Year 5 was a big one for Rifflandia. With artists such as The Flaming Lips, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Band of Skulls, Reggie Watts, and Cake, future years’ lineups would be difficult to top.

But year 5 was special to me as my first exposure to Rich Aucoin. An unassuming Halifaxian (is that what they call them?), Rich arrived to the mainstage at Royal Athletic Park Friday afternoon (on his birthday, no less) with a decidedly different setup: it was him, a projection screen, two live drummers, and a mish mash of sampling gear.

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Rich sings to preproduced tracks (supported by his drummers) and tends to prefer not being onstage, instead making his way directly into the crowd to sing with them, at their level.

The result is a very honest, intimate performace, while still being very upbeat and happy.

Rich is so much about audience participation that, before most songs, he takes the audience through a call and answer of some of his lyrics, so they’ll be prepared to sing along when the time is right. After a few practice runs, he sets off his next backing track, jumps off the stage, and is in the crowd again.

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Crowd participation ranges from singing simple phrases to shouting chants, crouching down to jumping on the beat.

Which made those present at the War Child Lounge the next morning a little perplexed as to how things were going to shake out.

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The War Child Lounge is a separately-ticketed series of stripped-down and mainly acoustic Rifflandia performances held in The Atrium, a beautifully-designed seven-storey office building with a central court in the centre of it all, lit perfectly by the diffused sunlight coming in from its skylights.

The wooden architecture, inside trees, and elevator pond set a calming mood, the acoustics are superb, and the general mood is hushed and serene. Everyone sits to watch Atrium performances, and claps politely after each song.

NOBODY sat for Rich Aucoin’s performance (he wouldn’t hear of it), and there was sweat (and, that one time, Rich’s blood) on the floor after it was all over.

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Absent were his projection screen and drummers but, other than that, this was exactly the level of show we’d been treated to in the park. He didn’t bring his hand-pumped confetti cannons to The Atrium, but he did bring his signature audience participation item: the preschool parachute.

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What better way to encourage people to have fun then to throw a gigantic rainbow from their childhood over their heads?

Rich’s unconventionally energetic performance in a generally quiet spot might sound like the kind of thing which would result in a ban on appearing in such a space again but, two years later, Rich was back in the Atrium for the 2014 edition of the War Child Lounge.

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His performance that year was just as electric, just as incredible, and it spawned so many great photographs that it brought on a rare rule-bending at the following year’s YYJ Rocktographers’ gallery showcase.

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Where photos of any given artist are generally limited to one appearance, YYJ 2015 featured The Rich Aucoin Wall.

Rocktographers and fans alike await Rich’s return to Rifflandia, or YYJ in general. We love him like we loved preschool.

Until Richlandia, though, be sure to catch him with The Elwins on Saturday, November 14 at Distrikt Nightclub, just announced today!

Tickets are only $15.00 in advance at Lyle’s Place and starting at 10:00 am on Friday, September 18. If you love rainbows, we will see you there.