Story by Kat Lyzun, Photos by Kay Lee
When: August 9, 10, & 11
Where: Red Rock, Ontario
Headliners: Mama Mihirangi & the Mareikura, Indigenous rocker NADJIWAN, Fin de Fiesta Flamenco dance group, Cindy Doire of folk music superstar group Scarlett Jane
Cost: $90 for a weekend pass ($80 for seniors and youth; $25 for kids age 5–12), kids under 4 are free; day passes available ($55 Friday and Saturday, $45 for Sunday, discounts for seniors, youth, and kids)
What not to miss: The daytime workshops—intimate performances that receive rave reviews from attendees and musicians alike
The scene: Inclusive, diverse, laid-back, family-friendly
Where to stay: Bring a tent or small trailer for the weekend and camp right at the marina for $20; other options include the Red Rock Inn or motels in Nipigon
Food: Tonnes of choice onsite, including traditional festival fare, barbecue, and vegetarian options, and the full breakfast served until 11 am is one of the best deals around
Insider tip: Check out the schedule ahead of time and pick a few things you really want to do or shows you want to see then go with the flow!
Memorable moments: Discovering new music, meeting new people and reconnecting with friends while enjoying incredible music on the shores of Lake Superior
The Live from the Rock Folk Festival is an annual music and arts festival held in Red Rock, just an hour’s drive east of Thunder Bay. Since 2002, the little town on the north shore of Lake Superior bursts with people enjoying an August weekend of great music and laid-back, friendly vibes. Featuring world-class music on four daytime workshop-style stages and a main stage at night, this is a festival for everyone. Concertgoers are encouraged to bring the kids (there are activities just for them) and stay the weekend.
“Discovering new music is one of the best things about folk festivals,” says festival chair Laura Foulds. “There are names you might not recognize, but once you hear them, you find you love them.”
The workshop-style concerts are true gems, where multiple performers take the stage and play songs according to a theme. These might be songwriting workshops, acoustic song circles, or singer-songwriter jam sessions. Foulds says that artists often start collaborating in the moment, and the experience for the audience is nothing short of magical.
This year’s lineup is diverse, with some unique and exciting acts coming from across Canada and across the globe. Foulds is particularly excited to see Mama Mihirangi & the Mareikura, the fierce all-female Maori group from New Zealand. Mihirangi is known as the Queen of Loops, and mesmerizes audiences with a blend of traditional Maori chants and modern alt-funk beats.
Foulds is also thrilled that Fin de Fiesta Flamenco is returning for another chance to showcase their energetic, powerful performance. The incredible international flamenco music and dance ensemble had their main stage performance rained out last year—the first time that’s happened in the festival’s history. “We are really excited that they’re coming back,” Foulds says.
The festival will also feature Indigenous rocker NADJIWAN, Cindy Doire of superstar duo Scarlett Jane, folk darling Benjamin Dakota Rogers, Canadian roots legend Ken Whiteley, and festival favourite Jory Nash. Over a dozen other artists will join them, including local indie prog-rockers Hunt & Gather, Robin Ranger, Ron Kanutski, Phil Drost, Rachel Romu, and Red Rock’s own Cassidy Houston.
Foulds says the event’s success and enduring grassroots vibe comes from their incredible volunteers, the generosity of the Township of Red Rock, and the warm hospitality of town residents. “One of the most beautiful things is that it’s almost entirely run by volunteers,” she says, adding that they are always looking for more. “As we’re setting up you just feel the park transform from a quiet space to a hub of activity. It really is a town effort.”
To stay up-to-date on programming, follow Live From the Rock Folk Festival on social media and check out livefromtherockfolkfestival.com for tickets, artist bios, and other festival info.