5 Local Music Festivals That Define Kingston

By Nick Pearce

It’s no secret, Kingston’s a music town. When the summer comes around, it proves it.

Emerging from the city’s winter pub scene, summer in the Limestone City is synonymous with craft beers, regular outdoor shows, and long nights watching the city’s live acts take centre stage.

The season attracts the best of its homegrown talent while pulling in the headlining acts touring larger cities and the festival circuit. Kingston’s where established artists mix with the next generation, providing intimate performances and celebrating Canada’s indisputable musical home.

As summer approaches, here are 5 of Kingston’s can’t-miss music festivals.

HomeGrown Music Festival, May 4, 2019

If any city deserves to celebrate its local artists, it’s Kingston. Whether it’s psychedelia, country, or hip-hop, Homegrown caters to music fans with an open mind. A $10 all-access bracelet gives you a tour of 15 venues sporting the best the home of modern Canadian music has to offer.

That adds up to 130 acts sharing stages across the city. In true Limestone City fashion, soak in an intimate Jazz performance in downtown’s King Street Sizzle then head to the Mansion for a basement punk show. Catch enough of these acts on a stage, and it matches any summer festival in the country.

YGK Craft Beer Festival, June 8, 2019

Ring in summer the right way: on a hill, sipping a frothy craft beer. Fort Henry hosts an outdoor concert that’s attracted breakout artists like Wild Rivers—and it’s aiming to keep that momentum. If catching up-and-coming talent isn’t enough, YGK Craft Beer Festival combines two other points of Kingston’s civic pride: its history and its breweries.

This festival is for music lovers ready to lean back and watch great shows until the sun sets.

Skeleton Park Arts Festival, June 19 to 23, 2019

Every summer solstice, downtown Kingston gathers in McBurney Park to showcase the local art scene. The festival runs the gambit—from live music and family-friendly activities to artsy experiments. Jazz bands parade through the park, community members sell handicrafts, and stilt-walking workshops are highlights of past events. It’s a weekend to meet neighbours and see Kingston’s arts community’s quirky side.

Wolfe Island Music Festival, August 2019 (dates TBA)

A 20-minute ferry ride from downtown, this weekend festival has consistently drawn the best of Canadian indie rock for a couple of decades. Whether it’s Sam Roberts or an up-and-coming local band, every Canadian rock fan owes a debt to the Wolfe Island Music Festival. It’s a late-summer party on the island’s docks, pushing for an authentic experience that goes for quality and diversity over another big name.

For its thousands of fans, that’s all they’ll need. But for anyone else, it’s a chance to catch the best of Canadian indie.

Limestone City Blues Festival, August 22 to 25, 2019

When the stage goes up in downtown Kingston’s market square, it means one thing: over a hundred hours of blues for thousands of fans. For over two decades, performers from around the world have packed the downtown core to prove the genre’s continued relevance.

With former lineups including classic rock icon Edgar Winter and honky-tonk star Victor Wainwright, this festival delivers peak musicianship from the genre’s biggest names. If you’re new to the blues, it’s the place to start. If you’re already an expert, there’s no better chance to show it off. Either way, close out the summer seeing the world’s best bluesman keep the genre alive.

Kingston is not just a great venue but a great muse:

The Locales Behind Kingston’s Iconic Music Scene

Get the inside scoop on Kingston’s live music scene and check out the latest music festivals and events on our music site.