Every September the streets of Victoria take on an electric feel, thanks to Rifflandia Music Festival, a multi-day music festival in its sixth year. By day, throngs of people head for the outdoor stages at Royal Athletic Park, home of the HarbourCats, the local baseball team, and at night the sidewalks are busy with people moving from show to show. Without a doubt, the best part about Rifflandia is the sheer variety of musical acts and venues, split between family friendly day time park shows and night shows at a dozen different clubs, theatres and even the large lot behind local beer brewery Phillips.
This year, the daytime shows at Royal Athletic Park were split between the large Main Stage and the smaller, covered Rifftop Tent. While the Main Stage hosted big acts like the infamous Courtney Love, the ensemble of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and the can’t-resist-dancing hip hop of Big Boi, the Rifftop Tent had its share of incredible energy, such as husband-and-wife duo Matt and Kim, whose blisteringly energetic show climaxed in Kim climbing over her drum kit and walking across the outstretched hands of the crowd. Weather can be an issue at any outdoor event, so when rain started falling on the Sunday of the festival, the Rifftop Tent became the perfect hideaway.
In particular, the daytime activities at Royal Athletic Park were surprisingly family oriented, as children under 10 were admitted to the festival for free and could enjoy the kid-friendly games and activities at Kidlandia. A cluster of food trucks provided sustenance for hungry music lovers, with choices ranging from tacos to samosas to wood fired pizza. On the Rifflandia Main Street, one could shop for clothing from Victoria shops, get a haircut by donation or check out short films and art from local artists at Artlandia.
Once the music at the park wrapped for the day, concert goers walked the short distance into downtown Victoria, where all kinds of music could be found at a variety of venues. Interested in acoustic guitar and soaring vocals in a beautiful setting? The cavernous Alix Goolden Hall provided a perfect backdrop, with an enormous organ, stained glass window and curved balcony seating. Craving a late night dance party? Victoria nightclubs like Lucky Bar and Sugar played host to a rotating cast of DJs, while the open air Market Square provided an all ages dance space. Local and up-and-coming bands could be seen at intimate spots like the Copper Owl, a retro lounge located over local landmark Paul’s Motor Inn, and the minimally decorated CMCT Studio. The “backyard” of Phillips Brewery acted as a night time beer garden, with staff swiftly pouring beers brewed on location, and acts such as James Murphy and Souls of Mischief providing the soundtrack.
I was lucky this year to be a part of Rifflandia’s social media team, meaning I was at the festival from start to finish every day. Every morning I scanned my soon to be tattered copy of the festival schedule, highlighting the bands I wanted to see. At night, I loved having the option to walk or bike from venue to venue, catching all different kinds of shows. The friendly atmosphere of the park was reflected in the infectious smiles of concert-goers, and it was great having easy access to food (and beer!) while I enjoyed the music. The amazing energy of the festival was easy to see at night too, as people strolled from venue to venue. It was great to see my city come alive, united by music.
My favourite Rifflandia highlight? Without a doubt it was Kid Koala, whose high energy, interactive performance at Alix Goolden Hall was unlike anything I’d ever seen. As his fingers skipped across his turntables, his “assistants”, dressed in retro airline uniforms, passed around trays of paper airplanes so that the audience could fill the air with zipping white planes– I couldn’t stop smiling. After a show like that, I can’t wait to see what happens next year!
Festivals & Events in British Columbia