Rifflandia is More than Just Killer Bands

The Elwins
The Elwins

The Rifflandia festival venue, Royal Athletic Park, has been transformed from an athletic park into a two staged utopia for music enthusiasts. Friday was the first day that performances took place at the park, and as a foreboding gray sky loomed overhead, people from all walks of life, while hoping to avoid the promise of rain, familiarized themselves with all that the festival grounds had to offer.

Which was a lot.

Kidlandia was set up for the youngsters in the crowd. This was a discreet section of the park tailored to offer kids more than just music to keep them occupied. There was a pitch and putt, a photo board for small faces to appear in, a sandbox, a mini wooden truck to sit in and various crafts to keep the small people industriously entertained.

And then, of course, there was a great variety of food trucks offering all manner of foods, including organic burgers, caribbean wraps, tacos, wood-fired pizza, poutine and mini donuts, to name but a few. Libations spanned from Phillips beer to Mike’s Hard drinks and Merridale cider and, of course, the usual suspects – coffee, tea, soda pop and organic juice.

In addition to all of this, there were several festival booths around the perimeter of the grounds offering quite an eclectic selection of goods and services. Anyone in need of a haircut could visit either the barber’s booth or the hair stylists’ booth. Clothing, jewelry, art, artists’ merchandise and many other items were available for purchase.

Now, as for the music, Bomba Estéreo, an electro-pop band from Bogotá, Colombia, was commanding the main stage by mid-afternoon. Though the crowd hadn’t reached capacity, those that were in attendance were totally captivated by not only the funky techno beats, that reverberated through your body like a heartbeat out of control, but also the onstage presence of lead singer, Li Saumet, who was fabulously adorned in black with a shawl of white and gold feathers. Though all the lyrics were in Spanish, the songs transcended language and spoke to the audience on a more primal level.

Then came The Elwins on the rifftop tent. Talk about moving from one genre to another. The Elwins is pop band of four and their music has a happy sheen to it. At times a bit be-boppy and others more pop rock, their songs sound cheerful and polished. You might get away with calling them a modern day Beatles mixed with The Rolling Stones. Or you might not. Either way, their music is catchy and will lift you into a good mood if you’re not already in one. That is, of course, unless you pay closer attention to the lyrics, which you’ll find often have a darker undertone. This band has a unique way of delivering light and dark together, kind of like a candy-coated bitter pill…

Moving from polished pop to gritty rock, next up was X Ambassadors back on the main stage. These guys, from Ithaca, New York, were a crowd favourite. And with good reason. With pop rock songs that pulled at the heartstrings, such as Renegades and Unsteady, this band held onto its listeners in with catchy beats, riveting lyrics and fantastic showmanship. Vocalist Sam Harris played to the crowd, making everyone feel included and welcomed. Some bands just have “it”; that thing that makes them stand apart. That thing that defies words. X Ambassadors is one of those bands.