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Live Review: The Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival, Ontario, Canada

By Ken Wallis. Photo Credit: Ken Wallis.

For years, I’ve intended to experience the Orangeville Blues And Jazz Festival. It seemed like somehow, something always got in the way, and we won’t even mention the last two lost years. But 2022 was THE year to attend. The Orangeville Festival kicked off the season of live blues festivals. And what a kickoff it was.

First of all, let’s look at what the Festival is all about. It’s a non-profit organization that promotes an appreciation of the art of blues and jazz, and I must confess with my bias, blues was at the forefront. It’s run by a passionate board of directors that put hours of work into pulling off such a massive venture. I must give a huge shout out to Larry Kurtz, Festival Founder and Artistic Director. Not only does he pull off a massively successful festival, but he sure plays one mean harmonica when he takes the stage with his band.

The awards have always flowed in, including numerous awards as one of the top 100 festivals in Ontario. I beg to differ. It’s way above that and I could make the argument that it’s one of the top festivals I’ve ever attended. And let me tell you, I’ve certainly attended my share. I’d rank it as one of the top 5 festivals in Canada. And no, it’s up to you to figure out what the others are.

Nestled in the lovely community of Orangeville, the festival is without doubt top-notch. Featuring loads of bands in different venues throughout the town. The Festival Main Stage is in Alexandra Park, behind Town Hall, and other venues include the Opera House (in Town Hall) the TD Broadway Stage, the Orangeville Public Library and in pubs, clubs, and restaurants.

The only problem with the festival is that there’s so much going on, there’s no way you can catch everything. And that’s really not a problem. It’s like Hallowe’en; you get a special musical treat wherever you go.

And it’s not just about music. The Blues Cruise featured over 200 beautiful classic cars on display with bands performing in various pop-up locations on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, Blues And Bikes highlighted over 500 motorcycles being showcased with live music and events. You’re never bored. And then there’s a huge gathering of vendors with a variety of crafts and food trucks to keep your taste buds salivating.

The Festival attracts some of Canada’s top musicians but the Festival remains true to its roots by featuring many local bands performing on stages throughout Orangeville. And while I’m at it, a tip of the blues fedora to the many, many volunteers who make everything so easy-going. The area is spotless, facilities are easy to find, and if you need any info, just find an orange shirted volunteer. The sponsors of the event deserve a ton of credit. Without them, this music fest would not happen.

As for the music, I caught as much as I could. Here’s a quick list – Erin McCallum Band, Sandra Bouza, Danny Marks, Larry Kurtz and The Lawbreakers with Harrison Kennedy, Downchild, The MacKenzie Blues Band, James Anthony Band with Danny B, Mike Goudreau, Braithwaite and Whitely, Angel Forrest, Blackburn, Emily Burgess, Dylan Wickens, Rick Fines, Adam Karch, The LTZ band, Harp Attack with Larry Kurtz, Steve Marriner, and Carlos Del Junco, and then no better way to wrap up the festival, then with Juno nominated Miss Emily. Whew, I’m exhausted just typing all these names. Plus, I missed so many others. What a way to spend a weekend.

To sum up, I feel a special sense of amazement at what this festival accomplished. Everyone who attended felt a warm sense of being somewhere special. It didn’t take long to meet new friends and reconnect with long-time blues lovers, (ex: Patrick Monaghan).

Without doubt, a fabulous time was had in Orangeville. It will now be a must attend annual event. Looking forward to attending in 2023.

You can view some of the pictures of these artists in the next few days on the Facebook page

Festival Website:

Ken Wallis is former assistant Dean of media studies at Mohawk College, Ontario, he is a promoter and well respected host and producer of three radio shows, Blues Source Canada, Blues Source International, and Blues Source Vaults, all of which air weekly on our sister platform, Blues & Roots Radio, as well as being available to listen on demand from our podcast page here at The Sound Cafe.


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