton Music Festival may be facing off to see who can draw the biggest crowd, there’s a plethora of smaller festivals that provide an intimate experience that the big names can’t match. Mark these seven local festivals on your calendar to get a taste of the best of B.C.’s talent.

Tiny Lights Festival, Ymir – June 13-14

Every year, thousands of people flock to the West Kootenays for the Shambhala Music Festival, but less than a 15-minute drive away is Ymir, home of the Tiny Lights Festival. Beyond the long list of musicians, including many local performers, the three-day festival contains a variety of art forms. From readings by author Geoff Berner to a burlesque show by Rosie Delight, there is no shortage of entertainment. Included in the price of your ticket is entry (on a first-come, first-served basis) to a number of workshops with the artists, including hula hooping, beekeeping and shadow-puppet making.

Don’t miss: The Good Ol’ Goats, a folk band from Cranbrook, B.C.

Tall Tree Music Festival, Port Renfrew – June 27-29

About a two-hour drive from Victoria is the Tall Tree Music Festival in the town of Port Renfrew. The location, on Browns Mountain overlooking the ocean, is perfect for picturesque camping. Tall Tree Music Festival is a great chance to catch the best of Vancouver Island’s many musical offerings, as well as a few big names from further abroad. Among the imported acts are Calgary’s favourite fun-lovers, The Dudes, and British electronic music producer, Tipper.

Don’t miss: Sam Weber, a singer-songwriter from Victoria, BC.   
*Note: Tall Tree Music Festival is 19+, no minors allowed

Atlin Arts and Music Festival, Atlin – July 11-13

To find the Atlin Arts and Music Festival, drive north as as far as you can before reaching the Yukon. Located in the isolated northwest corner of B.C., Atlin swells in size every summer with their annual arts festival. The small town provides big entertainment with films, music and more. You can head to the historic Globe Theatre to catch a movie about musical legend Stompin’ Tom Connors or check the schedule to see which other films they’ll be screening. Speaking of musical legends, this year’s lineup includes Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip and Dave Bidini (Rheostatics).

Don’t miss: Good For Grapes, a folk band from Surrey, BC.

Bella Coola Music Festival, Bella Coola – July 19-20

This northern B.C. festival is still going strong. Now in its 15th year, the Bella Coola Music Festival has established itself as a great event for all ages. Younger children can run around the Kids’ Site or enjoy a family-friendly show by Winnipeg’s Al Simmons, while older fans can check out the diverse artists at this year’s event. 54-40 will be headlining the event, and other don’t-miss acts include Fernie’s Shred Kelly, and singer-songwriter/slide guitarist extraordinaire, Rachelle van Zanten.

Don’t miss: e.s.l., a chamber pop band from Vancouver, BC.

Credit: Mike Fawcett

ArtsWells, Wells – August 1-4

ArtsWells may be one of the best kept secrets of the province. Located just a short distance from the historic mining town of Barkerville, ArtsWells is the perfect intersection of B.C. history, community spirit and incredible talent. The festival includes just about every form of art imaginable, including visual arts, literature, dance, film, theatre and, of course, music. This year’s festival contains a number of returning favourites, such as David Bidini and the Bidini Band and Jasper Sloan Yip, to name a few. One of the highlights of the festival is the themed artist collaborations with combinations you won’t see anywhere else.

Don’t miss: Fish and Bird, a folk band from Victoria, B.C.

Edge Of The World, Haida Gwaii – August 8-10

This remote festival is located on beautiful Haida Gwaii. You can fly in to the festival from Vancouver or take a ferry from Prince Rupert to access it. You’d be hard pressed to find a more stunning location, and The Edge Of The World Festival is the perfect excuse to visit. This year’s headliners include indie-pop sweethearts Said The Whale, electro R&B trio DiRTY RADIO and more.

Don’t miss: e.s.l., a chamber pop band from Vancouver, B.C.; Delhi 2 Dublin, a “Celtic Punjabi electronica” band from Vancouver, B.C.

Ponderosa Festival, Rock Creek – August 22-24

The Ponderosa Festival sprouted from modest roots. The story goes that it originated as a small party in the summer of 2012. Now, despite only being in its second official year, Ponderosa has managed to fill their lineup with highly sought after indie artists on the festival circuit. Highlights include dreamy experimental pop darlings, Braids, and Bedouin Soundclash frontman Jay Malinowski’s newest project, Jay Malinowski and the Deadcoast.

Don’t miss: The Gay Nineties, a rock band from Vancouver, BC.