After two years of being online-only due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto’s annual Winterfolk Blues and Roots Festival is back in real life for its 21st anniversary. The festival, which features a change of neighborhood this year to Kensington Market, will showcase some of the most talented blues and roots acts in the city performing over the course of two nights of live performances, and one night of strictly online streaming.
This year’s Winterfolk lineup includes three-time Juno Award winners Sultans of String; eight-time Maple Blues Award winner Gary Kendall and his band; award-winning jazz violinist Anne Lindsay.
The rest of the line-up features Alfie Smith, Black Suit Devil, Brian Blain, Brian Gladstone, Brian Morgan, Camie, Carmen Toth, Chris Birkett, D’Arcy Wickham, Danny Marks, the David Celia Band, David Essig, David Laronde, Garnetta Cromwell & DaGroovmasters, Glen Hornblast, Graham Lindsey, Harpin’ Norm Lucien, Heather Luckhart, Hilario Duran, Howard Gladstone & the Gladtones, Isabel & The Uncommons, JESSA (aka Jessica Stuart), Joey O’Neil, Kevin Breit, Laura Fernandez, Laura Hubert Band, Mandy Goodhandy, Melanie Peterson, Myke Mazzei, Noah Zacharin, Ori Dagan, Paul Mills, Quarrington and Adams (Q & A), Robert Priest, Shawn Lawrie & Kendall Kiddie, Tania Joy, Tannis Slimmon & Lewis Melville, Taylor Abrahamse, The Swingin’ Blackjacks, The Vaudevillian, Tia McGraff, Toney Springer, and Tyler Ellis.
With its multicultural mix of supermarkets, street food vendors, charming boutiques, vintage clothing stores, and hip bars and cafés, Kensington Market feels like a perfect bohemian fit for the festival.
“Due to this change, Winterfolk’s lineup will be slightly scaled back so as to ease comfortably into our new digs, yet we will hopefully return back to full-strength next year once we’ve settled in,” said festival director Brian Gladstone.
Kensington Market also feels like the perfect environment for fostering Winterfolk’s aim of strengthening diversity and inclusivity by adding to its yearly lineups more artists of colour, artists representing the LGBTQ+ community, Indigenous artists, women performers, and new young emerging talent.
Here are the Kensington Market venues hosting this year’s performances:
- Freetimes Café: 320 College St. Toronto, ON M5T 1S3; (416) 967-1078
- Taco Taco (2 stages): 319 Augusta Avenue, Kensington Market. Toronto, ON (416) 277-1856
- Supermarket: 268 Augusta Ave, Toronto (416) 840-0501
- Church of St. Stephens (2 stages); 103 Bellevue Ave., Toronto, ON, M5T 2N8 (At the corner of Bellevue and College)
- Trinity Common – 303 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2M2
Directions are available on Winterfolk.com. Wristbands are available now on Winterfolk’s website (www.winterfolk.com). A weekend pass is $30 allowing admittance to more than 80 performances, including the Friday stream, while stream passes are free, and donations are encouraged. A one-day pass for either Saturday or Sunday is $20. Wristbands will be sent via post before Feb. 10. Winterfolk will feature ‘cashless doors,’ meaning cash will not be accepted on entry.
Here are the dates and times for this year’s festival:
Friday, Feb. 24: Live stream from 8 to 10:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 25 – Live from 1–10 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 26 – Live from 1–10 p.m.