5 Can’t-Miss Free Summer Festivals in Vancouver

Photo credit: jonrawlinson | Flickr

Photo credit: jonrawlinson | Flickr

Let’s be honest.  For nine months of the year or so, the weather in Vancouver can be a bit . . . cloudy.   Umbrellas are required accessories and you get used to not seeing your shadow for weeks at a time.

But summer changes everything.  For three months, Vancouver is possibly the most perfect spot on the planet.  Long, sunny days.  Warm beach weather.  And – last but not least – a bumper crop of free outdoor festivals.

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5 Can’t-Miss Free Summer Festivals in Vancouver

Free Music at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 22-July 1

Photo credit: onlinesalsa | Flickr

The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival (June 22-July 1) is the city’s biggest music and culture event of the year, with 300 concerts, 1,800 performers and a half-million spectators.

The annual fete – now in its 27th year – brings in big name jazz and blues stars from around the globe.  This year’s festival features 10-time Grammy-winning guitarist George Benson, legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter and blues rockers Robert Randolph and the Family Band, just to name a few standouts.

The best part?  Many of the acts throughout the 11-day festival are absolutely free.  Here’s a rundown on where to find top names and local talent free of charge at this year’s event:

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Free Music at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 22-July 1

Not Just Jazz: Vancouver Jazz Fest rocks, too

Five Alaram Funk gets the crowd going

Jazz is arguably North America’s greatest contribution to world music.  But I think it’s safe to say that not everybody is that into jazz.   Swing, bebop, free jazz (whew!), even jazz fusion are all acquired tastes.  But don’t let that worry you.  There’s a lot more to this year’s Vancouver International Jazz Festival (now through July 3) than hep cats and piano trios.

The lineup features lots of soul, funk and world music, as well as rock and roll and country.  I was surprised last weekend to hear what sounded suspiciously like pop music (albeit very sophisticated pop) during a free performance by the Vancouver-based group Jasper Sloan Yip in Gastown.  Here’s a video – You be the judge:

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Not Just Jazz: Vancouver Jazz Fest rocks, too

Free Concerts at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival: June 24-July 3

For live music fans, this is a very exciting time of year.  The Vancouver International Jazz Festival - probably the city’s premier music festival – kicks off on Friday, June 24.  Over the next 10 days, fans are treated to 400 separate concerts featuring big-name jazz, blues, funk, Latin, fusion, electronica and world musicians from around the globe.

Among the ticketed headliners at this year’s festival is trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, performing with the 15-piece Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Orpheum on June 26.  Another legend is Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, who will be playing with his band at the Orpheum on July 3.

Now, tickets to either of these concerts won’t come cheap.  But, as any true Jazz Festival fan will tell you, one of the real highlights each year are the free performances.  This year, there will be around 150 free concerts.

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Free Concerts at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival: June 24-July 3

Free Summer Concerts in and around Vancouver

Photo Credit: Vancouver International Jazz Festival

Vancouver’s brief and beautiful summers are filled with long days, blue skies and lots of music.  Here’s a quick guide to three free concert series in and around the city.

Know about more free music?  Tell us about it in the comments section.

1. The 2011 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 24-July 3: BC’s biggest music festival features more than 1800 artists, 400 concerts and 40 different venues around the city.  From noon until well past midnight, you can hear jazz, blues, funk, Latin, fusion, electronica and world music at venues big and small, indoor and outdoor.

Now, to see the big name acts – which this year include Wynton Marsalis, Madeleine Peyroux, Paco de Lucia, Steve Earle and others – you’ll have to pay for tickets.  But the good new is that there are approximately 150 free concerts including Gastown Jazz on opening weekend (June 25-26), Canada Day on Granville Island and the Jazz at the Roundhouse & David Lam Park free concert extravaganza on closing weekend (July 2-3).  For a complete list of free concerts, check out this link.

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Free Summer Concerts in and around Vancouver