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Genre Rock
Location(s) Toronto, Ontario
Years active 1987 to present
Founded by 102.1 the Edge

Edgefest, a yearly outdoor rock concert festival held on Canada Day in Toronto, Ontario that primarily promotes Canadian rock music. It was founded by staff members of Toronto radio station 102.1 the Edge. During its 30-year operation, the festival has featured more than 300 bands in five locations; Molson Park in Barrie, Ontario, the Ontario Place Forum, the Molson Amphitheatre, Downsview Park, and most recently TD Echo Beach. As of 2016 it is the longest running rock show in Canada.


The early years (1987–1989)[edit]

Edgefest began in 1987 as a conversation between CFNY-FM 102.1 the Edge staffers Kneale Mann, Alan Cross, Earl Veale, and Phil Evans. The station had launched ten years earlier in 1977, and in order to celebrate their tenth birthday and Canada Day, the staff took the financially risky decision to throw a large outdoor rock festival.

A lineup, including Blue Rodeo, The Pursuit of Happiness, Teenage Head, and the first foreign act, The Saints, was soon arranged, but finding an appropriate location proved to be difficult. A farmer's field in Oakville, Ontario was considered, but would have involved complications with staging, electricity, bathrooms and parking. Other suggestions included Mosport International Raceway and Cayuga Speedway, but as they were unavailable, Molson Park in Barrie was chosen. Organizers worried that fans would not want to drive from Toronto to the relatively unknown location in Barrie (approximately 90 km [55 mi]), but after purchasing tickets through Pizza Pizza locations for just $1.02 per ticket, 25,000 people arrived for the inaugural Edgefest, Wednesday, July 1, 1987.

Although the 1987 festival was supposed to be a one-off event, its success encouraged the organizers to think ahead to the next year. The 1988 Canada Day show was sold out, and brought over 32,000 people to Molson Park. Attendees paid $5 each, and the lineup was mostly Canadian band, including the first of many appearances by 54-40, and three foreign acts.

For 1989, Canada Day fell on a Saturday for the first time; in spite a competing summer weekend activities, Highway 400 leading up to Molson Park was jammed both from Cottage country and from Toronto, and the festival was once again sold out. That year's lineup included Sass Jordan, Sarah McLachlan and The Tragically Hip. Jeff Healey, Carole Pope, Lisa Dalbello, Chalk Circle also played.

Transition period (1990–1992)[edit]

Between 1989 and the end of 1990, CFNY underwent a change in management, which brought with it a change in format. While the festival did go on that year, and once again sold out Molson Park, many people came in order to protest the new programming policies (in fact, someone even hired a plane to tow a protest banner over the park). However, the show went on glitch-free, and featured second appearances by 54-40 and The Tragically Hip.

By the fifth show, in 1991, the station owners had again been replaced, and the format of both show and station had stabilized. For the first time in two years, a foreign act, the Violent Femmes played, along with Blue Rodeo and the Crash Test Dummies.

For the 1992 Edgefest, Molson has planned "The Great Canadian Party", a series of Molson-sponsored concerts, simultaneously running across Canada on Canada Day 1992. However, the two companies came to an agreement to share the show, with half the bands booked by the Edge (including 54-40, The Tragically Hip, and Leslie Spit Treeo) and the other half booked by Molson (including Sass Jordan, Amanda Marshall and Spinal Tap).

Evicted from Molson Park (1993–1994)[edit]

In 1993, Molson needed the whole park for their own purposes, so EdgeFest relocated to the old Ontario Place Forum. 1993 was the first time the festival was called "Edgefest", a name that's stuck with the festival since; it was also the first year to have more than one day of concerts, taking place on July 1 and 2. The festival included The Odds, The Watchmen, Rheostatics, and Day 2 featured the first Canadian performance by Radiohead.

1 July 1994 also took place at the Ontario Place Forum, and featured three international groups, The Proclaimers, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and The Lemonheads. This show was among the last events held at the Forum, which was torn down shortly after and replaced with the Molson Amphitheatre.

The Road from the Forum (1995–1996)[edit]

Once the new Molson Amphitheatre was built, Molson offered it to Edgefest for three dates in summer 1995. The first was on the May long weekend, 21 May 1995. About 9,000 people came to see Blur and Elastica, during the height of Britpop. It was also an early major appearance for Our Lady Peace, who had recently had success with their Canadian hit singles "Starseed" and "Naveed", and Ned's Atomic Dustbin was back for the last time before breaking up. 20,000 people came for the annual Canada Day version on 1 July, which featured an all-Canadian lineup including The Odds, Treble Charger, The Watchmen, hHead, Junkhouse and Crash Vegas. The day of the third 1995 Edgefest show, 5 August was rainy and cool; a smaller crowd came to see about 30 bands. Most were Canadian, but a pre-fame Sugar Ray was also featured. This concert was billed at the time as Sloan's farewell performance.[1] (The band re-formed less than a year later.)

The festival's tenth incarnation took place back at Molson Park on 30 June 1996, the first time there wasn't an Edgefest show on Canada Day. 35,000 people came to see Our Lady Peace, The Tea Party, I Mother Earth, and the fifth Edgefest appearance of 54-40.

The "National Phase" (1997–1999)[edit]

At the end of 1996, a promoter asked the Edgefest organizers to put the whole festival on the road, and Edgefest 1997 was held across Canada, with four dates in Eastern Canada and four in Western Canada. Beginning on June 28 in Barrie, the show moved on through Montréal, Quebec; Ottawa, Ontario; Vancouver, British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; Edmonton, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and finally Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. At each stop, the same group of bands played, including Collective Soul, Holly McNarland, Our Lady Peace and I Mother Earth.[2]

1998 Edgefest in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The 1998 Edgefest tour was similar, with eight sold-out shows in eight cities. The lineups varied a bit between the cities, but mainly the bands included Bif Naked, the Matthew Good Band, Sloan, Moist,[3] The Tea Party, and international content in Green Day and the Foo Fighters. Creed, not yet well known at that time, played the second stage.

1999 was the last year of the national tour, with eight cities included,[4] and was headlined by Hole and Moist, there once again were two days, as tickets for the July 1 show sold out quickly. While the first. Canada Day was miserably rainy, but attendees toughed it out, and on the sunny and warm second show, there were about 20,000 people. Other performers in the thirteenth Edgefest included Big Wreck, Silverchair, Finger Eleven, Len, Wide Mouth Mason, Gob and Serial Joe.[5]

SARS, and "The Last Bash in Barrie" (2000–2003)[edit]

Edgefest 2000 with the Canada-wide tour ended, was back to the original Canada Day show at Molson Park. Creed graduated to the main stage, and was joined by Filter and Goldfinger. Playing the side stage that year were 3 Doors Down and Nickelback.

In 2001, Edgefest's weather was rainy and bitterly cold. The show at Molson Park[6] was headlined by Tool, who flew in from Europe especially for the concert, but left right after playing their very short set, angering fans. Other bands that year included Bif Naked, Gob and the first appearance of Billy Talent.

Later that year The Edge also hosted the first "Edgefest II," held at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto, on Saturday August 25. It was headlined by Blink 182, supported by New Found Glory and Sum 41.

Emergency crews were busy all day during the 2002 Edgefest treating sunstroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration. Musically, Nickelback moved up from the side stage to headliners; other bands included Cake (who left the stage after being pelted by bottles), Thirty Seconds to Mars, Default, Simple Plan and Theory of a Deadman.

In 2003 there was an outbreak of SARS in Toronto. Bands were nervous to come play there, and insurance companies refused to underwrite tours, fearing lawsuits in case people became infected at a show. Edgefest '03 was delayed until the crisis passed and took place on 6 September. The show was billed as "The Last Bash in Barrie" because of plans to move the festival the following year to Toronto's Molson Amphitheatre at Ontario Place. The show included The Tragically Hip, Sloan, Our Lady Peace, the Stereophonics and Fefe Dobson.

Recent concerts[edit]

Edgefest 2004 at Molson Amphitheatre featured Finger Eleven and Good Charlotte; Billy Talents moved to the mainstage. Other bands included Alexisonfire, The Salads,[7] Something Corporate and Australia's Jet.

Edgefest 2005 was headlined by Billy Talent, and also included Coheed and Cambria, Jakalope and Rise Against. That year for the first time there was a side stage designated for a record label, Underground Operations, on which Bombs Over Providence, Closet Monster and Hostage Life, among others, played.

As 2006 was the twentieth anniversary of Edgefest, two shows were scheduled. The first, billed as "Edgefest One", took place on 1 July. Headliners Our Lady Peace brought fans on stage, encouraged them to use their cameras (use of which is always prohibited) and even allowed them to record an unreleased song, Kiss on the Mouth. Singer Raine Maida asked for a fan's audio recorder and sang into it, as well as into the microphone, during that song. Other bands included Keane, Mobile, Neverending White Lights and Hot Hot Heat.

On 16 July, "Edgefest Two", the second Edgefest 2006 show took place. It had three stages – the main stage, the Edge Next Big Thing side stage, and the Bedlam Society/Dine Alone Stage, another record label-based stage. Performing at Edgefest Two was Yellowcard, The All-American Rejects, Story of the Year and The Miniatures.

There was no Edgefest in 2007, but the show returned in 2008 on July 12, at Downsview Park with headlining band Linkin Park. Other acts included Stone Temple Pilots, the Sam Roberts Band, The Bravery and others.

Edgefest 2009 was held on June 20, 2009 at Downsview Park. The festival organizers were working with a reduced budget, and the ticket prices were lowered.[8] Billy Talent were the headliners; other mainstage acts were: AFI, Alexisonfire, k-os, The Stills, Arkells, and Metric.

In 2010, CFNY 102.1 The Edge opted to forgo a day-long concert festival for several concerts throughout the summer months called "The Edge Summer Concert Series".

Edgefest 2011 featured Rise Against, A Perfect Circle and The Weakerthans; EdgeFest 2012 at Downsview Park advertised Billy Talent, Death from above 1979, Silversun Pickups, The Sheepdogs, Young the Giant, and Mushy Callahan.

In 2014, Edgefest was put on as a three date concert series at TD Echo Beach at the Molson Amphitheatre. The first concert on Canada Day was headlined by The Sheepdogs, Monster Truck, Matt Mays, and Head of the Herd. The second concert on July 18 was headlined by USS, MS MR, Said the Whale, and Bear Hands. The final concert on August 16 was headlined by Our Lady Peace, Sloan, I Mother Earth, and Eve 6.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Barclay; Jason Schneider; Ian Jack (1 June 2011). Have Not Been the Same: The CanRock Renaissance, 1985-1995. ECW Press. pp. 606–. ISBN 978-1-55490-968-1. 
  2. ^ Larry LeBlanc (19 March 2005). Busy summer for Canada's Booking Agents. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 43–. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  3. ^ Bettsy Powell (16 January 1999). There's no place like home. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. and 58. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  4. ^ Michael R. Solomon (January 2001). Marketing: Real People, Real Decisions. Pearson Education Canada. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-13-014427-0. 
  5. ^ Steve McLean (June 2006). Hot Canadian Bands. Lone Pine Pub. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-894864-53-4. 
  6. ^ Larry LeBlanc (14 July 2001). Canadian Fests in Shape for Summer. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 70–. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  7. ^ "KOI MUSIC FEST: The Salads". The Scene, Allanah Pinhorn September 26, 2013
  8. ^ Mitchell Peters (18 April 2009). Keeping the Beat. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 5–. ISSN 0006-2510. 

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