The sky was crisp and the weekend was sprawled out in front of me. A solo music weekend in Victoria was just what the doctor ordered after a long six-day work week. Time to shed my employee state-of-mind and let the Rifflandia Festival vibes worm their way into my dancing bones. Not a tall task considering the first two sets of the night were being spun by the grooviest, disco-fueled DJs of the festival – Pat Mahoney and James Murphy.
The Phillipps Brewery is located on the far side of town; a 20-minute walk from where I was resting my bones for the weekend. Outside looking in, the venue looked small, but the long queue outside suggested a different case once inside. This was the show of the night, and was evident by the large gathering of ravers in the brewery’s backyard. What better way to kick off the weekend than with a backyard dance party?
This show was no different than any other; taking everyone quite a while to shake their shyness off on the dancefloor. But, with enough booze and party favours the floor was a pool of knee bends and shoulder twists in only a few minutes. Insane smiles stamped on the faces of those too tight to give a damn. Meanwhile, Pat Mahoney and James Murphy were taking control of the party vibes on stage. They were the music messiahs for two hours. Calm, Cool, and Collected was the name of the game behind the booth. One would turn around and filter through some records while the other watched the decks. Once a record was chosen, by either James or Pat, they would turn around, remove the sleeve and share a casual laugh like only old friends can. They were enjoying themselves just as much as the sea of glowing lights. This was a good ol’ fashioned boogie with some classic artists being featured (Bill Withers and Paul Simon to name a few). Combined, the two sets ran for over two hours, and, regretfully, I was forced to leave a bit early from Mr. Murphy’s set to catch the next show – Mykki Blanco.
With the venues spread out all over town, concert-goers have to plan their night’s route with care. Although most of the venues are within a few blocks from each other, they can fill up quick so best make it early or risk missing out. Walking down the streets of downtown Victoria, it was easy to tell who was attending this year’s Rifflandia by the purpose in their step. The chameleon onesies and glow-stick bracelets helped them stand out too.
I walked into Club 9One9 with high hopes of witnessing something I’ve never seen before. I was excited to feel a little uncomfortable. A gender illusionist and rapper, Mykki Blanco is at the forefront of a new type of sub-genre of rap. A mix of gay and gangster culture smooshed into a weird package. A package sporting a white garter and pink pantyhose.
But first, Psycho Egyptian hit the stage with a lackluster 10-minute set. I think most people were expecting Mykki right off the bat and were thrown off by his supporting act. The energy was low, the sound was horrible, and the performance wasn’t any better. People were leaning into ears around the room whispering about the performance. The air was heavy and the room smelled awkward. Not a good sign. Boychild was up next and gave us a little more of the weird that was expected. Dressed in a white skirt, some white paint (done in straight lines over her chest, face, and belly) and her signature flashing hand and mouth lights. She moved in slow, jerky movements in unison with the music and the flashy lights, but it wasn’t really for me. I came to 9One9 for some queer gangster rap not an aztec light show. But, for what it’s worth, I still thought it had some merits as a performance art piece.
Mykki Blanco burst onto the stage right after Boychild wrapped up her song (a remix of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name”) in his garter, pantyhose and hip-length hair. His intensity matches his outrageous outfits. A true performer through to his core. He almost looked possessed onstage, rolling his eyes into the back of his head and throwing his arms over the mic stand like a transgender Jesus Christ. He was popping, locking and zombie-walking all over the small stage. About halfway through his set, he jumped off the stage and shook up the crowd by jumping down to the floor and whipping up a storm with his hair. This ramped up the energy, and fortunate for me, allowed me to weasel my way to the front of the pack. His performance was consistent as it was outrageous. His effect can be compared to Death Grips: weird, abrasive, but addicting. Mykki is onto something new and exciting for music, a definite niche that could explode if harnessed properly and taken in the right direction..
Rifflandia started the weekend off on a high note. It was heavy with bass and drug-fueled dance zombies. A groovy beginning courtesy of LCD Soundsystem members Pat and James, ended on a weird, but amazing note. People like the eccentric as long as there’s a hint of charisma. Mykki Blanco has enough of both to last a lifetime. Minus the underwhelming moments of Psycho Egyptian and Boychild, Thursday night at Rifflandia lived up to all of my expectations and then some. Do your worst, Day Two!
Weird Highlight of the Night
An old Dodge pulls up to a taxi on the side of the road. Two people donning crazy horse head masks stick their heads out of the window – one in the front; one in the back – and ask for some Grey Poupon.