If you’re in the city for the weekend of June 19, you’ll be in town to witness Toronto batten down its proverbial hatches for the combined presence of the Pride, NXNE, and Luminato festivals. The crowds will be overwhelming, as will the sheer number of events to attend. With so much to see, it may be tempting to skip the Luminato festival in favour of NXNE jams and Pride’s legendary street parties.

My advice? Don’t underestimate what Luminato has to offer. The festival extends for a total of 10 days and covers a range of artistry, showcasing music, art, literature, theatre, and food. Best of all, many of its events are completely free. Here, we’ve outlined a “must-see” event for each of the festival’s ten days.

Friday June 19

Explore the festival hub (free)

Every year, Luminato sets up its festival hub, a space that hosts major events and is considered “the heart of the festival”. Located at David Pecaut Square, this year’s hub has been designed as an outdoor “Garden of Light”, bursting with plants, flowers, and an outdoor light display. On your first day at the festival, be sure to check out the hub during its First Night Garden Party, which will feature croquet, a giant community sing-a-long, and food from Parts & Labour.

Saturday June 20

Jason Collett’s infamous Basement Revue ($32.60)

Canadian musician Jason Collett’s Basement Revue is always one of the best — if not the best — parts of Luminato. The Globe & Mail writes that it is “part variety show, part vaudeville theatre, part improv act and part poetry slam,” and that it’s where “anything can happen and often does.” When I attended last year’s revue, Ron Sexsmith and Rufus Wainwright made surprise guest performances, we all danced under a giant parachute, and there were free cheese plates everywhere — need I say more?

​Woah, Nelly! by Francisco Vargas is licensed under CC BY 2.0​ ​​

​Woah, Nelly! by Francisco Vargas is licensed under CC BY 2.0​ ​​

Sunday June 21

Nelly Furtado’s “TimeTalk ($32.60) 

Ok, so St. Vincent is also giving a talk this year, and sure, she may be a more relevant artist to today’s radio audiences. But considering that Loose is a defining album for all 90s kids, it is still worth hearing Nelly’s thoughts on the state of the music industry. If nothing else, she will be speaking on “her recent work to date,” and I for one am curious as to what exactly that is.

Monday June 22

Get Contemporary with Colour ($64.60)

This event is not a cheap one, but I would be remiss for excluding it considering all the time and money Luminato has put into it. The crown jewel of this year’s festival, it’s somewhat difficult to discern what Contemporary Colour actually is, except that it is going to be “epic”. Billed as a “mammoth explosion of performance art” by The Toronto Star, a group of celebrities featuring Nelly Furtado, Zola Jesus, St.Vincent, and Ira Glass, the host of the massively successful podcast This American Life, will each work one-on-one with a student colour guard team to produce, well, something. Talking Head’s founder David Byrne put the whole thing together and is promising audiences “the biggest glitter show of your life.”

Tuesday June 23

Get weird with Geoffrey Farmer (free)

“Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been; I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell,” is quite a mouthful and is available for a visit from noon to midnight at Trinity Bellwoods Park. Geoffrey Farmer’s latest creation, presented in collaboration with the AGO, is a “computer generated algorithmic montage sequence,” which combines thousands of images in random narratives. Sure to be a bizarre art experience in the best way possible, it also has the benefit of being free and outdoors, giving you no excuse not to check it out.

Wednesday June 24

Welcome home some new Canadians (free)

If you’re willing to drag yourself out of bed and down to the festival hub at 10:00 am, you can witness new Canadian citizens being sworn in via public ceremony. Sure to be an emotional community experience, it’s certainly not a bad way to start a Wednesday morning.

Thursday June 25

Watch a world premier from home (free)

The world-premier of artist group “Blast Theory’s” latest film “My One Demand” is screening at the Scotiabank theatre on Thursday June 25 at 8:00 pm. The film tracks seven people across Toronto in their experiences with unrequited love. Conveniently, you can also sign up to watch along at home, free of charge.

Friday June 26

Stay up late with the TSO ($35)

If you’ve spent the last year up late studying to Gustav Holst’s famous suite The Planets, take the opportunity to see the TSO perform it live on Friday night — get set for an otherworldly performance.

Saturday June 27

Brazilian Block Party (free)

From 2:00 to 11:00 pm on the last Saturday of Luminato, the festival hub will be featuring a Brazilian Block party with art, music, and street food. 

DSC00900 by Bryan Hicks is licensed under CC BY 2.0​ ​​

DSC00900 by Bryan Hicks is licensed under CC BY 2.0​ ​​

Sunday June 28

The life-to-death-to-life experience of Apocalypsis (52.96)

The other much-hyped event of the festival is the Apocalypsis, Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer’s 1980 epic musical voyage. This staging will feature 1000 performers, both amateur and professional, under the direction of 20 conductors. Among the better-known performers is 2014 Polaris-prize winner Tanya Tagaq, making this a show not to be missed.