Memories of a Free Festival


Summer is rapidly approaching, and that means only one thing: FESTIVALS!

Craft festivals, beer festivals, Caribbean festivals, tree festivals… festivals of all sizes and stripes. For those poor souls trapped in the damp furnace that is Peterborough, Ontario during these long summer months, festivals provide a brief respite from lounging on patios, avoiding our scenic downtown, and breathing in our trademark mix of maple and asbestos-flavoured air.

And when it comes to free entertainment designed to appeal to a broad (ages 55 to 80) range of people, you can’t get much better than our annual Peterborough Musicfest (formerly the Little Lake Music Festival, formerly the Festival of Lights, formerly Farmer Hutchinson’s Phrenology Exhibition & Soiree). Featuring the finest possible array of Canadian has-beens and American never-wases (and truly mystifying ABBA/Bee Gees/Elton John cover bands), Musicfest provides southern Ontario’s greatest opportunity to wearily side-eye roving bands of pre-teens while downing bottomless buckets of funnel cake.

Since the Peterborough Folk Festival has already cornered the market on bewildering Canadian 80s kid show personalities (coming soon: Jeff the living mannequin from Today’s Special!), it’s up to Peterborough Musicfest to fill that live entertainment gap with artists best known for appearing on Time-Life Classic rock compilations. Are you a big fan of Honeymoon Suite, Trooper, or Platinum Blonde? Then this is the festival for you! Also, it’s nearly time for your yearly prostate check. You can never be too careful.

But the festival isn’t only home to barely recognizable versions of briefly popular groups. There’s also plenty of local representation! Like… uh… that country guy who got famous elsewhere. Or… an a capella band? And world music by some dude from Toronto. That’s nearby! Whatever your taste, you’ll find something to tolerate while swatting endless waves of mosquitos and coldly wishing for the sweet embrace of death.

And don’t forget contemporary Peterborough-based artists!

No, really. Don’t forget them. You’ll find them at the Spill, or the Red Dog, or the Garnet. Give them enough support, and one day they might have the luster and name recognition to make their way onto the Musicfest stage! But, probably not.

So break out the folding chair (or settle into those cushy plastic seats in the VIP section, you rich bastard); it’s time to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday celebration (a.k.a. our 375th straight year of occupation/genocide)! No, Musicfest is not very diverse, and it’s often not very good, but its cluster bomb approach to booking music means that there’s likely to be at least one artist that makes you say “Wow, they’re still around? I’ve got to check that out!” At least if you’re an old, lame white guy like me.

Whoa, wait… the Rheostatics are playing this year? I’ve got to check that out! Musicfest is great!


Illustration by B Mroz.

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Doug Tilley

Doug Tilley

Doug Tilley is a lifelong geek, and an occasional pop-culture writer and podcaster. You can find his work on, where he regularly writes about microbudget movies and film-makers in his No-Budget Nightmares column. In 2011 he began the popular No-Budget Nightmares podcast with Moe Porne, with a second ludicrous podcast - Eric Roberts is the Fucking Man - following in 2015. According to friends, he's a pretty cool guy.