Rifflandia is an eccentric festival that turned four this year which takes place throughout my hometown of Victoria, BC. This year’s lineup included De La soul, Broken Social Scene, Mother Mother, The Cave Singers, Besnard Lakes, The Pack AD, Sage Francis, Lyrics Born and a whole other overabundance of gorgeous and diverse talent.
The festival is special for the local focus and the sense of community created when the event occurs and the audacity of how many venues are involved that open their doors to the intimate abyss at night. The new festival grounds, which create an alternate universe right there in the neighbourhood were the headliners, beer tents, cinema and art studios hang out. These are just a few examples of what makes this urban festival authentic.
There is no possible way to catch all of the acts at Rifflandia as after 8 five acts play in different venues simultaneously with an hour slot. That said, choosing the venue that best suits your desires is key, on Thursday night (due to the abundance of excitement) my lovely crew and I decided to stick to D.J’s purely and experience the ethereal sounds of the intoxicating Tokimonsta, who kicked things off nice and sexy. The Californian sultry DJ kept things easy yet vivacious through the work of her alarmingly electric presence. Up next was Eskmo who integrates all things appropriately strange into his electronic music. The two played for just an hour each but the experience seemed to take the audience to another world which we belonged to for the duration of the festival. That’s the thing about strong electronic music – contrary to popular belief, you don’t need drugs.
Day two highlights consisted of Broken Social Scene which was no surprise. I have been a B.S.S fan for several years with particular soft spots for “You Forgot it in People” and “Feel Good Lost”, luckily for me the concert consisted of this material almost entirely. Their sound is ethereal and uplifting with an astringent haunting quality. This makes them one of the strongest Canadian bands out there. They almost had to be kicked off the main stage in which they played for three hours. B.S.S. were proud, loud and consoling. A sobering experience as the sun went down and led me on a wonderful path to the rest of my night which consisted of the broken poet Sage Francis who was alarmingly honest and brave. The Smokey bar lit up his fierce eyes that shot out beams of reflection on mistakes and compassion towards a bright future with a sense of spine and individuality.
On day three I found myself jolting to the set of Funk Hunters with consuming excitement, they penetrated beams of funk into everyone’s body and sent us for a truly memorable dance party. The only communication among the audience was the flailing and petting of arms as words became instantaneously futile as everybody was experience a serious episode of ass shaking.
Up next were a highlighted highlight with the truly resonating Lance Herbstong. Founding members Kamai Soloman and Bill Sarver perfect the art of turntablism along with the ostensibly talented Peter Distefanso who were joined with the percussion ensemble of Thievery Cooperation. As good is this sounds, it sounded even better live as the true talent erupted onstage through the communication and sheer presence of each member. Founding member and former guitar player for Porno for Pyros, Distefano, wailed on his Les Paul seemlingly effortlessly in a way that is best absorbed live. I was lucky enough to have a face to face with Mr. DiStefano who shared buckets of honesty and modesty. This included his current abstemiousness after battling a heroin addiction and serious illness. Sobriety looks good on him as his eyes shine for miles and words reverberate profoundly.
Up next were the sludgy Suuns, fledging from Montreal. This was a sit on the floor experience to not miss a second of the four piece attack their instruments and create distortion beyond recognition. Followed by the never-disappointing Pack AD from just over the pond. The two gals are the embodiments of rock and roll. There new material is bluesier than the last and I definitely dig, they shook up the all ages venue inspiring everyone to get up off their seats and feel the vibrations in the floor.
The next day was a fantastic ode to Hip Hop with some of the pioneers: Blackalicious and De La motherfucking Soul. Blackalicious was an airless and lithe experience contributing to one of the best dance parties ever. Mastering the art of M.C ing (I counted the words “What up Victoria” beyond two hands), strong rapping and dance inspiring beats.
De La have not lost a single spark of playing at some point within four decades. They are the real deal always have been. From sampling, styling and free styling De La Soul not only make great albums they present fantastic shows.
By the end of the weekend I had a dozen new bruises from banging up against the stage, a dozen new friends and a dozen new memories that are at the top of my musical spank bank.