The Waterfront Blues Festival (July 11–13), now in its 10th year, has recently “merged” with the wildly popular Beaches Jazz Festival (July 18–27), making the second half of July all-music-all-the-time in the Beach. Woodbine Park is the hub for both of these festivals, with things being rounded out by the Beaches Jazz Festival’s StreetFest along Queen Street East. Those looking for jazz will likely be disappointed by StreetFest—what you will get, though, is a fun Taste of the Danforth vibe and some epic people-watching. It’ll also be ground zero for Toronto’s well-heeled Baby Boomer set, so if you’re anxious to bust out your favourite Hawaiian shirt, now’s your chance. But if you aren’t into dancing to “Play That Funky Music White Boy” played on a pan flute, get yourself directly to one of the Beach’s fine patios, and check out one of our top picks for the Waterfront Blues Festival and Beaches Jazz Festival.
While the Waterfront Blues Festival boasts several Juno nominees and a Grammy nominee among its artists, we think that emerging artists Irene Torres and the Sugar Devils are the ones to watch. Irene Torres is a really compelling “front man” who always has a bunch of top–notch musicians backing her up. Come for the tunes and stay for the sunset in Woodbine Park—it’s a great way to get your weekend started.
Greg Nagy’s brand of “personalized blues” is infectious. Once a member of blues and soul club band Root Doctor, Nagy struck out on his own in 2009—and the Flint, Michigan, musician’s gritty guitar work and soulful vocals have won him countless fans as a solo artist.
Our number-one pick for Beaches StreetFest last year is kicking the Beaches Fest off on the Main Stage this year. You can also catch them cranking out their soulful covers and funky originals in front of My Place in the Beach (2066 Queen Street East) during StreetFest (July 24–26).
Led by Ivan Neville (the famed Aaron Neville’s son), the members of Dumpstaphunk always brings the crowds when they play in their hometown of New Orleans—but Woodbine Park will also be a great place to watch them turn it up and tear it up. If you see only one show this year, this should be it.
Brownman was born in Trinidad, educated in New York, and now makes his home in Toronto. Former trumpet player for Guru’s Jazzmatazz—and well-versed in genres from acid jazz to salsa—Brownman never fails to put his own unique spin on the repertoire.
If you’re a fan of old-school traditional jazz done right, you’ll want to check out the Downtown Dixieland Jazz Band—the souring trumpet of Al Cox alone is worth the trip.
This local “kid” has been making people stop and take notice for years during StreetFest from the same spot on Queen Street East. The patio on Starbucks might be one of the best seats at the fest to take in his homegrown fusion of pop, jazz, R&B, and soul.