Island SoapBox Reviewlandia?

(Our view from beside the Fudge shop at Market Square)

Day 1

We took in our first Rifflandia experience at Market Square on Thursday evening.  It really was everything that we had hoped for.  A bit of shitty weather gave our first West Coast festival the right feel, the bands on stage didn't disappoint, and Rifflandabräu is terrific.

Sunday Buckets opened, and the crowd seemed to really enjoy them.  We headed to the beer tent upon entry (Beer Tent entrants 3 & 4, thank you very much ;), which was great for table selection, but all the tables we're behind the standing area where you could watch from.  So we listened emphatically to the first set, but didn't see much of the stage act.

I was really ramped up for Brasstronaut.  We found a spot beside the stage to take it in and set up shop. They were good, but I think I got myself too excited, as I found the show to lack the energy I thought these guys would bring.

(Brasstronaut in Market Square)

The energy I missed out on, Grand Analog brought tons of to the stage.  He has an old-school sound, I really enjoyed it.  You know a set is good when it's already over.

(K'naan headlined Thursday night at Market Square)

K'naan has had an interesting month, and after singing through the first two tunes of his set without much life, I was starting to worry.  That went away quick, as he really warmed up with the crowd, and gave everyone the headlining act they had come to see.

Current Swell was definitely my favourite surprise of the evening.  I didn't know anything about them, but they kicked off their set with some pretty wicked guitar riffs, and I was hooked right away.  They had a super cool vibe to them, that reminded me of several artists at points (The Tragically Hip and Sublime kept coming to mind).  I'll be seeing them again for sure.

Day 2

Friday evening brought 4 bands that were "must-see's" (personally speaking of course) and three different venues.  It was time to experience the uniqueness that is Rifflandia, and get to venue hopping.

(Treelines playing in The Victoria Events Centre)

The Victoria Events Centre was stop 1, for CBC Radio 3's Song of the Summer winners Treelines.  Playing in the always tough 7:30 timeslot, the boys put some asses in the seats!  I thought the crowd was great, the show was excellent with really good energy.  They truly are a lot of fun to watch.  Maybe it was the venues I was at afterwords, but I thought the sound quality could have been better.

After picking up my sweet new Treelines T-shirt, it was up to Metro Studio for Steph Macpherson.  We walked in roughly halfway through what I believe was her first song (she introduced herself at the end of it), and took the first two seats we spotted.  I didn't get to see much of the stage behind her because of the stack, but otherwise it was great.  It was the first time seeing her live that she had a band behind her, so that was nice to see.  A stand-up bass is a quick way of impressing me.  I just love those damn things.  I don't need to say it, but I will anyway, Steph was awesome like always.

(Steph Macpherson with a band at Metro Studio)

Onto Alix Goolden Hall, right around the corner from Metro Studio.  We got in for the majority of The Whitsundays.  Not my cup of tea... :)

The reason we had made the trip to this Cathedral of sound was for the next two acts, and boy oh boy were they good.

(The Wooden Sky on stage at Alix Goolden Hall

The Wooden Sky killed it.  People were eating it up, including me.  The sound quality in that building is excellent, and you're basically sitting on stage with the band.  I really enjoyed watching all the different instruments played.  I've liked this group for a while now, and to hear them telling the story of first coming to Victoria way back to play Ocean Island Backpackers Inn, to see them in Alix Goolden killing a crowd like that was really cool.

(Great Lake Swimmers on stage at Alix Goolden Hall)

After an act like that, having the Great Lake Swimmers come on was just way too awesome.  Again the sound in that building is incredible, so when you put a group like this on stage, you can't lose.  It was a captivating set, Tony Dekker held the stage solo for a song (for http://www.swimdrinkfishmusic.com/ and all that it stands for), and the room felt very attentive. The venue is super intimate, and Great Lake Swimmers, along with all the acts, really used that well.

Oh, and I was also super excited to buy "Lost Channels" on vinyl.  Apart from a Gordon Lightfoot album, and "A night with John Denver", this is my first LP purchase.  

How many of you are listening to records these days, and what are your favourites?

Day 3

Well I've noticed something about the acts I like, they all seem to be playing all ages venues.  I think this means something about what I'm listening to.  It also means that I'm never the shortest person :)

That being said, I was really looking forward to Pawnshop Diamond, so back to Alix Goolden for me. Thinking back on the sound quality from the evening earlier made this choice even easier.  I may have forgot my camera, but at least that meant I could just listen.  And what a treat that was.  Another band that exceeded my expectations.   My only wish was they could have played more!

Reid Jamieson was up next.  Dude can sing, I will say that!  He played a really fun set, he set up his songs with humour well, and had the crowd following his stories with smiles.  He's getting married next weekend, and was fortunate enough to have his wife-to-be sing a few songs along with him.  She made some jokes as well, and they seemed to share the moment quite well.

Hayley Sales was up next.  Armed with nothing more than a busted Ukelele at times, Sales had her voice bellowing through every nook and cranny in that place.  It was a super impressive vocal performance, and along with her surfy acoustic guitar, there were plenty of heads bobbing along.  She got the crowd involved as well (the hall sounds really great with audience clapping, stomping or singing, I really can't stress how good it sounds in there enough!).  In fact, everyone enjoyed it so much, she earned the first encore I've witnessed at the festival.  One last catchy tune, a standing ovation, a successful set.

That was it for me on day 3.  With my partner in crime at work, and having to work myself in the morning, I thought this was a great "quit while you're ahead moment".

Well Sunday evening just didn't work out for me.  After sending a co-worker off with some beers after the shift, the relaxing confines of home were too much.  Looking forward to next year now!
I really think the festival was done great.  With all the extra's available, like Artlandia and Winlandia, not to mention the free acoustic sets, it looks like this festival is just going to get stronger and stronger.  The Rifflandia organizers know what's up, can't wait to see what they do next year.

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