To catch up anyone who missed the memo - last weekend Victoria was full of entertainment lawyers, award show hosts, industry professionals and musicians for Rifflandia, Breakout West and the Western Canadian Music Awards. Jess and Christine were around shooting the event and here's the re-cap of the best moments. (J - for Jessica, C- for Christine)
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Rococode started the evening off at the Sunset Lounge, to which I had never been before, like many of the makeshift venues Rifflandia expertly puts together. The room was already at capacity and the band performed a whole bunch of new material, as well as some of the favourites that had the packed little room singing along. -C
Sam Weber had the Victoria Events Centre enthralled with his beautiful, bellow-y voice and fantastic band. This was one of the strongest kick-off's I've seen for a festival, it really got the fans and music industry veterans all on the same level of awe and inspiration for the rest of the weekend. -J
Acres Of Lions - The band was scheduled to play two sets this weekend, one with their current drummer, and one with their old one. New music, and old favourites! The venue was packed with a HUGE lineup out front of people wanting to get in to see the hometown band, who played a wicked set (after dealing with a bunch of sound issues). Little room to move meant you got cozy with your neighbours while dancing and singing along. -C
HIGHS came in from Ontario just for the festival, and killed it. I was super excited to hear all the new material live for the first time and only wish they had time to play more! Sunset was still packed, with a lineup outside and the crowd seemed to really enjoy what the band was putting out there, I know I did! -C
Ben Rogers brought his lonely, outlawed cowboy act to Studio CMCT for a bluesy night. The studio was a strange place for the country set, but Rogers' stacked band and fresh new tunes pulled it off. -J
JPNSGRLS played an impressively charged 18-song set at the Sunset Lounge, leaving no one standing still. The stage took up about 1/4 of the tiny bar, and Charlie Kerr and band used every inch to dance, jump, crawl, lurk, slither around and melt everyone's faces off. I hadn't seen them in a few years, and in that time the band has developed songwriting and stage presence unlike any other transition I've seen. The garage rock has taken a new life and the hard work the band's put in paid off in spades. -J
I love JPNSGRLS, and this show proved why: 18 songs? That's a crazy set. I was sad that I had to run away early to go see The Matinee (turns out they were running behind at Dukes, so I didn't), but I knew I'd have another chance to see them later in the weekend. -C
The Matinée closed out the Thursday night award party for the Country Music award at the WCMA's. The party went until last call at The Duke Saloon. Even though their reputation for getting a party going precedes them, the band's first set of the weekend was somehow extra exciting. The sound quality was good, the beers were cold and the dance floor was hot, and the band was unstoppable. Although every member had their time to shine, a lot of the old bag of stage tricks was left out of this set - rock and roll with no bells and whistles. -J
I'm bummed the venue was running behind because it meant a shortened set by one of my favourite Vancouver bands. But, like Jess said above, it was one hell of a party/sing-along/dance off. -C
The Dears - The first day of the shows in Royal Athletic Park started on Friday, and I kicked it off with The Dears. Their set was great, though I'm sure if they were at an inside/nighttime venue I might have enjoyed it even more. They performed in Vancouver as well and Kirk did a big revue of that show, so you should read that. -C
Jazz Cartier - I thought this was going to be jazz. I was wrong. -C
Arkells - I listened to A Tribe Called Red, while hiding from the rain, and warming up (physically) for the Arkells set, as they graciously let me run around the stage the whole time to get some awesome photos (and video) of the performance. They seamlessly took over Chromeo's slot (who had to cancel due to a stomach bug) and the crowd ate it up, singing back every word and dancing their butts off. I will never, ever, tire of seeing these gents live...outstanding. -C
Carmanah - I missed BESTiE & Chersea to shoot the entirety of the Arkells set, but made it to Anian (which I'm still sure is pronounced this way) for Carmanah in time. This small (I repeat, SMALL) backyard venue was packed over every inch of floor space (and garden space for one girl) and was rocking. Local favs Carmanah had the crowd grooving and swaying, and totally ignoring the fact that we were outside getting rained on. The booze might have helped in that department too. -C
Bend Sinister - I've seen a lot of this band lately, and I'm not sick of 'em yet! The energy they bring, even in a rain storm, is infectious, and the crowd ate it up. While the story of the weekend came at their other show, they can say they were the only band to have two people taken out on stretchers during their set time. Oh, and Joseph put a watermelon hat on that these guys had been wearing around during the weekend. It was pretty awesome. -C
I spent the entire evening at the breathtaking Alix Goolden Hall, both to avoid having to wander around the in the rain, and for the dream line-up for Towers and Trees, Jay Malinowski & the Deadcoast, and the favourite back-to-back combo of the festival: Chad VanGaalen & Hayden. The T&T set was more musically challenging and technical than I'd seen them before, likely because it was being recorded. "Montreal" of course had it's cheeky imprudence, and some of the new music from their upcoming The West Coast had the same come-hither writing & sultry sound. Malinowski played the standard set he's developed from his last year's release Martel and it sounded good as ever. I've dubbed the sound "bi-coastal blues" because it's a bit tedious to constantly refer to it as "vintage sailor songs, family history and biographies, accordion-driven bar ballads and mixed-geographical inspirations." Vince Vaccaro even joined him for the last tune, in which the Deadcoast (backing string trio) also joined for shiver-inducing harmonies.
The CVG&H combo was as dreamy as it sounds. There's a fine line between psychedelic rock that's engaging and emotionally stirring,(CVG & a few others) and drawl and boring (the rest). Shrink Dust and CVG's show are an inviting experience, bringing the best weirdness and fresh, layered songwriting to the stage. Hayden was up next in this one-two-punch of soft, entrancing Canadian indie rock. Of all of the acts of the weekend, I found Hayden's was the most poetic - driven by lyrics and his perfect touch on the keys.
I did in the end step out for the second half in order to catch Shred Kelly next door at Wood Hall - a decision I stand by, as they were equally as enticing but in a whole other way. For a dry venue, Wood Hall was bouncing like any club on a Friday night, the banjo rocked as hard as any electric guitar, especially for fan favourite "The Bear." -J
I accidentally stuck my head into the wrong venue and ended up seeing Plants & Animals for a few minutes, and then ran around the corner to the Wood Hall for some Shred Kelly. I was having too much fun dancing at to leave in time to see Chad VanGaalen, but as you see above, Jess was there. I caught Hayden as well, which always makes my heart happy, and the added bonus of the beautiful venue that is Alix Goolden Hall was amazing. I honestly can't even recall where I went after that, but there are no more photos from that night so I'm pretty sure it was the after party (which was VERY fun). -C
[Note: I went down HARD today. I got a wasp sting on my thigh halfway through the afternoon and just sulked around with ice and beer and good company until Tokyo Police Club. Good thing there were two of us! Thanks Jess. -C]
Kiesza was the powerhouse of the festival, joining the ranks of unforgettable past female favourites Dragonette, Metric and more. She brought back the art of back-up dancers, and watching her was exhausting and exhilarating. Although I was only familiar with the radio hits "Hideaway" & "Sound of a Woman" I couldn't help but keep her tunes bumping the rest of the festival - she was my take-away favourite of the weekend. The clean-cut dance pop tied the thoughtfully choreographed physical dance with the music making it twice the show with half the on-stage members as any typical band. There's no question that I'll be seeing her next time she tours in my area. -J
Modest Mouse has been a long-time favourite band of mine, and although seeing them headline one of my favourite festivals sounds like a dream come true, I have to say I'm sad it was not. The show was great, memorable and fulfilling in the sense that they sounded great, but it was just too underwhelming. The mix of old and new songs and pumped-up band are what I'd expect from any indie band on tour, but for the headliners they were lacking a certain wow-factor. They dutifully finished the set, and I left quickly to catch the night acts without really feeling a sense of relief or awe. "Float On," "3rd Planet," and "Dashboard" made everyone join, singing the sad and morbid tunes that Modest Mouse does so well in unison, but in terms of highlights the rest of the festival definitely picked up the slack. -J
Boreal Sons filled the gap of soft, artistic indie folk of the night with the rhodes-driven music. With so many new songs on deck, the synth-y folk came across as organic and improvisational, but not chaotic. -J
Leisure Cruise was also a lovely surprise, with high entertainment and artistic value for the live performance - and high nostalgic value for the line-up including Bran Van 3000's Dave Hodge. The music was fun and "Double Digit Love" is about as catchy as music gets. The band was one of the best backing bands around, and the result was a highly under-attended highlight of the festival. -J
Tokyo Police Club - Somehow I pulled myself together and hobbled over to the main stage to shoot Ontario's Tokyo Police Club. These guys have so much energy, and it was nice to hear the new material live again (as I hadn't seen them since SVMF last year). I wish I had more details but my brain was all hazy from the sting, I do remember it was good, and why wouldn't it be? TPC is awesome. -C
JPNSGRLS - This was one of my favourite shows of the entire weekend. The boys brought SO much energy and it was POURING rain, and once again we were outside in the Anian backyard. You wouldn't have known it from the crowd though, they were so into it, singing back to Charlie, and dancing their butts off while their beer cups filled with water from the sky.-C
The Wet Secrets - It was at this point that everything hit me, the exhaustion from the day/wasp attack, masking the pain with delicious Phillips beer, and the cold from the rain, but there was NO WAY I was going to miss The Wet Secrets. I took a page from my favourite song of theirs and got my 'shit together'. It was still raining and the poor band has so many members they barely all fit under the the tent, but the set went off without a hitch. Seriously, if you haven't seen these guys live, you need to do so ASAP.
It was at this point that I made the mistake of saying that I was going to go take a nap and then rally for more shows including Bend Sinister and Acres Of Lions part deux. Needless to say, I woke up the next morning with tales of epic shows that moved from inside to the street, and of rock star bass players busting their knee on stage, but finishing the set. Point is, never give in to sleep (or get stung by a wasp). -C
Hollerado - Family breakfast and dog walks led to heading to the park a little late, but just in time to see Ontario's own Hollerado! The band came out in onesies (see photos!), and to my delight, they had Anne Douris, of Stella Ella Ola, up there as well. The favourites were played, the hits were played, the new material was played and a good time was had. Then the clouds parted and a double rainbow appeared. -C
Mother Mother - Last up for the fest was Mother Mother. Somehow I always manage to see them when they're closing out festivals, and I'm unable to stay. I caught the first three songs, which the crowd went crazy for, and then hauled it out of there in order to get ready for the Western Canadian Music Awards. One day I'll manage to see a full MM set, but in the meantime, there are some photos up there. -C
HUGE congratulations to all of the Western Canadian Music Awards winners! It was an awesome evening of shows, much deserved awards, hilarity in the form of Grant Lawrence, and beautiful musicians dressed up in their fanciest clothes that they brought over to the festival.
Thanks to Rifflandia and Break Out West for having us, honestly one of the best festivals in BC, if not Canada. We can't wait until next year (but are grateful we have time to rest).
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