4 family-friendly concerts in Ontario this summer

Dear Rouge Riverfest 2016

Dear Rouge performs at Riverfest Elora 2016.

Summer is a great time for music lovers in Ontario as there seems to be a worthwhile band to see or festival to attend every week. If you have kids, you know you can’t see them all. But that doesn’t mean you can’t include them in the fun!

Taking your kids to a concert or festival opens them up to the live music experience and is a great way to bond with them (music brings people together, right?). It also saves you on having to find a sitter and if it’s not near your home, it’s a great reason to turn it into a mini vacation.

With two boys of my own, here are four family-friendly summer concerts I’ve found in Ontario for 2017.

CBC Music Festival (May 27, Toronto)

Not technically summer yet, but the CBC Music Festival celebrates its fifth year at Toronto’s Echo Beach on May 27. The all Canadian line-up includes the likes of Serena Ryder, Walk Off The Earth, Scott Helman and BROS. Along with the main stage, there’s a kids stage where the puppet Cottonball and CBC Kids hosts will introduce “fun and interactive performances”. There’s also a Food Truck Fair and vintage flea market.

Limited tickets are still available for $39.50 (plus fees) and can be purchased at cbcmusic.ca/festival. Children 12 and under are free.

Field Trip (June 3-4, Toronto)

Founded by record label Arts & Crafts in 2013, Field Trip is going full circle for its fifth anniversary with original headliners Broken Social Scene and Feist once again headlining the fest.

Running June 3 and 4 at Toronto’s Fort York, other acts include A Tribe Called Red, Portugal. The Man, Phoenix, The Pharcyde, and Thundercat. There’s a Day Camp area for kids, which has its own lineup of acts, and a comedy section called the Laugh Barracks. There’s also lots of good food options, games and a marketplace.

A weekend pass starts at $125 (plus fees) for general admission with single day tickets available for $80. Kids 12 and under are free. Visit fieldtriplife.com for more info.

City and Colour + friends at Butler’s Barracks (July 2, Niagara-on-the-Lake)

Hosted by Wayne & Daryl from the CraveTV show Letterkenny, this Canada Day long weekend show at Butler’s Barracks in Niagara-on-the-Lake features City and Colour, Stars, Dear Rouge, The Strumbellas and Blue Rodeo.

Tickets are $69.50 (plus fees) for general admission. Kids 12 and under are free. Visit dinealonerecords.com/NOTL2017 for more info.

Riverfest (Aug. 18 – 20, Elora)

I’ve attended Riverfest with my family and friends for the past three years, and it’s always been a great experience.

Held at Bissell Park in beautiful Elora, this year’s lineup includes MGMT, Mother Mother, K. Flay, DJ Jazzy Jeff (yes, that DJ Jazzy Jeff), Sloan, Hollerado, The Boo Radley Project, and more.

There’s camping options nearby, free shuttle buses from Guelph, Elora and Fergus, lots of great food and drink options, and free water on site. The park is also big enough that if you or your kids need a break, you can take a walk and get away from the crowd.

Weekend passes start at $139 (plus fees) with single day options available. Kids 12 and under are free. For more info, visit riverfestelora.com.

Any concerts or festivals you plan to take your kids to this summer? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

How to connect a turntable to a Sonos speaker system

Sonos turntable

If you have a small space, connecting your turntable to a Sonos speaker system is a great idea.

After Record Store Day 2016 I got the idea to hook up my old Yamaha P-200 turntable to my Sonos PLAY:1. Since this wasn’t that simple of a task, I thought it would be a good idea to share the process of connecting a turntable to a Sonos system.

Why connect a turntable to the Sonos system?

You might be wondering why I would want to take a nice, warm analog turntable and connect it a digital speaker system. Well, for starters, it saves a lot of space by getting rid of a large amp and extra speakers. It’s also way more convenient for me and allows me to listen to my records in any room I have a Sonos speaker.

Will your turntable work?

The first thing you need to figure out is if your turntable has a built-in preamp. Most newer models with USB outputs and some higher end models have built-in preamps. Older turntables, like my Yamaha P-200, do not. If your turntable doesn’t have a built-in preamp you’ll need something like the Pyle-Pro PP444 Ultra Compact Phono Turntable Preamp (available on Amazon.ca for about $30) in order to get sound to the Sonos system.

Alternatively, you can connect to an amplifier with a phono input and an analog output but that defeats the purpose of trying to save space by removing the amp from the equation.

Pyle-Pro PP444

The Pyle-Pro PP444 is a low cost, decent preamp with a small footprint.

What you need

The Sonos system you have depends on what you will need to connect your turntable to it. If you have a PLAY:5 you can connect your turntable (or preamp or amplifier) to the mini-jack line-in by using an RCA to mini-jack adapter cable. If you have a PLAY:1 or a PLAY:3 you will need the Sonos CONNECT or CONNECT:AMP and a couple of pairs of RCA cables.

Since I have a PLAY:1 I went with the Sonos CONNECT, which has a small enough footprint that it doesn’t stand out or take up too much space.

Sonos CONNECT

The Sonos CONNECT and PLAY:1 compliment each other nicely.

Making the connection

If you have a PLAY:5, plug the mini-jack end of the RCA to mini-jack cable into the line-in on the back of the PLAY:5. Connect the RCA ends to your turntable (or preamp or amp). Once it’s connected, select line-in on the Sonos app, drop the needle and you now have vinyl playing through your Sonos system.

RELATED: 4 reasons the new Sonos PLAY:5 will blow you away

If you’re using a Sonos CONNECT or CONNECT:AMP to send audio to a PLAY:1 or PLAY:3 it’s a bit more involved. First, ensure your CONNECT or CONNECT:AMP is properly configured on your home network and you can control it via the Sonos app. Plug your turntable into your preamp or amp then patch that out to the CONNECT or CONNECT:AMP using an RCA cable.

Your CONNECT or CONNECT:AMP should be setup as line-in. When you select line-in from the Sonos app you’ll hear whatever is playing through the CONNECT or CONNECT:AMP on your PLAY:1 or PLAY:3 speakers.

Final thoughts

I love having the ability to play my vinyl via the Sonos system, but I do feel it loses some of that warm feeling vinyl offers. Having limited space in my home though, it’s a great option for me to keep my turntable spinning without tripping over speakers, wires and extra components.

Have a question about hooking up a turntable to a Sonos system? Leave a comment below or over at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Study finds music in the home makes life better

Sonos Music Study

According to a new study, households who listen to music out loud together are more intimate and spend a global average of over three hours of extra quality time together each week. Photo courtesy Sonos.

Want your relationship to be stronger or your family to be happier? Listen to more music out loud at home a new study finds.

Conducted by wireless speaker company Sonos, the Music Makes It Home Study also found that households who listen to music out loud together are more intimate and spend a global average of over three hours of extra quality time together each week.

RELATED: 4 reasons the new Sonos PLAY:5 will blow you away

The study surveyed 30,000 people across eight countries (including 4,000 in Canada) about music and their relationships at home. Thirty households (including four in Canada) were also selected for an in-home experiment that tracked them using Apple Watches, iPhones, iBeacons and motion-activated cameras as they went with no music for a week then had music reintroduced into the home.

When music was played out loud after having no music for a week, 43 per cent of participants reported feeling extremely loved — an 87 per cent increase from the week there was no music at home.

“The truth is people may be sharing a home, but they aren’t sharing much else. Music may be able to change that by bringing everyone back together,” neuroscientist, musician and author Dr. Daniel J. Levitin said in a press release. “This study takes an important step forward in showing how listening to music out loud can enhance relationships at home.”

The study also found that 56 per cent of Canadians who listen to music out loud together have more sex, 87 per cent say doing chores is easier and 28 per cent say they have more meals together. Canadians who listen to music out loud at home also spend an average of 4 hours and 30 minutes of extra time together.

For more information on the Music Makes It Home Study, visit musicmakesithome.com.

Do you feel listening to music out loud at home makes a difference? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Playlist: 25 Christmas songs that probably won’t annoy you

Christmas lights

There’s only a month until Christmas. Are you ready to be overloaded with bad music?

Now that there is exactly one month until Christmas the anxiety of having to finish your shopping, decorate your house, bake cookies, plan the big family dinner and send out invites and RSVPs to gatherings has probably overtaken your soul. It may have, in fact, made you forget about one very annoying thing that comes this time of year that doesn’t always make you feel like being all cheery and kind to others.

You are about to be bombarded with Christmas music for the next four weeks!

That’s right, you will have to endure the pain of jingles and jangles while driving to the mall, shopping at the mall, thinking about the mall, looking up the mall online, watching TV or doing anything that involves leaving your house or turning on a form of communication.

RELATED: You can now get a Charlie Brown Christmas tree of your very own

The problem is the Christmas music at the mall and on TV is mostly the overplayed popular drivel that is cheap to license and easy to repeat 24/7. The good news is that not all Christmas music is bad and some songs are even worthy of year-round listening (“2000 Miles” by The Pretenders for instance).

To help get you through this tough time I put together a playlist of the 25 least annoying Christmas songs I could find. The songs vary from Brian Setzer’s version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and Bob Marley’s cover of “White Christmas” to Death Cab for Cutie’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto”.

Take a listen to the YouTube playlist below. It may just make your Christmas season brighter and more peaceful.

Full track listing:

  1. “A Marshmallow World” – Dean Martin
  2. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – Brian Setzer Orchestra
  3. “Mele Kalikimaka” – Bing Crosby
  4. “Hey Santa Claus” – The Moonglows
  5. “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” – Julian Casablancas
  6. “Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto” – James Brown
  7. “Please Come Home For Christmas” – Bon Jovi
  8. “Blue Christmas” – Elvis Presley
  9. “2000 Miles” – The Pretenders
  10. “Christmastime” – The Smashing Pumpkins
  11. “Fairytale of New York” – The Pogues
  12. “Last Christmas” – Wham!
  13. “Jingle Bell Rock” – Daryl Hall & John Oates
  14. “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” – Bing Crosby & David Bowie
  15. “White Christmas” – Bob Marley
  16. “Christmas Wrapping” – The Waitresses
  17. “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time” – Paul McCartney
  18. “Little Saint Nick” – The Beach Boys
  19. “Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag” – Gary Walker
  20. “Run Rudolph Run” – Chuck Berry
  21. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Death Cab for Cutie
  22. “Let Me Sleep (It’s Christmas Time)” – Pearl Jam
  23. “Santa Baby” – Eartha Kitt
  24. “The Christmas Song” – She & Him
  25. “Christmas Time Is Here” – A Charlie Brown Christmas

What’s your favourite Christmas song? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

4 reasons the new Sonos PLAY:5 will blow you away

Sonos PLAY:5

The all-new Sonos PLAY:5 is available in Canada on Nov. 25.

When Sonos — maker of some of the finest wireless speaker systems on the market — offered to send me the all-new PLAY:5 to test before it was released to the public, I jumped at the chance. This is the mac daddy of their impressive lineup and I wanted to hear it in action in my own home.

After spending a week with it I can safely say the PLAY:5 rocks. Hard! This little bundle of joy is a must-have for music lovers and gadget geeks alike (it’s currently at the top of my Christmas wish list).

Here’s four reasons why the new PLAY:5 will blow you away.

Sleek design

Straight out of the box you will be impressed with the PLAY:5. Like an Apple product, it’s beautifully designed and extremely sleek. There are no buttons to clutter it up and from the front it looks just like a really slick speaker (not an entire stereo system).

Coming in either a white-black or grey-black finish, the tiny footprint (it’s about the size of a toaster) gives you the option of placing it anywhere in your home with an electrical outlet nearby. It can sit horizontal or vertical and because of its smaller design it’s quite easy to move around from room to room.

Ease of use

Setting up the PLAY:5 requires either the desktop or mobile controller app (available for Android and iOS) and a solid WiFi connection (there is an Ethernet port on the back but the point of the PLAY:5 is to be as wireless as possible). I initially used my Samsung Galaxy S4 and had the system up and running within minutes. Going through the process again with the iOS and desktop apps was just as easy.

Once the initial setup was done, playing music through the PLAY:5 was flawless. All services are controlled through the controller app so that there is no need to open individual apps to stream from different sources. And because the PLAY:5 handles the stream itself (not the device you are using to control it) there is no need for any cables to be plugged in or even for your phone, tablet or PC to be turned on once you start streaming something.

I used Spotify, Rdio, Songza and TuneIn Radio (there are many options available, although Apple Music is missing) during my test and was able to control and switch between each service from any device in my home that had the controller app installed. A good example of how this all works is when I got home one day and my son had They Might Be Giants streaming but was outside playing with his friends. I just pulled up the Sonos app on my phone and switched over to something I wanted to listen to instead.

You can also adjust the volume and skip songs via the PLAY:5 itself by touching or swiping the top of the unit (as there are no buttons this took me a little while to discover).

Amazing sound

There are six speakers inside the PLAY:5 unit and everything I streamed on it sounded great. I went through a range of genres and artists (we’re talking Arcade Fire and Public Enemy to Adele and Bob Dylan) and they all came across as if I was listening to them on a huge stereo setup.

You can adjust settings like bass and treble via the controller app, and if you’re using an iOS device you can run Trueplay — a feature that helps tune the PLAY:5 to give you the best sound quality for the room you’re listening to it in.

The true test was when we had people over for a get together though and everyone was impressed the sound was coming from this small device and not my big Denon stereo setup I usually use.

It’s expandable

One of the nicest things about the entire Sonos lineup of wireless speakers is being able to connect multiple units together to create an even larger system. You can have two PLAY:5 units connected (or a PLAY:5 and PLAY:1, etc.) or have the PLAY:5 connected to a PLAYBAR to use as a rear speaker in your home theatre setup.

There is also a line-in which allows you to connect to any device with a line-out (or headphone jack). This can be used to connect a turntable (if your turntable does not have a built-in preamp you will need a device like this) or a CD player to the PLAY:5.

The only real downside I found with the PLAY:5 is that it doesn’t have an optical input. While this is not a deal breaker it would be nice to have.

The new Sonos PLAY:5 is available in Canada on Nov. 25 with a retail price of $549.99. Visit sonos.com for full specs and more information.

Do you use Sonos wireless speakers? Are you interested in the Sonos PLAY:5? Share your thoughts in the comments below.