It was a soft rock Sunday to close out the fourth annual installment of the Phillips Backyard Weekender. The third and final day of the outdoor festival at Phillips Brewery was expected to draw the largest crowd of the weekend, selling out weeks in advance thanks to the inclusion of the uber-popular headliners Bahamas and Milky Chance. Buoyed by ideal weather – an ideal mix of sun and cloud, a cool island breeze and zero threat of rain – festival-goers arrived early to enjoy the afternoon’s supporting performances.
Carmanah – Photo by Lindsey Blane
First up was local folk quartet Carmanah, fronted by singer and fiddler Laura Mina Mitic, who co-founded the group with guitarist Pat Ferguson back in 2011. Along with bassist Cody Alan Gregory and drummer Steve Biggs, Carmanah delivered an eclectic folk performance that incorporated elements of blues, rock and reggae, and employed superb four-part vocal harmony and unique instrumentation, including a lap-slide guitar. The band played a mix of tunes from both their debut album Out of the Woodwork and their latest release, Roots, closing their set with the title track.
Second to the stage was Old Man Canyon, the brainchild of Vancouver singer-songwriter Jett Pace. His contemplative brand of indie rock has a poppy, dreamlike appeal that lends itself to placid introspection and autonomous head-bobbing. Joined onstage by his touring band, drummer Josh Contant, bassist Alex Dobson, and keyboardist Andrew Rasmussen, Pace regaled the crowd with several tracks off his latest release Delirium, and delighted with a stirring cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.”
Next up were Seattle-based garage rockers Pickwick, making their first appearance in Victoria in more than three years. As lead singer Galen Disston pointed out, their last visit – for a gig at Lucky Bar – was quite eventful, with their guitar player at the time meeting his future wife at that show and eventually leaving the band. Since that time, Pickwick has been back at work in the studio, recently finishing their latest album, expected to drop early next year. The band, which features Michael Parker on guitar, Garrett Parker on bass, Cassady Lillstrom on keyboards and Alex Westcoat on drums, gave us a sneak preview of a few of their new songs, as well as some previous hits, including “Hacienda Motel” and “Lady Luck.” The latter track featured some terrific falsetto work by Disston, whose rootsy croon injects some serious R&B flavour into the band’s soulful take on indie rock.
The second-to-last performer of the night was acclaimed Toronto-based musician Afie Jurvanen, better known as the Juno-award winning Bahamas. Joined by his touring band, including drummer Jason Tait and backing vocalist Felicity Williams, Bahamas expanded our summertime state of mind with his folksy surf pop vibe. You could tell Afie was enjoying himself in front of the Phillips crowd, as he cracked jokes and at one point broke into a half cover of Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” Bahamas’ quirky variety of soft rock served as a through line for the entire day’s lineup.
Set to wind down a conspicuously tranquil finale of this year’s Backyard Weekender was German electro-folk duo Milky Chance. Most people became aware of singer/guitarist Clemens Rehbein and DJ Philipp Dausch as a result of their viral megahit “Stolen Dance”, the video for which has racked up more than 250 million views since it was uploaded to YouTube in April 2013.
Supported on tour by guitarist/harmonica player Antonio Greger, the group kept the crowd swaying with an intermingling of low-octane beats and serene guitar strumming. And as they neared the end of their hour-long set, the first few notes of “Stolen Dance” elicited a massive round of cheers, followed by a couple thousand people dancin’ on and doin’ the boogie all night long, stoned (or not) in paradise.
And that’s a wrap on the Phillips Backyard Weekender 2016!