Arguably the 900 lb gorilla of Victoria festivals, the 8th year of Rifflandia saw over 20 stages showcasing more than 150 artists — almost 70 of those courtesy of the BreakOut West music conference — and some crazy crowds at the flagship venue, Royal Athletic Park (especially for the daily headliners).
With the addition of BreakOut West, which featured industry panels throughout the festival and the Western Canadian Music Awards to cap it all off, this seemed like a much busier fest for us Rocktographers, with our team of four running around much like headless chickens, trying to catch many artists at various night venues spread around the downtown core once the park shows had concluded each day.
Inside the park, the daily dress-up themes (Fruity Friday, Caturday, Sundye Tiedye) were well-adopted, and the family-friendliness of the park brought plenty of littles (free if they were 10 or under) into the happy atmosphere, with lots to see, eat, and play with.
This year was the first time that festival goers really learned about the word “capacity.” Most night venues quickly swelled to full and stayed that way all night. People were camping out for acts like Gay Nineties, Carmanah, Towers and Trees, Acres of Lions, and Shred Kelly. Strangely, the night venues at Phillips Backyard and Capital Iron felt slower and emptier than previous years, despite quality acts like Jazz Cartier, A Tribe Called Red, Jillionaire, and Flatbush Zombies.
Capacity issues didn’t only affect the night venues; it continued at Royal Athletic Park, most notably on Saturday night, when Modest Mouse was headlining. The line of people waiting to get in wrapped around the block. This speaks to the size to which the festival has grown and the acts it’s bringing in these days. Internal infrastructure in the park also hit peak capacity when there were over twenty minute waits for the very limited porta-potties onsite. You can only hold it so long.
The addition of BreakOut West meant that many bands played multiple times at different venues, which felt like a throwback to Rifflandias past. Getting to see bands like Edmonton’s The Wet Secrets two nights in a row was a real treat. Plus, they gave Rocktographers a shout out each time starting off their sets. As you might imagine, we heart them over here.
What was really surprising with the night venues was Victoria’s dedication to supporting our local acts. After several power issues at their venue, Acres of Lions decided to bring the party to the street. As well as the hundreds of people who were there just to see Acres, Carmanah had a lineup of over hundred people waiting to get into the Copper Owl, and The Archers played their final show to a packed Studio CMCT.
Back at Royal Athletic Park, Friday’s headliner Chromeo called in sick, but Arkells stepped up to the plate. They even learned a Chromeo song that day and performed it during their encore before diving into their mega-hit Leather Jacket.
It was the bands earlier in the day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday which really shone past the headliners. Jazz Cartier throwing water into the crowd (and photo pit), Kieza’s amazing dance moves, Big Data’s Siri voice guiding the audience through their enjoyment of the show, Hollerado’s full-body footie PJ jumping, and Jesse Roper’s . . . Jesse Ropering.
Arguably the biggest headliner to grace Rifflandia was Modest Mouse. There isn’t much bigger in the modern rock world these days. This is a band that routinely headlines festivals like Sasquatch and Coachella. The larger-than-life band focused mainly on their albums Good News For People Who Like Bad News and onward, but slipped in a few older fan favourites like Dramamine.
Almost like tradition, Mother Mother capped off the Sunday night at the park. The band has become a mainstay of the festival and almost an alarm clock for reality. As their well-crafted set goes on, you realize more and more that the whirlwind weekend which is Rifflandia is coming to a close. That day jobs and responsibility are only an night’s sleep away. That the party has to stop sometime.
And stop it did, but not before one of the most grand celebrations of music this city has seen. Rifflandia is not only a beacon to the world of how to execute a large-scale, professional music festival, but it shows that talent both internationally-famous and locally-famous deserve to share the stage, because talent isn’t bound by geography.