photo: Eric Kozakiewicz/Edmonton Folk Music Festival

Alberta Summer Music Festivals: If You Like One, Try Another

By Misty Harris

In Alberta, the soundtrack of summer is always provided by amazing music festivals. Well, that and the hum of bike-lane debates. Want to ID the shows worth your time and sunscreen? We think the ones on this list hit all the right notes; a few even offer bonuses for AMA members. For more ways to save with your AMA membership, even without a car, visit

If you like the Big Valley Jamboree, try Country Thunder
The Big Valley Jamboree is as much an Alberta tradition as lifted pick-up trucks and snowfall in May. In fact, the popular country music festival—taking place August 3 to 6 in Camrose—is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. But where BVJ has history on its side, newcomer Country Thunder has a lineup that’s truly historic.

Though it’s in just its second year on Canadian soil, Country Thunder, held August 18 to 20 in Calgary, boasts a list of headliners that reads like a roster for the Country Music Awards—think Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Thomas Rhett, Dallas Smith and Old Dominion. AMA Members get discounted weekend passes, as well as exclusive access to the AMA Tent with cellphone charging stations, private washrooms with flushing water (!!!), and kids’ activities. Best of all, there’s no overnight camping, so the only funk will be coming from the Strat guitars.

Alberta Summer Music Festivals Country Thunder Calgary
Country Thunder

If you like the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, try the Edmonton Blues Festival
There’s something about Folk Fest—August 10 to 13 in Edmonton—that makes you want to put flowers in your hair, slap on a fringed shirt and dance like no one is watching (except 11,000 of your closest new friends). It’s a joyful, almost dream-like event that commands more repeat visits than Meryl Streep at the Oscars. But if you’re seeking an outdoor festival that’s more hep-cat than hippie, look no further than the Edmonton Blues Festival.

From August 25 to 27 at Edmonton’s Heritage Amphitheatre, Blues Fest is an intimate, world-class celebration of sizzling licks and rootsy soul, with performances that span the blues, rock n’ roll, zydeco and more. This year’s festival includes such marquee names as The Fabulous Thunderbirds with Kim Wilson, James Harmon’s Bamboo Porch, Billy Boy Arnold and Anthony Geraci’s Boston, as well as lesser-known performers, like E.G. Knight and The Perpetrators, who are sure to scorch the stage. Go for the blistering bass lines, stay for the chill vibe and one of the best parties of the summer. Look for the AMA tent on site, where we’ll have a fun photo booth and Kernels popcorn for members.

If you like the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival, try Seven Music Fest
Few would dispute Sled Island’s reputation as Alberta’s premiere festival for indie music. For Millennials, the multi-venue event, held in Calgary from June 21 to 25, has become as essential as Snapchat and gluten-free pizza. And rightly so. Sled Island’s unflagging support of regional music, artist-curated lineups (this year, Flying Lotus puts his stamp on things), and its unique hybrid of art, music, comedy and film make it a true original in a sea of sonic copycats.

Music lovers chasing a similar atmosphere will want to give St. Albert’s Seven Music Fest a whirl. Although not as sizable nor as avant-garde, the grassroots event has the same plucky spirit—not to mention an edge that sets it apart from the folksier feel of similar outdoor shows. Headliners for the July 8 festival include the Juno-winning Strumbellas, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Frazey Ford, The Elwins, The Royal Foundry and others. Bonus points for the cool location (as Sam Roberts once put it, “It doesn’t get more Canadian than a music festival on a toboggan hill”).