Headliners include July Talk and Jully Black; New twists include a teaser stage and site-wide liquor licence

Article content

Northern Lights Festival Boreal is set to go July 4-7 in Bell Park, and as always there will be a wide array of talent, workshops and vendors to enjoy.

Advertisement 2

Article content

“Northern Lights is truly a community of its own and a tradition that continues to endure,” said NLFB Executive Director Tessa Balaz in a release. “The 2024 edition is shaping up to be the best yet, channeling that support into a high-quality, dynamic and diverse celebration.”

Formed in 1972, the fest has become a staple of Northern Ontario’s music and arts scene, known for its diverse programming and unique atmosphere. NLFB celebrates a range of musical styles, from emerging Northern Ontario talent to international superstars.

This year’s lineup will include more than 40 acts, performing in more than 75 shows, over the four-day event.

The roster includes indie rock superstars July Talk, R&B icon Jully Black, indie-rock-folk institution The Rural Alberta Advantage, and buzzed-about singer-songwriter Tim Baker.

Advertisement 3

Article content

There are more than seven stages/venues planned for this year, with musical genres ranging from folk and rock to hip-hop and pop, not to mention country, roots, and soul.

The sonic smorgasbord is complemented by an assortment of demonstrating visual artists, artisan and food vendors, community booths, arts activities, beer gardens and more.

This year “promises to be an edition to go down in festival history,” organizers said.

Jully Black will take to the main stage as headliner on Day 1 of the fest. Named one of the 25 Greatest Canadian Singers Ever by CBC, she has been dubbed Canada’s Queen of R&B Soul by fans and industry leaders alike. Aside from winning multiple awards for her music, her passion for philanthropy has taken her from the shantytowns of Bangladesh to the villages of South Africa and all across Canada.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Day 2 will be a “rock ‘n’ roll party like no other,” organizers said, as the energy of July Talk unfurls and explodes. The group is fronted by Leah Fay Goldstein and Peter Dreimanis, and backed by whiplashing guitarists Ian Docherty and Josh Warburton, and double drummers Danny Miles and Dani Nash.

Headlining on Saturday will be folk rockers The Rural Alberta Advantage. Founded in 2005, the trio is getting ready to release its first album in six years, while also marking the return of Amy Cole on bass, keyboards and vocals. The band is led by Alberta-born singer Nils Edenloff (guitar and keyboards) and powered by Paul Banwatt (drums).

Closing out a magical weekend of sun, soul and celebration will be singer-songwriter Tim Baker on Day 4. Best known as the writer and frontman of Hey Rosetta!, Baker has launched a successful and inspiring solo career. His album Forever Overhead garnered him a Juno nomination for Songwriter of the Year and his latest full-length, The Festival, is described as “a polychromatic album of redemption, joy, release, and intrinsic connection.”

Advertisement 5

Article content

Another artist Northern Lights is excited to present is DJ Shub, a former member of A Tribe Called Red who combines “social activism and a feverish dance party,” according to organizers. Shub is described as “a true original: a title-holding battle DJ/producer, a joyful collaborator and a non-stop creator who skillfully weaves craft, message and heritage.”

Sudbury-born country music sensation Andrew Hyatt will also grace the festival stages. Hyatt spent years working as an ironworker at a nickel mine before deciding to pursue his true passion with music. Hyatt released his debut full-length Iron & Ashes in May 2017 and quickly soared into the Top 10 at Country Radio with the hit single On Me.

BC alt-folk rock darlings Shred Kelly will bring their captivating live act to Bell Park. With an impressive track record of touring across Canada, the United States, Europe, and the UK, the band has made appearances at renowned festivals such as Kaslo Jazz, Ottawa Blues Fest, Winnipeg Folk Fest, SXSW, Reeperbahn and many more.

Advertisement 6

Article content

Canadian legend Lynn Miles will make her return to Northern Lights. The award-winning singer-songwriter has 15 albums to her credit. In 2016, Americana artist Clair Lynch recorded Lynn’s song Black Flowers on her Grammy-nominated album North By South. Lynn estimates she’s written about 900 songs, though she’s never done an official count.

Sarah Jane Scouten is a Canadian folk and Americana songwriter who also joins the festival roster. Her songs pay their respects to country songwriters like Willie Nelson and John Prine, while weaving in British folk revival elements, with a continuous thread leading back to her roots in bluegrass and old time music.

True to its bicultural beginnings, Boreal will present a selection of talented francophone and bilingual or multilingual artists from Quebec and Ontario, including: Latin/reggaeton/cumbia/hip-hop party-starter Boogat; inventive Metis singer-songwriter Willows; Toronto world-roots hurricane Moskitto Bar; Sudbury fiddle and folk duo Jacinthe Trudeau and Jeff Wiseman; plus singer-songwriters Dayv Poulin and Edouard Landry.

Advertisement 7

Article content

Northern Lights is all about helping audiences connect with artists and vice versa. In that spirit, Northern Lights is pleased to present a selection of talented, emerging Northern Ontario artists, appearing for the first time at the fest.

Muskoka folksinger James Gray and North Bay psych-rock band Empty House were the winners of NLFB’s recent Meltdown competition, earning their spots on the festival roster. Mexican-Canadian guitarist and singer Ricardo Chavez, and electronic artist The 555, also appeared in the competition and proved they deserved a spot at the fest.

Many of the artists mentioned will appear in special workshop-style performances. For these one-of-a-kind experiences, the festival groups various artists together based on a certain theme, style, instrument or influence.

Advertisement 8

Article content

Also, this year’s festival will include a special ‘teaser’ stage, exterior to the festival site in Bell Park. This stage will feature quick performances from festival artists, intended as an invitation to “come on in!”

As is tradition, the festival site will be packed with unique artisan vendors selling one-of-a-kind handmade goods. Festival-goers will also be able to stock up on food from the various vendors on site, offering a wide range of quality dishes at very affordable prices. Craft beer and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be available, with liquor licensing now covering the entirety of the festival site.

Unique activities, installation arts, community booths, family activities, and more will make Bell Park a bustling hive of activity and colour.

Advertisement 9

Article content

Northern Lights is actively recruiting volunteers to help make the festival magic happen. Volunteering for the summer festival has a ton of perks, including free access to shows. Depending on the role signed up for, volunteers can take advantage of free admission to the festival (volunteer for six hours to get an all-day pass, or 12 hours to get a full festival pass). Volunteers also receive meals and snacks, a T-shirt, reusable water bottle, transit passes for volunteer shifts, festival merch discounts, and more.

All in all, the festival features artists from countless musical styles and cultures, presenting a world-class program that brings together young and old in celebration of the universal language of music.

Weekend and all-day passes are now on sale at www.nlfb.ca/tickets.


Article content