It’s safe to say that after two years of uncertainty and frustration, summer concerts are back in Toronto. According to international listings site Pollstar.com, the acknowledged center of Canada’s music universe has well over 250 events scheduled between June 21 and Sept. 22 in venues of every size imaginable. If a live music space wasn’t closed for good during the pandemic or slated to be turned into a condo, chances are pretty good they’ve got a full schedule lined up for the summer of 2022. That includes Rogers Centre, which last saw hometown boy Shawn Mendes fill the cavernous dome to the rafters in 2019. Promoters must be intending to make up for lost time — and revenue — by booking what are guaranteed to be well-attended shows by The Weeknd (July 8), Lady Gaga ( Aug. 6), a Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe double bill (Aug. 8), Red Hot Chili Peppers (Aug. 21), Imagine Dragons (Aug. 22) and Elton John back-to-back on Sept. 7 and 8 Despite everything going on, if there was ever a time to get out of the city and take in a concert somewhere else in Ontario this is definitely the summer to do it. High gas prices notwithstanding, the Star has chosen four destinations deserving of any touring itinerary.
Hamilton: The Rally, June 25
It’s quite the achievement to unlock when a Canadian band can host its own event, like the Tragically Hip in the ’90s with Another Roadside Attraction. Arkells are about as close to Hamilton’s answer to the Hip as it gets; the 2022 Juno Award winners for Group of the Year hope to catch lightning in a bottle again by staging The Rally at Tim Hortons Field just as they did in 2018. This is shaping up to have a higher attendance than last December’s Gray Cup in the Hammer, where Arkells played a spectacularly received halftime show and their beloved Tiger-Cats almost pulled out the win. A championship-calibre lineup has been assembled that includes good Arkells friend K.Flay (featured on “You Can Get It”) as well as 2019 Polaris Prize winner Haviah Mighty. Plus you never know if Raptors head coach Nick Nurse will show up again to shred guitar on a Motown Revue cover!
Live from ARKELLS “A Rally Cry Summer Night + Legendary Soul Revue” sold-out show at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage. Arkells cover Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) by Stevie Wonder, with surprise guest: Toronto Raptor’s head coach, Nick Nurse on guitar.
Oro-Medonte: Boots and Hearts, Aug. 4-7
Too bad Molson Park is no longer with us. In its stead however is the more spacious, camping-friendly Burl’s Creek just northeast of Barrie’s former concert haven. If your music tastes lean the least bit country I probably don’t have to remind you Boots and Hearts is back, named after the twangy song by the Tragically Hip. Nothing else in Ontario combines music and sleeping under the stars like it, and this year the festival will have the Queen herself Shania Twain take her rightful place on the country throne. While Boots and Hearts has always been able to attract big name American imports such as Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt, Canadian talent will be more than accounted for with the likes of Lindsay Ell, Robyn Ottolini, Meghan Patrick and Mackenzie Porter.
Orillia: Mariposa Folk Festival, July 8-10
mariposa is by far the longest-running festival on this list, with roots in Orillia dating all the way back to 1961. It was famously banned by its own city council for 35 years, only to return to the Sunshine City for good in 2000. Well , save for 2020 and 2021 like almost every other music-related celebration. And Mariposa had plenty to rejoice about in 2020 as John Prine was due to ring in its 60th anniversary, only for him to succumb to COVID-19. Prine’s legacy is guaranteed to be honored at Tudhope Park; the legendary singer/songwriter will be there in spirit alongside the equally great Mavis Staples, Serena Ryder and Blue Rodeo, who just had a street named after them in Toronto.
London: Rocks the Park, July 13-17
The park in question here is London’s Harris Park on the east side of the Thames River. Its history as a major concert setting stretches back to 2004 when nothing but classic rock nostalgia was featured, hence the name. In recent years Rocks the Park has expanded to cover a broader range of genres by having local radio stations each present a musically themed night. Pop will be represented by Alanis Morissette while the Glorious Sons headline the traditional rock-stravaganza. TLC make their sole 2022 Canadian appearance for Throwback Friday’s sake and Dierks Bentley rounds out the weekend on behalf of country. Tickets are by individual show, but new for this year on the Saturday is Fizzfest, which Rocks the Park is promoting as “Canada’s first festival dedicated to premixed cocktails, seltzer, ciders, wine and more.”
Ottawa: RBC Bluesfest, July 7-17
blues festival began with an inauspicious solo performance by Clarence Clemons in 1994 on a break from the E Street Band, and has grown to one of the largest events of its kind in North America. Buddy Guy and BB King have visited Ottawa repeatedly in the time since, but don’t try making any jokes about how the 2022 bill-toppers Sarah McLachlan, Jack Johnson, Luke Combs and Marshmello don’t exactly scream Muddy Waters-type “bluesy .” It’s not like the hundreds of thousands of Ottawa attendees haven’t heard them before, and haven’t they been through enough recently? Bluesfest will also have the honor of being Rage Against the Machine’s first excursion north of the border in 221/2 years on July 15, and if ever there was a Canadian city worthy of Rage it’s definitely the one that had to put up with all that incessant convoy honking.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION