Officially tapped for a fifth straight year, the return of the Phillips Backyard Weekender brings three days of bands, beers, and webmeister Bud festival hair sightings to Phillips Brewery & Malting Co. in Victoria. Festival organizers Atomique Productions have assembled an eclectic lineup of local, domestic and imported acts this year, and while we’ll see everything from reggae and rock to hip hop and mariachi, the through line for the weekend is genuine summer fun, and we’re confident that the final pour will be a crisp, clean summer brouhaha with notes of awesomeness.
A new wrinkle for 2017 is the addition of the “Picnic-er” on Discovery Street, which includes a smaller second stage at ANIÁN Yard and a row of food trucks and picnic tables where festival-goers can grab and bite and take a break from the proceedings. Atomique’s first go-around at closing Discovery Street between Government and Store was for the creation of Electric Avenue at 2016’s Rifflandia Festival. This created a cool street festival vibe, so we’re happy to see it return for the Backyard Weekender.
Day one of the festival kicked off at 4:30 pm on Friday with Edmonton’s The Velveteins. The spacey psych-rock trio performed to a regrettably sparse early crowd. Fortunately, they would get a second opportunity to perform later in the evening at the festival’s official after show at Sugar Nightclub. Also slated for that after show was Seattle’s 8-piece funk orchestra The Polyrhythmics, who followed The Velveteins on the Phillips stage. While some extended sound-checking issues caused a 15-minute delay in starting their set, this turned out to be a boon, as the crowd had grown during the delay and were clamouring for some groovy beats. The Polyrhythmics delivered just that and the weekend party had formally begun.
There was a lot of buzz around the main stage’s third act, Washington, DC rapper Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, better known by his stage name, Oddisee. A veteran of the underground hip hop scene, Oddisee’s style harkens back to the golden era of East Coast hip hop, and he clearly had his share of fans in the audience. The Sudanese-American MC blended highly technical vocal skill with conscious and uplifting lyrics to tremendous effect. Safe to say the Backyard was 100% on board for this Oddisee.
Jamaican reggae and dancehall star Junior Reid (the one-time frontman of Black Uhura) distributed some distinctly heady island vibes with his penultimate set, and Orange County’s Common Kings closed out the night by introducing Victoria to their buoyant blend of rock, reggae, and R&B.
Days 2 and 3 of the festival feature an earlier start and bigger lineups. First up, a sun-filled Saturday with a big-name headliner: Cake!