My eyes opened on Friday morning covered in a glaze of sweat, stale beer, and lack of sleep. Heavy static slowly dissipated from my sight as I rinsed off the party grime from the night before. Cup of coffee with a cigarette to shed my groggy morning skin and look ahead to Day Two of Rifflandia, my first day at the park stages located at Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park.
The park is full of various tents and shops and overpriced foods. It’s your typical festival layout. The park was split down the middle; one side was sober and the other was not. A great idea to keep all the party favours away from those who want to enjoy the festival without stumbling upon cuddle puddles or spaced-out dinosaurs. A nice idea to keep everyone happy and contained at the same time.
My day started by catching Mounties’ set on the main stage. I couldn’t catch the whole set due to a my scheduled Classified interview (coming soon!), but what I did see sounded tight. The band features the distinctive, poppy voice of Hot Hot Heat lead singer Steve Bays. The band seemed excited to be playing their first show in Victoria and that energy was shared by the crowd.
Z-Trip played next on the stage under a large white canopy on the opposite side of the park. I have a slight bias towards mashup artists (i.e. Girl Talk), so I wasn’t blown away by Z-Trip’s set. But, if I’m basing the performance off of the crowd’s response, then he did a perfect job. He mixed a great cocktail of old-school party anthems. The boys were jumping tall and fast; the girls were shaking wide and slow. Meanwhile, I stood like a creep on the edge of the tent observing the crowd without listening to the music. Classified was on in ten minutes and I wanted a good spot.
I started a conversation with a lion, tiger, dinosaur, and a few sailors about their weekends. Gab gab gab gab. Festivals always bring out the friendly in people. Especially when the sun is shining and the beer is flowing. A mild sunburn, but it was worth it in the end.
Classified was next, performing from his latest album Classified. His talented drummer did a charming attempt at singing R. Kelly’s “Ignition” in celebration of his birthday. Drumming is definitely where his musical talent lies. Classified performed hits old and new. My personal favourite being “All About You” of off his album Hitch Hikin’ Music.
Current Swell followed on the opposite stage. Back to the other side, again. I sat on the edge of the grass looking on from the sidelines. The sun had slowed me down a bit, and I decided to continue my conversations with the group of sailors (there was a nautical theme for the day, by the way). The island boys delivered a great show (as usual) with their bluesy guitar jams and soulful harmonica stompers.
Soon after, the smoke-beaten voice of Courtney Love could be heard straining from the other side of the venue. I was expecting Courtney to flop; I think everyone was expecting her to crash and burn. I was watching with curious, excited eyes. But, alas, she performed a decent set that rocked the crowd. Even coming out for an encore performance in a flowing white dress: a smoking angel. Courtney capped off the park concerts on a solid note and the crowds flowed out from the venue into the streets, and ready for the clubs for another round of nineteen-plus fun.
Due to Danny Brown’s unfortunate denial into the country, the night had become less scheduled for me. It was time to explore the list for the night and pick at random. Or, ask for some advice from some friendly strangers. I opted for the friendly stranger advice. The resulting night schedule: Action Bronson followed by Righteous Rainbows of Togetherness followed by Holy Fuck.
My favourite relationship with music festivals is the love of finding a new band. In that respect, Action Bronson was good, but expected. It was the later show at Sugar Nightclub featuring Righteous Rainbows of Togetherness and Holy Fuck that grabbed me by the collar and threw me into interstellar space. No gravity, man.
Walking into Sugar, I felt like I had just entered a spacecraft orbiting Venus. The duo’s garb stood out right away: Aztec-inspired shawls with hats only the wildest imagination could fabricate. Each sporting a hat fit for a Martian king. Boxy, square golden hats embossed with shiny prisms. The crowd pulsed to their music as a collective heartbeat. The two men on stage were expressionless as they pointed and searched the crowd without purpose. Ravers united under a sweat-filled spaceship featuring a giant hanging disco ball for an hour without pause. At the front, I was enveloped in the pulse and couldn’t help but close my eyes and join the heartbeat. Music mimicking moving me into a meditative state.
Holy Fuck were beamed down onto the stage at half-past midnight. The room was hot, muggy, sweaty, way too hot to care anymore, saturated with the breath of a hundred girls named Molly. This was the last show of the festival, and once again, I was excited to experience a fresh band. Their setup was like nothing I’ve seen: two keyboards in the centre with countless amounts of old-school cords and buttons and thingamabobs. Old film reels spewed from one side while green and purple lights reflected off the disco ball above into the abyss below. It was an hour-long jam session that should never have ended. Similar to the previous set by RRT, Holy Fuck had the club in a trance. The instrumental melodies and rhythms fused together. Transcending mind, body, and soul and forcing you to not give a damn and join the fun.
Day Two ended and I was thrilled, but disappointed. Time to head back to the real world. No more stumbling on spaceships in Victoria nightclubs, or transgender gangster rappers in others. The festival, for me at least, had come to a close. Until next time, Rifflandia. I will most definitely be coming back next year.