Festival Guide 2018: Halifax Jazz Festival

Where: Halifax, N.S.
When: July 10-15

What it is

It’s officially summer festival season. With big concerts taking place across the country — Ottawa Bluesfest and Festival d’ete de Québec are all over my Instagram stories right now — it’s Halifax’s time to get in on the big stage action.

Entering year 32, the festival has a little bit of something for everyone. There are free afternoon shows, free evening shows, sit down shows, stand up shows, close your eyes in wonder shows and can’t look away shows.


The War on Drugs, Chaka Khan, The Soul Rebels feat. Matissyahu, Matt Anderson & The Mellatones, Daniel Caesar. For the full lineup, check out Jazz Festival website

Festival Playlist

We’ve put together a playlist of many of the artists playing Jazz Fest this year. With a festival that covers so many different genres, it’s a great way to explore music that’s new to you.

Mix Picks

Land of Talk

If you scroll through some of your favourite artists over the last ten years, chances are you’ll see a couple band names and think, “hmm, what ever happened to them?”. In 2011, Elizabeth Powell’s Land of Talk project went quiet and eventually a hiatus was confirmed. Then out of the blue in 2015, the return of Land of Talk was confirmed after Powell updated the band’s Facebook page. A couple years later, Life After Youth came out in May 2017.

Fast forward a year and two months and Powell is playing St. Matthew’s Church for Jazz Festival. The last time Land of Talk played in this city was fall of 2006 for Halifax Jazz Festival, which feels like a lifetime ago when it comes to live music in the city.

It’s hard to be patient, but this show promises to be worth the 12 year wait. On Life After Youth, Powell’s songwriting in the guiding light, the constant while the music shifts and sways. At times the guitar is pressing, conveying a sense of urgency. In its quietest moments, the music crawls along, leaving space and time to soak in Powell’s strong songwriting.

Land of Talk plays St. Matthew’s Church at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 12.

Trust OBEY

Another great annual music festival in Halifax is Obey Convention. It takes place every May and is a highly curated festival that brings in experimental and unconventional music, providing a space for artists that often work on the periphery of what’s considered normal. And it’s always awesome, even if you have no idea who any of the performers are.

For the past couple years, Obey and Halifax Jazz Festival have presented a show at each others festivals. This year, Obey presents Pantayo, an all-women collective based in Toronto plays music inspired by the indigenous peoples of the souther Philippines. The band explores what is happening in the Philippines compared to what is happening in Canada and the roles that we all play in it. Pantayo shows how music can challenge and create awareness of behaviour that we are all part of but often ignore.

Pantayo plays St. Matthew’s Church at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 10.

Additionally, there is a free Jazz Lab at 2 p.m on Tuesday, July 10 at the Halifax Central Library where the group will dig deep into what the band is all about.

A sort of homecoming

Alright, this one is a bit of a stretch. But Charlotte Day Wilson did attend the University of King’s College in Halifax and played music around the city mostly as the frontperson of the Wayo. Once she returned home to Ontario, Wilson started releasing soulful music that’s captured the ears of listeners from across the country. She’s collaborated with Daniel Caesar, River Tiber and Badbadnotgood and there’s a sense the best is yet to come for this powerful performer that can take over any song. So Jazz Festival on the big stage is sort of a homecoming and the show with Daniel Caesar is a can’t-miss event.

Charlotte Day Wilson plays the main festival stage at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 15.

Mix Tip

There are lots of barriers to experiencing music and it’s a privilege that’s not always recognized. There are lots of free shows throughout the week increasing access to attend live music. Check out the schedule to find out where to catch live shows on the waterfront, libraries, outdoors spaces and bars across the city.

Press photo of Land of Talk by Shervin