Seafood, Scenery, Sociables & Song – Atlantic Canada’s Small Venue Music Festival Bucket List

With the busy tourist season just around the corner, many events, businesses, and communities get ready to open their doors and gates to festivalgoers this summer.  These are our must-attend Maritime music festivals for 2023 as Canada’s East Coast gets ready to welcome local residents and visitors alike to come and enjoy the East Coast Lifestyle and some of the best Seafood, Scenery, Sociables, and Sounds the Maritimes has to offer this summer.  


Atlantic Canada has produced more than its fair share of famous musicians, including Grammy Award winners Denny Doherty (from The Mamas & the Papas), Stomping Tom Connors, Alan Doyle, David Myles, Anne Murray, and Sarah McLachlan, country singers Hank Snow, George Canyon, multi Juno Award nominated rapper Classified, and iconic rockers Haywire and April Wine all call this area home.

Given the diverse musical talent on the East Coast and the area’s love of music and a good kitchen party, there should be no surprise that the Maritimes has many small venue music festivals to showcase both regional and international talent throughout the summer.  Some would say you come to Maritimes for the amazing Seafood, Scenery, and Sociables, but we think you might want to add Song or Summer Music Festivals to that list.  So why not add one of these regional festivals to your bucket list this summer that offers an intimate music experience with some of the artists that you know and love while you visit the East Coast or even build your vacation around the festival itself this Summer. 


Pictou Lobster Carnival 
When: July 7th – 9th, 2023
Where: Pictou, Nova Scotia

A little about the festival: Started in 1934, the Pictou Lobster Carnival is a 3-day festival that celebrates a safe and successful fishing season and is rich in Maritime culture and music.  The festival has run continuously until wartime when it paused and then returned to run continuously again until covid caused a two-year hiatus.  This 3-day celebration brings thousands of visitors back the Pictou and tens of thousands of dollars in economic spin-offs for Pictou and the county and much-needed tourist traffic for local businesses.

The whole Town is buzzing with excitement for this summer as it marks the 150th anniversary of the Town of Pictou as well as the 250th anniversary of the landing of the Ship Hector.  The Pictou Lobster Carnival celebrates its 89th-anniversary of this signature Nova Scotia event that will feature iconic Canadian rockers Sass Jordan, Big Sugar, Moon Minglewood Band, and Lennie Gallant, as well as other regional and local artists taking to the stage.

Juno Award winner and iconic Canadian rocker Sass Jordon who is known for her signature rasp and belting vocals will take to the Lobster Carnival stage to headline on Friday, July 7.  Saturday’s show will have one of the best-selling bands in Canadian rock history, Big Sugar, headline the Lobster Carnival stage to the delight of fans.  

Festival goers are in for a special treat on Sunday as Sam Moon and Matt Minglewood, take to the Lobster Carnival stage for a reunion of the Moon Minglewood Band and a milestone of their own as the pair formed their first band together back in 1969.

To close out the 89th Pictou Lobster Carnival festivalgoers will see Sunday’s headliner Lennie Gallant headline take to the stage to close out the evening and weekend.

This event is sure to sell out so you will want to get your tickets soon for this one.

For more information on this event or tickets go to:


Sommo Festival
When: July 14th, – 15th, 2023
Where: Cavendish, Prince Edward Island

A little about the festival: Building off the success that Whitecap Entertainment has had with the Cavendish Beach Music Festival it should be no surprise when they announced a second event for Cavendish this summer.  We do not usually have inaugural events in our must-attend festival bucket list but after having the opportunity to chat with Murphy Hospitality Group and Whitecap Entertainment’s CEO, Ben Murphy about what festivalgoers can expect we are confident that Cavendish will be the perfect destination for music fans and food lovers to come together this summer.

The Sommo Festival will bring the very best parts of summer together with great music, delicious food, and amazing drinks.  The two-day festival will celebrate the very best of Canada’s Atlantic products and producers while offering festivalgoers an elevated culinary and beverage experience.  

Festivalgoers will have the unique opportunity to meet celebrity chefs, like Matt Moore and Ilona Daniel and Top Chef Judge, and best-selling author Gail Simmons and Islander Adam Loo participate in live food demonstrations as they try the best of local breweries and wineries. 

If that wasn’t enough to get you to Cavendish this summer then maybe seeing multiple stages come to life with performances by local, international, and iconic pop and rock genres artists. 

The weekend will kick off on Friday at the Sandbar Stage with performances by Andrew Waite, Dear Rouge, Crown Lands, JJ Wilde, Death From Above 1979, and Liam Corcoran.   While on the Bell Main Stage you will be treated to performances by Skye Wallace, Joel Plaskett Emergency, grandson, Tegan and Sara, and Lord Huron, with a Grammy-nominated songstress and headliner Maggie Rogers closing out the first night of Sommo.

Saturday festivalgoers will be treated to performances from Housewife, Izzy Heltai, MONOWHALES, Wild Rivers, Yoke Lore, and Kiwi Jr on the Sandbar Stage. With BRKN LOVE, Ruby Waters, Allison Russell, Charlotte Cardin, and Vance Joy taking to the Bell Main Stage to get the crowd ready for an iconic performance by headliners Mumford & Sons.

We have a feeling that this is the start of something great!

For more information on this inaugural event or tickets go to: 


Stan Rogers Folk Festival
When: July 20th – 23rd, 2023
Where: Canso, Nova Scotia

A little about the festival: Now in its 25th year, The Stan Rogers Folk Festival is a celebration of musical talent honouring one of Canada’s most prolific songwriters, Stan Rogers. The weekend-long musical adventure features artists from a variety of genres, including folk, country, jazz, swing, blues, rag, gospel, pop, rock, bluegrass, and world music performing on 3 stages over 3 days.

Get ready for a foot stompin’, sing alongin’, all around awesome weekend of music! Stan Rogers Folk Festival is an international festival of songwriters.  Add in camping, crafts, great food and non-stop “jamming” for a memorable weekend!

Imagine all that was great about Woodstock – the peaceful vibe, the incredible quality and quantity of music, the camping, the camaraderie – and transpose it on a tiny, remote fishing community and you have a memorable Nova Scotia experience like no other!

Hosted in Canso, the festival attracts international stars and showcases them alongside the finest East Coast and local artists. Past headliners include Johnny Reid, George Canyon, Gordie Sampson, Town Heroes, Slowcoaster, Reeny Smith, Joel Plaskett, Matt Andersen, Jim Cuddy, Serena Ryder, Dave and Judd Gunning, and JP Cormier. This year’s headliners are Award Winning Canadian folk and rock singer and songwriter Alan Doyle with the Beautiful Beautiful Band, Award Winning Canadian country music singer-songwriter, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, and American folk and pop music group, The Kingston Trio.

Each day, over 3,000 people gather for the main performances and the vibrant jam-scene throughout the festival’s campgrounds.

For more information on this event or tickets go to:


38th Annual George Street Festival
When: July 27th – August 2nd, 2023
Where: St. John’s, Newfoundland 

A little about the festival: Well for starters the festival is located in the center of historic downtown St.John’s.  George Street is one of the premier entertainment districts in North America and during the week leading up to the Royal St. John’s Regatta, George Street is gated off with an outdoor concert scheduled each night for an outdoor kitchen party. Concertgoers can expect to hear some of the biggest names in Canadian music with artists like April Wine, Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Brett Kissel, Great Big Sea, Our Lady Peace, and Sam Roberts Band having all made appearances in past years. 

Each of the 7 nights of the festival tends to have a theme with similar acts grouped together. You can always count on there being at least one night of local traditional Newfoundland music which is a crowd favorite.

This year’s festival opens with The Trews on July 27 and closes out with Matt Mays and Third Eye Blind closing out this Newfoundland Kitchen Party on August 2nd with Alan Doyle, Joel Plaskett Emergency, The Washboard Union, The Irish Descendants, and many others taking the stage of the 7 days of the festival.

One of the best things about the George Street Festival is that your concert ticket gets you access to all of the bars on the street, and you can walk down the street with your drink in hand as long as your drink is in a plastic cup so you can take in all the festivities.  

For those visiting the province for the first time for the George Street Festival, you’ll even have the opportunity to become an Honorary Newfoundlander at their Screech-In Ceremony!

For more information on this event or tickets go to: 


Boxcar Country Music Festival
When: July 28th – 29th, 2023
Where: Saint John, New Brunswick

A little about the festival: Like the popular AREA 506 Festival, the inaugural Boxcar Country Music Festival will feature an exciting lineup of top Canadian country music artists supported by New Brunswick fan favourites and homegrown talent.  

The Boxcar Country Music Festival will take place in the space adjoining the AREA 506 Waterfront Container Village – the winner of The VIA Rail Canada Innovator of the Year Award at the 2022 Canadian Tourism Awards. The Village will host a program of country-themed, family-friendly experiences, including experiential activities, food trucks, and the vendor market throughout the weekend.

The Boxcar Country Music Festival, extending the festival season for another big weekend in Southern New Brunswick. 

The Saint John waterfront will come alive on Friday, July 28, with headliner James Barker Band taking the stage with supporting acts Hunter Brothers, The Road Hammers, Tristan Horncastle, Jessica Rhaye & The Ramshackle Parade, and Émilie Landry. 

The party continues Saturday, July 29, with headliner Dean Brody closing out the event but not before Madeline Merlo, Sacha, Riley Taylor, Melissa Marshall, and Shawn Richard get the crowd ready got day two of this country party.

For more information on this inaugural event or tickets go to:   


The Jubilee
When: August 4th – 6th, 2023
Where: New Glasgow, Nova Scotia

A little about the festival: Pictou County borders the Northumberland Strait, which is famous for its amazing beaches and because of the strait’s shallow depths, home to the warmest ocean water temperatures in Canada, and some of the warmest ocean water temperatures on the Atlantic coast north of Virginia.  It is also home to ‘The Jubilee’ which for over 25 years has built its reputation on three simple things: Iconic Canadian ArtistAudience Experience & Promoting the Artist of Tomorrow.

By giving today’s rising stars and up-and-coming artists the opportunity to share the same stage with iconic and award-winning Canadian Artist headliners as they develop their performance skills and build their fan base as who knows in the future, they themselves might be headlining the Jube or other great festival across Nova Scotia or anywhere for that matter.

Each year ‘The Jubilee’ runs the long Natal Day weekend offering three days of amazing Canadian music talent on the banks of the East River.  If I were you, I would circle August 4th through 6th as the Jube gets ready to kick off its second quarter century of rocking by the river for the annual three-day event featuring the best in Canadian and East Coast music, bringing top musical acts to their beautiful outdoor amphitheatre on the New Glasgow waterfront.  This unique venue provides music lovers with one of the most engaging and fan focus music experiences available on the East Coast.  Offering all genres of music; Rock, Blues, Folk, Country, R&B and even Hip Hop, give the Jubilee incomparably eclectic line-up and a flavour all its own while being regarded in the industry for its top-notch production quality and attention to detail. 

The Jubilee is a non-profit organization that is run by a volunteer Board of Directors that donate their time and efforts to making this one of the best music events in the country.  We could not go any further without thanking and recognizing them along with the more than 300 local volunteers that donate their time and efforts each year to transform Glasgow Square into a world-class event.  It is their passion and efforts that have seen the Jube evolve from what was a local community festival into a signature Nova Scotia and East Coast music event and a mainstay for local businesses who also play a major role in the success of the Jubilee with their support and sponsorships over the years.  

This amazing event would not have survived past its first year let alone twenty-five if not for the support of the numerous and generous in-kind and financial donations and sponsorships from local businesses and government organizations and of course your ticket purchases, which help make this event happen.

The Jubilee is so lucky to have a business community that cares so much about supporting this event and you can thank them by visiting their stores to do some shopping, dropping into their restaurant for a meal during the day or maybe stop in for a couple of drinks and an appetiser at their bar before the show or after when you’re not ready to call it a night to check out one of the Jubilee after parties. 

This year’s headliners are superb entertainer, master guitar player, soulful singer and unique songwriter David Wilcox on Friday night, iconic multi-platinum singer-songwriter Amanda Marshall returning to the stage after two decades away from the spotlight to headline Saturday night.  Sunday night to close out the Jube is Randy Bachman, who is widely regarded as the “architect of Canadian rock n’ roll.” 

One of Canada’s most respected and successful rap artists and producers Classified along with three-time JUNO nominee, Ria Mae and multiple award-winning five-piece Folk’n’Roll band The Stanfields with also take to the stage over this three-night event along with many other artists representing all genres of music.

Each night gets rolling at 7:30pm which gives you lots of time to explore all the amazing things that Pictou County has to offer before heading to Glasgow Square located on the scenic East River for a music experience that is second to none and rivals some of the bigger venue events across Canada and the United States.

This is one festival that is worth planning your trip to Nova Scotia around as The Jube has provided over 25 years of great music and memories and this year is sure to kick off another quarter century of quality events.

See you at THE JUBE this Summer!

For more information on this event or tickets go to:


AREA 506
When: August 4th – 6th, 2023
Where: Saint John, New Brunswick

A little about the festival: Since 2016, they’ve been transforming the Saint John waterfront and programming an amazing weekend of music for thousands of attendees.

A celebration of music, culture, and goods, right on the waterfront, featuring a killer lineup of musical acts, a culture stage, local vendors, and family-friendly activities over the New Brunswick Day long weekend. 

Previous year headliners and performing artists include Alan Doyle, Arkells, Big Sugar, Big Wreck, Classified, David Myles, Jimmy Rankin, Matt Andersen & The Bona Fide, Matt Mays, Ria Mae, Sloan, The Glorious Sons, The Trews and many more taking the stage on Saint John’s beautiful waterfront.

The Area 506 Waterfront Container Village creates a backdrop for a diverse group of vendors, brands and cultural groups to truly showcase the energy and ingenuity of our province’s artisans, craftspeople, and musicians.

This year nineteen bands will take to the stage during the New Brunswick Day long weekend Aug. 4 to 6.  AREA 506 kicks off this year’s festival Friday night with Saskatchewan rock band The Sheepdogs, rock duo The Blue Stones from Ontario, bluesy alt-rock group Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire of Moncton, Saint John’s Austin Eatman Band, and high-energy pop powerhouse Hilary Ladd of Saint John.

Festivalgoers will see rock band Billy Talent make their first festival appearance as headliners for Saturday with Ontario rock duo Crown Lands, alt-rock band Dear Rouge from Vancouver, and Ontario rock band The Beaches along with other local artists taking to the stage. 

Sunday night’s lineup includes headliner and six-time Juno award-winning rock group Sam Roberts Band along with alt-rock duo Neon Dreams and singer-songwriter Ria Mae from Nova Scotia, as well as pop-rockers Metric from Ontario. They will be joined by East Coast hip-hop group City Natives along with local folk performer Pallmer and Penny Blacks.

See you on the waterfront!!!

For more information on this event or tickets go to:  


Rock the Boat Music Festival
When: August 5th – 6th, 2023
Where: Tyne Valley, Prince Edward Island

A little about the festival: Well usually If you say that someone is rocking the boat, you mean that they are upsetting a calm situation and causing trouble, but in Tyne Valley it means you getting to have the best time of your life.

For almost a decade now this festival has taken place at the beautiful Green Park in Tyne Valley, and they have been bringing the best Canadian Rock Bands to Prince Edward Island! 

Come for the oysters and stay for the music and a truly unique PEI coastal experience.  The festival is all about community involvement, oyster shucking and amazing music all wrapped into one festival that is truly unique and like no other in Canada which brings thousands and thousands of people to Tyne Valley each year.

This year’s festival kicks off with co-headliners Alan Doyle and Tim Hicks on Saturday, August 5th with Brooke MacArthur and Campbell & Johnston getting things started for this authentic two-day down-home kitchen party for all the Rock the Boat fans out there.

The party continues Sunday with classic rock headliners Alan Frew and Glass Tiger along with Chilliwack taking to the stage as The Fabulously Rich pays tribute to iconic Canadian rockers Tragically Hip Tribute and PEI’s own GHOSTOWN gets things started for day two of the festival.

This event is truly a not-for-profit festival as all the profits from the festival go right back into the community making it a truly feel-good experience for all who attended.

By attending Rock the Boat, you are supporting Tyne Valley, as the festival is the biggest fundraiser for our small community.

For more information on this event or tickets go to: 


Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival
When: August 10th – 13th, 2023
Where: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

A little about the festival: Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival is a small-town festival with a big reputation! Each year, music lovers flock to this distinct UNESCO World Heritage town for the best of Folk music and a healthy dose of fun. 

Get your toes tappin’, grab your camera, and get ready for four days of folk music fun for the whole family! Some of the best artists representing traditional and contemporary folk music, from both near and far, will grace stages throughout picturesque Lunenburg. Between salty breezes and sweet harmonies, you will quickly discover why we’re Nova Scotia’s longest-running folk music festival.

Each venue offers seating and are within walking distance of each other. Musicians playing on the Wharf Stage are often accompanied by the songs of seagulls to complete the Folk Harbour experience. 

This year’s festival headliners are David Myles, Measha Brueggergosman, Lennie Gallant, Madison Violet, Red Moon Road, Catherine MacLellan, David Francey, and Jane Siberry along with many other artists performing at the main venues that are all alcohol-free, providing a comfortable all-ages environment for concertgoers. 

Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival is truly an intimate affair and a vibrant East Coast experience—a chance to get up close and personal with the artists who sing the songs that influence and shape our culture. Plus, between shows, festivalgoers can enjoy the numerous galleries, museums, shops, homemade ice cream, pubs, and amazing restaurants that make up this picturesque town.  With so much to do, you’ll wish the festival was longer.

The Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival is a rich music and cultural experience that offers something for all ages.

For more information on this event or tickets go to: 


Nova Scotia Summer Fest
When: August 17th – 19th, 2023
Where: Antigonish, Nova Scotia

A little about the festival:  This August Antigonish will be the place for the Nova Scotia Summer Fest, a three-day event celebrating the music and culture of Nova Scotia. 

Fuel up for your weekend of music at Columbus Field in downtown Antigonish on opening night on Thursday, August 17th as it will not feature live music, but will instead be the debut of the Nova Scotia Summer Fest Cookout. This new food and beverage specialty night will expand on the festival’s “Buy Local” approach to include well-known food and beverage companies from across Nova Scotia and Antigonish.

Now that you have had your fill of the best local food and beverages that Antigonish has to offer get ready for two days of music that will also see the return of last summer’s headliner Jimmy Rankin along with The Ennis Sisters, Dave Sampson, Fortunate Ones, Ocean Playground, Irish Mythen, Alicia Toner, Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys, Elyse Aeryn and The Silver Wolf Band. 

 Matt Andersen and The Big Bottle of Joy featuring vocalists Reeny, Hailey & Micah Smith hit the stage as headliners on Friday, August 18th.

Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy headline the stage on Saturday, August 19th to close this year’s Nova Scotia Summer Fest that offers everything from classic rock, pop, folk, EDM, hip-hop, indie pop, Celtic and electronic music for this Celtic kitchen party during the dog days of summer!

For more information on this event or tickets go to: 


As you can see there are many amazing festivals throughout Atlantic Canada featuring amazing local and international artists from all genres and spotlight local food and beverage producers as you enjoy the very best the East Coast has to offer this summer.

When attending the festivals on your bucket list this summer remember to tag us on social media (Twitter @spotlightbizmag / Facebook @spotlightbizmag / Instagram @spotlightonbizmag) so we can share your experience with our readers.

by Ryan Myson