Riverfest Elora



Riverfest Elora

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HISTORY

Riverfest Elora has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a backyard festival in 2009. It was founded by Elora artist Marilyn Koop. Koop passed away in 2012 and the festival continues in her memory. There has been a lot of history over 14 installments of the festival. We’ve done our very best to highlight it here. History compiled by Haydn Watters.

2009

Festival date: August 29, 2009

Lineup: Rawlins Cross and Tony McManus

  • Artist Marilyn Koop starts the festival as a one-night fundraiser for the Elora Centre for the Arts.
  • More than 800 people pack the yard of the Arts Centre for the inaugural edition with a good old fashioned corn roast and BBQ!
  • An oddly placed tent pole partially obstructs the band from much of the audience.

2010

Festival date: August 27 and 28, 2010

Lineup: Prairie Oyster, Dala, House of Doc and Zoe Janzen

  • Festival expands to two nights.
  • Doubles the number of performers from the inaugural edition – from two to four acts.

  • A massive bonfire blazes just beside the stage.
riverfest presents shows

2011

Festival date: September 17, 2011

Lineup: Danny Michel and Kevin Breit

  • The festival moves across the street to its current home in Bissell Park.
  • For some reason, the festival was held in September – complete with an unexpected cold snap. Last minute decision to serve spiked hot drinks pays off.
  • But the pavilion was the only licensed area. The stage was under a big tent in the main field, so drinkers had to crouch to see the performers.

2012

Festival date: August 25, 2012

Lineup: Cuff the Duke, The Wooden Sky, Tony McManus, Lisa Bozikovic, The Boo Radley Project, Karis Tees and performers from the Elora Acoustic Cafe

  • Founder Marilyn Koop passes away in early April. Festival volunteers hastily form a very informal committee to decide whether or not to continue. In June, they vote to keep the show going … just two months from festival weekend.
  • Addition of a short-lived second stage – the Tree Stage – on the boardwalk where performers managed their own sound.
  • Riverfest Elora gets its own website!
riverfest presents shows
RF2013 photo 1

2013

Festival date: August 17, 2013

Lineup: Born Ruffians, Ashley MacIsaac, Rich Aucoin, Kevin Breit, Lowlands, Alanna Gurr, The Boo Radley Project and The Shawn Connerys

  • The festival kicks off with the placing of the big green “M” canvas – a nod to founder Marilyn Koop, who signed all of her paintings with an M in the bottom right corner. The M continues to hang at the bottom right of the main stage to this day.
  • The legendary Riverfest Elora after party tradition begins – with a secret post-festival Rich Aucoin show at the old Shepherd’s Pub, fuelled by a parachute, confetti and sweat. Earlier in the day, the crowd surfed Bissell on a red surfboard custom built by a festival volunteer.
  • Broadcaster/podcaster, Vish Khanna, hosts the first and only Riverfest jam session featuring members of Born Ruffians, The Boo Radley Project, Lowlands and The Shawn Connerys, along with Kevin Breit and Howie Southwood.

2014

Festival dates: August 22 and 23, 2014

Lineup: Blue Rodeo, Serena Ryder, Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires, Arkells, Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, Bahamas, Elliott Brood, Young Galaxy, The Strumbellas, Kim Churchill, Quartette, Messenjah, Eccodek, Odd Years, Jadea Kelly and Snack!

  • The festival (re)-expands to two days and two stages. The very unoriginally named “Tent Stage” is erected over the park’s basketball court.
  • The late Charles Bradley headlines Friday night in an incredible red jumpsuit and gives one of the most beloved Riverfest Elora performances of all time. He stays in the crowd post-show to give hugs to everyone who wants one.

  • Addition of the popular festival shuttle buses.
riverfest presents shows
RF2015 photo 2

2015

Festival dates: August 14, 15 and 16, 2015

Lineup: Metric, Sam Roberts Band, Bruce Cockburn, Lighthouse, The New Pornographers, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Shad, Alan Doyle, Zeus, Shakey Graves, Sarah Harmer, Tokyo Police Club, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Operators, The Planet Smashers, The Wooden Sky, The Both (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo), Amelia Curran, The Acorn, Stretch Orchestra, The Meligrove Band, Groenland, The Elwins, Donovan Woods, Jordan Klassen, The Burning Hell, Tim Kingsbury, Dave Monks, Dani Nash, Jenny Omnichord and Mathias Kom, The River and the Road, Bass Lions, Odd Years, Ambre McLean, The Funky Mamas, Safe As Milk, The Boo Radley Project, The Lay Awakes, Bruce Cassidy’s Hotfoot Orchestra, Hein Cooper, The Haret, Spencer Burton, Gavin Gardiner, GROOVA and The Oxford Wild

  • Festival scales up to include a third day and a third stage (it is currently known as Grasslands but, at this point, the stage was a pop-up trailer that saw artists playing alongside t-shirts and vinyl records for sale. Weird but wonderful!)
  • The now defunct band The Elwins pen a song for Riverfest Elora about Elora ahead of their performance … aptly named “Elora Song.”
  • The legendary Aimee Mann’s name accidentally gets spelled wrong on the first batch of posters (the typo called her Amie). Meticulous spell checkers ensure this never happens again. Apologies Aimee!

2016

Festival dates: August 19, 20 and 21, 2016

Lineup: Chromeo, The Sheepdogs, Hey Rosetta!, Walk Off the Earth, Matthew Good, Wintersleep, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Yukon Blonde, Dear Rouge, Radio Radio, Busty and the Bass, 54-40 Unplugged, Kardinal Offishall, The Slackers, Dilly Dally, The Zolas, Reuben & The Dark, The Wet Secrets, Grand Analog, Fast Romantics, Young Rival, Bry Webb, Good for Grapes, John River, Jeremy Fisher, Whitney Rose, Ivory Hours, Bruce Peninsula, Stella Ella Ola, Sun K, DCF, Bossie, Lee Watson, Let’s Just Be Friends, Highs, Raven Shields, Etiquette, Brandon Wolfe Scott, Rich Burnett, Alexandria Maillot, The Medicine Hat, Goodnight Sunrise, Tupper Ware Remix Party, Elora House Band, D’eve Archer, Grove St., Adrian Jones, Madison Galloway, Safe as Milk, Deboer & Joël and Lowlands

  • A thunderstorm cuts power to the main stage during Chromeo’s headlining slot. Crews scramble to get the stage running again, while Chromeo jokes it is revenge for not paying that month’s power bill.
  • A special tent is put up over the boardwalk and festival-goers pack in to watch the broadcast of The Tragically Hip’s emotional final show, happening live in Kingston on the Saturday night of the festival.

  • After parties ramp up – with multiple performers playing at multiple venues around town each night of the festival.
riverfest presents shows
RF2017 photo 1

2017

Festival dates: August 18, 19 and 20, 2017

Lineup: MGMT, Monster Truck, Gogol Bordello, Mother Mother, K.Flay, Sloan, Hollerado, USS, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Skratch Bastid, Austra, The Dirty Nil, Hannah Georgas, Darcys, Shred Kelly, Little Scream, Pocket Dwellers, Jenn Grant, Polaris Prize The Band, Partner, Samito, Motel Raphael, Neon Dreams, Safe as Houses, iskwē, Wax Mannequin, My Son The Hurricane, Helena Deland, Lee Watson, Saya, Lowlands, Odd Years, The Kramdens, Saturdae Jonez, The Boo Radley Project, Tara Beier, Avery Raquel, The Look Back Now, Peter Piper, Band of People, Broadway Draws, Mike Evin, Fergus Pipe Band, Tipping Point, The Boo Radley Project’s Karaoke Live!, Rivercital, Rocket Queen, Torero, B.A. Johnston, Megan Nash, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, Mountain of Wolves, Rose Cora Perry & The Truth Untold, Skye Wallace and Yoga with Tania

  • Gogol Bordello wraps the festival Sunday night – and absolutely steals the show – splashing red wine and dishing out locally hand cut flowers to the crowd. Frontman Eugene Hütz surfs the crowd on a drum.
  • The Boo Radley Project hosts the first edition of the now uber-popular Karaoke Live! – where you get to belt out your favourite songs backed by the band. It’s become a Riverfest tradition that has happened every festival since.
  • B.A. Johnston throws an unforgettable after party at the old Shepherd’s Pub. With a capacity of just 55 people, there are more people waiting outside, trying to get into the show than actually allowed in the venue. B.A. takes the concert outdoors and performs atop his mother’s Dodge Grand Caravan.

2018

Festival dates: August 17, 18 and 19, 2018

Lineup: The Flaming Lips, Carly Rae Jepsen, Blue Rodeo, July Talk, Wolf Parade, Dear Rouge, Bedouin Soundclash, Born Ruffians, Carole Pope, Donovan Woods, The Beaches, Cuff The Duke, Moon Hooch, Weaves, The Flatliners, Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, Ralph, Rawlins Cross, Grand Analog, Land of Talk, Rich Aucoin, Julie & The Wrong Guys, The Creepshow, Leeroy Stagger, My Son The Hurricane, Ariana Gillis, Bossie, Future Peers, Caveboy, Ellevator, Les Deuxluxes, New Swears, Heartstreets, The Sorority, Haviah Mighty, Eamon McGrath, Jessy Bell Smith, Alanna Gurr, The Dill, Royal Castles, Lee Watson, The Boo Radley Project, Rich Burnett, Bonnie Trash, Averages, Eclectic Vinyl Orchestra, Goodnight Sunrise, Cleopatrick, Luna Li, Ellen Froese, FXRRVST, The Bearskins, Madison Galloway, The Boo Radley Project’s Karaoke Live!, The Friendly Frogs Freak Show, Peter Piper, Adrian Jones & His Big Bag O’Ukes and GROOVA

  • Riverfest celebrates its 10th birthday with the biggest, most (biodegradable) confetti-fuelled party imaginable, spearheaded by The Flaming Lips – complete with laser hounds, a gigantic unicorn and frontman Wayne Coyne rolling out into crowd in a gigantic plastic hamster wheel while singing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” When the Lips play their freaked out version of the American national anthem, the crowd responds, breaking out “Oh Canada” in unison.
  • To mark the milestone anniversary, some favourite past performers return to the festival including Rich Aucoin, Alanna Gurr, Donovan Woods, My Son The Hurricane and a trio of past headliners – Blue Rodeo, Born Ruffians and Rawlins Cross.
  • Rain drenches July Talk’s Friday night headlining performance – but the wet weather somehow makes things even more magical (fun fact: a still from their performance remains their Wikipedia photo to this day). The band ends up at Shepherd’s Pub after party to cheer on their bud, Eamon McGrath.
Riverfest Elora
RF2019 photo 1 scaled

2019

Festival dates: August 16, 17 and 18, 2019

Lineup: City & Colour, The Sheepdogs, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Alice Merton, A Tribe Called Red, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Mix Master Mike, K-OS, Hubert Lenoir, Men Without Hats, Black Caviar, Narcy, Terra Lightfoot, The Darcys, Begonia, Reykjavíkurdætur, Lowdown Brass Band, Monowhales, Bonjay, Pkew Pkew Pkew, Skye Wallace, Ben Rogers, B.A. Johnston, Kalle Mattson, Jim Bryson, The Anti-Queens, Kandle, Art D’Ecco, John Jacob Magistery, Los Poetas, Pale Lips, Moscow Apartment, Just John x Dom Dias, Long Range Hustle, Mouth Breather, The Redhill Valleys, DijahSB, Taylor Knox, Hotkid, Brett Newski, Dennis Ellsworth, Sarah Smith, Merival, The Boo Radley Project’s Karaoke Live!, Hyness, Janette King, Brave Moon, Ace of Wands, Nicolette & The Nobodies, Billy Moon, Kitzl, The Bearskins, Cubs Refrain, LUVR, Hello Delaware, Broadway Draws, Peter Piper, Missed Connections Live and Adrian Jones & His Big Bag O’Ukes

  • Planned Friday headliner Jessie Reyez gets injured and cancels two weeks out. Festival friends The Sheepdogs come to the rescue and headline at the last minute.
  • Powerhouse all-female Icelandic rap collective Reykjavíkurdætur (Daughters of Reykjavik) wow – and shock – festival goers by “disemboweling” an audience member, getting in the crowd and spraying and serving so much champagne.
  • Massive rain and thunderstorms force the festival to pause its Sunday programming for several hours – for the first time in the festival’s history. Organizers scramble to move performers to alternate stages. Sunday headliners The Mighty Mighty Bosstones get pulled off stage mid-song, despite having just started playing their hit, “The Impression That I Get”. A wild and wet after party follows at the Legion – a massive ceiling leak keeps having to be poked and drained just inches from the stage (Editor’s note: Seriously, this was the most rain I think I’ve ever seen.)

2020, 2021

No festivals held due to the COVID-19 pandemic

2022

Festival dates: August 19, 20 and 21, 2022

Lineup: Alessia Cara, The Glorious Sons, Mother Mother, The Strumbellas, Rheostatics, Ria Mae, Bran Van 3000, Jessia, The Blue Stones, Amanda Lepore, The OBGMs, Ruby Waters, Rose Cousins, Justin Rutledge, Charmaine, Dizzy, Kimmortal, The Planet Smashers, DijahSB, Pineo & Loeb, My Son The Hurricane, Luca Fogale, Softcult, Anna Sofia, Wine Lips, Aysanabee, B.A. Johnston, Command Sisters, Pony, Nimkish, Cots, Omega Mighty, Nicolette & The Nobodies, Royal Castles, Madison Galloway, Eekwol, Fellow Camper, The Boo Radley Project, Revive The Rose, Loviet, Safe As Milk, Orson Wilds, Excuse Me, I The Mountain, The Diner Mints, Shook Boys, Jessica Sevier, Uncle Harry & The Kickstands, Peter Piper, Mya Hicks, Edwin “The Cat”, Nosbic & Flawless, Junglecat, Yoga with Tania and Grace, The Boo Radley Project’s Karaoke Live!, Rivercital, The Paddling Puppeteers and Adrian Jones & His Big Bag O’Ukes

  • After 1,097 days away from Bissell Park, Riverfest Elora returns with a bang – after skipping two full editions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Texas country singer Paul Cauthen is slated to perform at the festival and flies into Canada on the day of but refuses to download the ArriveCan app and isn’t allowed in the country. Ruby Waters gets bumped to a main stage slot last minute.
  • Riverfest Elora hosts its first drag show as part of a legion after party, featuring iconic transgender drag diva Amanda Lepore.
riverfest presents shows
RF2023 Feist Wayne Simpson

2023

Festival dates: August 18, 19 and 20, 2023

Lineup: Metric, Feist, The Reklaws, Charlotte Cardin, JJ Wilde, Matt Mays, Maestro Fresh Wes, Talk, Sonreal, Rêve, Leif Vollebekk, The Aggrolites, Renforshort, Spoons, Boslen, The Darcys, Aviv, Shred Kelly, Mobley, Kellie Loder, Birds of Bellwoods, Boogey The Beat, Sebastian Gaskin, Skye Wallace, K-Man & The 45s, Adam Baldwin, Fake Shark, Myst Milano., Housewife, Shebad, CJ Wiley, Shania Twink, The Skamones, Vince The Messenger, The Bearskins, Anna Paddock & The Lay Awakes, Michael Costantini, Jiggity James, The Shawn Connerys, The Boo Radley Project’s Karaoke Live!, Fame Cartel, Atay & Ajax, Animal Boy, Peter Piper, Adrian Jones & His Big Bag O’Ukes and Rivercital

  • Fresh off an afternoon visit to the Quarry, Feist commands the crowd with a stunning performance, both musically and visually – and ends up rolling on the Bissell grass with a green screen.
  • Rap royalty Maestro Fresh Wes added to the lineup last minute.
  • An unseasonable cold snap hits the festival Friday night, forcing festival goers into sweaters and long pants.

PAST FESTIVAL POSTERS

RF2009 poster
RF2010 poster
RF2011 poster
RF2012 poster
RF2013 poster
RF2014 poster
RF2015 poster
RF2016 poster white background 1
RF2017 poster
RF2018 poster
RF2019 poster
RF2022 poster
RF2023 poster

NOTABLE RIVERFEST ELORA PRESENTS EVENTS

Millfest (2013)

Date: March 16, 2013

Lineup: Zeus, The Beauties, Harri Palm Power Trio, Alanna Gurr, The Durants and The Shawn Connerys

  • A pre-St. Patty’s Day festival in the parking lot at the old Elora Mill. We hadn’t really figured out a proper name for our winter festival just yet.
  • The concert raised money to help build the green space that now sits at the corner of Mill and Metcalfe.
  • After braving frigid temperatures outdoors (a few fire barrels throughout the grounds did help), bands and festival-goers warm up with a raucous after party downstairs at the old Shepherd’s Pub.

Ice Jam (2015)

Date: March 7, 2015

Lineup: Arkells, Rich Aucoin, Legato Vipers, Dear Rouge and 5 Live Roc

  • After a hiatus in 2014, our day-long winter festival returned to the Elora Mill with a brand new name: Ice Jam.
  • Halifax dance pop prince Rich Aucoin sports a sick vintage snowsuit and tries his best to keep warm – huddling everyone under his parachute. He still says this is one of the coldest shows he’s ever played.

 

  • Fresh off their fantastic 2014 festival appearance, Arkells play their lone outdoor date during their High Noon tour. “It’s kind of a zany idea,” admits frontman Max Kerman of playing outside in the snow. “This town takes a lot of pride in seeking out new things and new adventures, which is really cool.”

Ice Jam (2016)

Date: March 5, 2016

Lineup: 54-40, The Sadies, Grand Analog, Safe As House, Joni Nehrita, Madison Galloway and Willa.

  • After two editions at the Mill, Ice Jam makes the move into a massive “heated” tent in the back parking lot at Bissell Park. Much less shivering this year.
  • The Sadies absolutely steal the show. The tent didn’t start on fire – but it came awfully close during this magical performance, fronted by the late Dallas Good.
  • Canadian rock icons 54-40 made the first of their two visits to Elora in 2016. They returned months later during the summer festival for an unplugged set.
ice jam 2016

Wish You Were Here (2021)

Date: August 20, 21 and 22, 2021

Lineup: The Trews, Kardinal Offishall, The Barr Brothers, Haviah Mighty, Crown Lands, My Son The Hurricane, Wolf Saga, Grae, AHI, Royal Castles and Middlebrook

  • We couldn’t throw the full festival during the COVID-19 pandemic – so we got creative and put on a smaller-scale, socially distanced mini-festival in the yard at the Elora Centre for the Arts (where Riverfest first began!).
  • Festival-goers sat in staked off “booths” of four. Masks were required while moving around outside of your booth.

  • Saturday sells out for The Trews’ first ever show in Elora. The band – which has consistently been one of the most requested Riverfest acts – ends up partying post-show on the patio at The Badley.