Victoria’s Rifflandia art and music festival was the perfect chaperone, offering the killer day line-up we anticipated, guiding us towards discoveries, showing us some unexpected aural treats and letting us free to roam the gamut of night shows. Summer stuck around a while longer for Royal Athletic Park and eight night venues to host more than a hundred bands from Sept.13–16.
DJ Shadow reigned as electronic king at Market Square on the first night, oiling up Rifflandians for the rest of the weekend. Highlights throughout the rest of the festival were myriad. Reggie Watts laced his offbeat flavour of comedic improvisation with beatboxing, keyboard riffs and vocal loops, creating songs that hailed Canada and its health care. The Dudes’ set was a crowd surfer’s paradise, as out-of-control awesome as lead singer Dan Vacon’s beard. The Head and the Heart closed its set with “Rivers and Roads,” vocalist and violinist Charity Rose Thielen commanding attention as she sang over the band’s crisp harmonies.
And The Lips. The Flaming Lips. A kaleidoscope of confetti and balloons were pumped into the air in droves as lead singer Wayne Coyne traversed the crowd in his human-sized hamster ball. Rolling lasers, oversized foam hands and psyched-out video clips held the crowd rapt — it took coaxing from Coyne to bring the appreciative claps to applause at more worthy volumes. An extended rendition of “Do you realize?” ended the Sept. 14 show, leaving the crowd in hazy euphoria as even more confetti exploded overhead.
Yes, Rifflandia 5 was all it was expected to be, and then some.
Approximately 5500 attendees came through the gates at Royal Athletic Park each of the days, and night passes sold out as Victorians saw music staples and discovered new favourites.
And it wasn’t just about the audio indulgences: local vendors and Phillips craft brews left us as satiated with goods as we were by the shows. In fact, the festival — true to Victoria’s collaborative nature — included local stores, artists and causes. The War Child Lounge hosted intimate acoustic sets in support of war-affected children around the world. Local artists’ livestock posters were featured as creative representations of band merchandise at Artlandia, the art portion of Rifflandia. Young Rifflandians weren’t forgotten, either. Kidlandia offered craft tables and face painting for the blossoming music lovers.
The local comforts mixed with a bit of star-struck unfamiliarity, especially when musicians could be spotted watching fellow headliners. Coyne watched Band of Skulls play a solid set from side stage, and Saul Williams watched Sloan play the 1994 album <i>Twice Removed</i> in its entirety (which missed some of their popular tracks but pleased long-time fans).
Whether the shows were homegrown or international imports, energy was high. Nova Scotian Rich Aucoin vaulted the stage fences and landed in the early afternoon dance party that he kicked off with reverb vocals and pounding beats. Bright Light Social Hour brought weighty rock rhythms up from Texas (lead singer A.J. Vincent slammed the keys and let out a jaw-dropping wail during “Detroit”). Djembes and sitar riffs featured in Jinja Safari’s Royal Athletic Park show, bringing Australian tastes to Victoria.
Vancouver staple Mother Mother wrapped up Rifflandia on Sunday night and proved its sing-along status among the West Coast festival crowd, playing popular pop songs that will echo until music festival season comes ‘round again next year.