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.

The free music starts with Gastown Jazz on opening weekend (June 25-26).  Two free stages bookend Water Street’s three blocks for a New Orleans-style street party.  There’s continuous music both days from 1 p.m. to around 8 p.m., plus street performers and plenty of vendors selling snacks and drinks.

On Canada Day (July 1) on Granville Island, you’ll find free music on no fewer than five separate stages, starting at noon and ending around 11 p.m.  Bigger name acts will appear at Performance Works, while young, local and up-and-coming artists will perform at smaller stages scattered around the island.  Styles range from funk to jazz and from folk to world.

Arguably the highlight of each year’s Jazz Festival are the free concerts in waterfront David Lam Park on closing weekend (July 2-3).   Thousands of spectators gather on the grassy lawn in front of the huge stage set up in the park.  Shows – which start at noon and end around 11 p.m. – tend to be energetic crowd-pleasers with lots of dancing music.

For a complete schedule of acts, as well as information about tickets and the new “Hopper Pass,” check out the festival website.

Anybody else looking forward to the Jazz Festival?  Any suggestions on acts to watch out for?


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