#festivalseason - Ragslandia: Rifflandia gets groovier than ever.

Every year in Victoria, Rifflandia is the highlight of the music calendar. Bringing hundreds of artists from different genres and aesthetics, Rifflandia has established itself as a celebration of music like nothing else in the area. This year's Rifflandia had me excited like past years haven't. I'm all about groove and this year the pool was deep, overflowing with hip-hop and electronic tastiness I'm constantly on the lookout for. Here are just a few of the highlights I was lucky enough to get into my ears this year.

Jurassic 5, De La Soul and the importance of world-class Djs.

Part of the delay on the release of this piece has been the need to let things lay fallow in my mind for a bit, to see how they stick with me when I’m no longer a prisoner of the moment. Since some of the Rifflandia smoke has cleared from my mind, I can still say that Jurassic 5’s Rifflandia set was one of the finest sets of music I’ve ever seen. I assume this is the standard festival set they’ve been playing since their reunion a couple of summers ago, and why would it be anything different? Everything the group did was so well-done, so on point. “Concrete Schoolyard” (Complete with kazoo interlude), “Freedom,” “Jurass Finish First,” “Quality Control,” the whole set was hit after hit. Their Four-MCs-As-One, synchronized rap thing was as fresh as ever – as lively and crisp as any of the songs’ recorded counterparts.

Even more impressive than the four MCs and their interchangeable raps were the beats, the music, delivered with the utmost imagination and dexterity by two of the great DJs in hip-hop, DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist. DJ desk, turntable-guitar, vest of music (I don’t know a better way to describe this)...This wasn’t just two DJs laying beats for rappers. The show wouldn’t have worked the same without them.

A similar thing happened a couple of nights before when De La Soul took the stage at the Phillips Backyard stage. Pos and Dave could get an crowd amped on their own, for sure, but the amount of attention Maseo commands behind the decks while his cohorts are doing their thing out front is kind of staggering. Throughout the trio’s stellar set, Maseo proved once again that he’s a real director of the party, the man all the energy flows through. Dude can rap something nice too. I was more than thrilled when he stepped out from behind the wheels to take Redman’s place during “Oooh,” a personal favourite of mine. It’s just further proof as to how important the DJ is the landscape of hip-hop, even when you have world class MCs there rock the party.

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5 Questions with Rags #39 - The Russ Liquid Test

In the build-up to Shambhala this past year, there was no act I was more excited to check out than the Russ Liquid Test. For about as long as I've been into electronic Russ Liquid's name has been a mark of quality – groovy, funky quality. The idea of seeing his musical vision through the prism of a live act at Shambhala, one of the great venues on Earth to see live music, had my ear-pussy soaked with anticipation. The power trio – Liquid, guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Nick Mercadel – battled through early sound problems (With some timely help from Miss Erica Dee) and delivered one of my favourite sets of the weekend. Even better, soon after I arrived home from the Farm, still abuzz with all the great music, the trio released their first official single, “FNK FWD” (feat. Steve Swatkins), a wonderful glitchy dose of bright, lively funk. It's a perfect night-starter or pick-me-up on a shitty day. Even luckier than getting this into my eyes, I managed to meet up with the Russ Liquid Test at Shambhala to get them down with the 5 Questions, in which we discuss Stevie Wonder, the beautiful tragedy that is Mardis Gras and the some of the guys' most positive school memories.

Keep abreast of things Russ Liquid over on the ol' Facebook and Twitter.

And, more importantly, keep up on the musical happenings over on Soundcloud.


1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

Andrew Block: Doggystyle. Actually, I bought two at the same time. Doggystyle and Aerosmith Get A Grip.

And which one do you listen to more today?

AB: Doggystyle. At the time though, Aerosmith, actually.

Russ Liquid: The Beatles The White Album.

Favourite track?

RL: Oh man, there's so many of them. I like “Savoy Truffle.”

Nick Mercadel: It was a Stevie Wonder record. I don't know which one it was but I know my first purchase was a Stevie Wonder record in an actual brick & mortar store.

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#festivalseason - Just when you think you're done, RIFFLANDIA is there to pull you back in.

Festival season just won't end. Every year it seems a little longer and every year on the Canadian west coast, Rifflandia is there to usher out the jam-packed nights of summer with four days of ridiculously diverse musicians. This year's lineup is a feast of groovy selections spanning the rowdy (Wolf Parade, Keys & Krates), the soulful (Khari Wendell McClelland, Chance Lovett & The Broken Hearted), the weird (Prozzak, Bomba Estero), the moody (Grossbuster) and everything in between. It's an exhaustingly huge list of performers and looking at it may induce panic. To help ease the burden of research here are just a few of the many acts I'm hoping to check out over this, one of the finest weekends of music the west coast has to offer, right in the heart of my beloved hometown of Victoria, BC.

Get your single-day and full-fest passes here!

DJ Kwe

A few months ago, I didn't know a thing about DJ Kwe. I picked her name randomly off of a list of writing subjects for the Rifflandia festival guide and started my research. Immediately I was drawn to the idea of a female, aboriginal DJ (I later came to find she's half Irish, further adding to the multicultural allure), as both of those traits are something I have very little experience absorbing into my ears when it comes to my DJ music, and like any good music fan, I'm always looking for new avenues and perspectives. Turns out Kwe is doing some of the most original work around the West Coast right now. Her audio stories are unlike anything you've ever heard, built from the ground up, incorporating music, words and the sounds of nature. As she expands her repertoire into original music production and all-vinyl Djing, DJ Kwe promises to deliver something you're not going to hear anywhere else right now. 

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5 Questions with Rags #38 - Katie Nordgren

I met Katie Nordgren a year or two ago, through a mutual friend. I don't know what it was but I was intimidated by her brand of cool right away. (Fun fact: Turns out her cool is a combination of vast intelligence and overwhelming nerdiness.) My friend introduced me by saying, "This is Rags. He had a vasectomy." I'm sure the redness in my face managed to make its way through the darkness. But, rather than be weirded out, Katie turned it into an opportunity to engage me in a rather thoughtful conversation about reproductive responsibility and whatnot. Turns out, that Katie is a comedian too! Quoting the acts of comedians is a tedious - and frankly stupid - process, so you should just get out and check her out. (I saw a set online once, but I cannot seem to find it anymore, so take my word for it and do it!) If you're over in Vancouver, check out Katie's monthly comedy show, Comedy at Big Rock at Big Rock Urban Brewery. 

And, as always, get her on that Twitter ysht

1. When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Hmmm...that isn't gross...I think doing stand-up for the first time last year was the last first time I did something really interesting. Anything else I've done cool was before that. The first time I did stand-up was June 30, last year (2015). It's been a really holding-my-ground year. Oh, you know what! I started a podcast (Sea Hags Podcast). That was something I started more recently.

How's that experience been so far?

It's been awesome. I'm doing it with probably my best friend, I feel like I'm married to her too. She's my creative wife. We've been recording since October, but we didn't release them until the Ides of March. March 15 was when we started releasing them. I've never tried to make something in an audio medium before.

2. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

Oh my god, I do! It was either Green Day's Dookie or Nirvana's Unplugged in New York. It was one of those but it was a very mid-90s purchase, whatever it was. I think I got them both on CD. We got our first CD player in like '95.

Oooh, on that future tip. We were way behind on the CD player thing.

My parents were yuppies. Lots of bonuses and privileges. Paid-for college education. It's pretty sweet, I recommend it to everybody. Get rich parents!

3. Have you ever seen a ghost or felt a ghost-like presence?

Holy fuck! I made a three-part blog post in 2014, on a really inactive blog, a story of what happened in the summer between grade 6 and 7. I was a very unpopular child. Anytime popular girls wanted to spend time with me, it didn't matter how much they were going to make fun of me or abuse me when were hanging out, I'd be like, “I'm coming with you!” Like Big Ethel from Riverdale High. I just wanna be included. This was 1996, the year “The Craft” came out. It was also the year this really popular movie “Now & Then” came out. Both of those movies heavily feature seances. These two popular girls from my elementary school, Ashley and Darcy, decided we were going to have a seance in the cemetary...

Here's a little bit of background for you. My elementary school shared a land parcel with the cemetary in North Delta. It was just a chain-link fence between the primary playground and, uh, Death. Just tombstones on one side and the slide and swings on the other. It was fucked up but we had that as part of our psyche growing up.

We went in there at 10 o'clock one night, in the summer, so the school's totally closed, there's nobody there and nothing's happening. So we're in the cemetery and we sit around this grave, we've got a candle and shit. We light the candle. I don't know what we said, but it wasn't any kind of “real” spell. It was more like, “Spirits, make your presence known if you're here.” And the candle started growing. It was pretty windy but it wasn't moving, just getting super tall. So the flame got to six or seven inches tall. We started freaking out. Holy fuck, we don't actually want real ghosts, we don't actually want this to be real! So we blow the candle out and go running, do a flying leap over the fence into the school grounds. We go running past where the front door is and then through to this big roundabout out front. Then we realize, “Oh shit, we didn't put the spirit back to rest. We didn't say our goodbyes and it's still oh there.” We have to send it back to the spirit world or whatever. So, we're standing on this roundabout, holding hands, “Okay spirit, we're really sorry we disturbed you but you really need to back to where you came from.” At that point, the front door of the school building opened, then slammed shut. And we took off running and screaming. It was so terrifying. There was nobody there. I don't know what happened. I never saw anything but that was the closest I've had to a ghost encounter in my life. I don't fuck with Oujia boards. I don't believe in any of it, but I believe just enough that I don't fuck with it anymore.

4. Can you think of a book or movie that had a genuine effect on the way you saw the world?

Oh man, everything I've ever seen or read in my life, ever.

Do you remember the first thing that had an effect, then?

Let me think...In childhood what really moved me? Because I didn't get into Harry Potter until I was almost 30...Something that really sticks out at me from the reading list in elementary school is this book by Gary Paulson, called Hatchet. It's about a kid who's 13 and his parents have gotten divorced and his mom was sending him off to his dad in basically the equivalent of Fort McMurry, so from the city to the boonies for the summer, and she gives him this gift of a hatchet. He's going to a super remote place and he's taking a charter plane and the plane goes down on the way. He ends up stuck in the wilderness with just that little axe on his belt. He faces natural disasters and animals and confronting mortality. I read it when I was 9, maybe, and it fucked me up realizing there will come a time when my parents won't be there to protect me and I have to fend for myself. Whether that's in a forest with a tiny axe or dealing with crazy social situations. Just realizing that, “You're alone in the world, man.” That's the first thing that comes to mind but I'm totally a big suck for everything and get really into stuff. Like Star Trek: The Next Generation is another one I was really moved by as a child. All very truth and justice and that stuff. It's all good shit.

So, what was was the last thing that got to you?

I've been watching Grace & Frankie with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. It's about how their two husbands fall in love with each other and leave them. It's all the fallout. It's a really wonderful show. All these people who were set in their ways at 70, their lives just exploded but they still love all the people around them. They love their ex-husbands and the two women start to love each other and lean on each other. It's a really lovely look at how love can change over time. It's very malleable. You can go from loving someone romantically to just loving them like a sibling or someone you spend time with. It shows that there's life after breaking up and I think it's something very little media every looks at. It's also awesome to watch two 70-year old women star in a show where their relationship is the centre of everything.

5. If you could the spend the day with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?

Can I travel through time to have an experience with them at a different point in time?

No. They have to come to you, now.

Fuck. I guess that means I can't go back in time to 1993 to have sex with Jeff Goldblum during the Jurassic Park filming. Which makes me very upset because I would do that if I could. I'd love to spend time with David Bowie. It made me so sad when died. I can't even have feelings anymore about all the people dying this year but he really got to me. Actually, our mutual friend Jasta got me into him when I was 13. So it's her fault. But I've been a huge fan of his for 20 years. I would love to just pick his brain about where his creativity comes from and how he gives himself permission to do all this weird shit. I mean, besides drugs.

So much cocaine.

I would not bring cocaine to my meeting with David Bowie. I'd be like, “Hey man, don't do that cocaine.”

Do you have a favourite Bowie era?

I think the 70's is probably the best. I like the really weird, early 70's spacesman shit he was doing. I kinda got love for the weird 90's electronica shit when he was sort of way past the age where people tried new things. Like touring with Reznor and nobody liked but he just did it anyway. I would have liked it, if I wasn't 10.

6. This week's Guest Question comes from, DJ Kwe – When is the last time you listened to an entire album of just spoken word, talking?

It probably would have been a comedy album because that's probably the only thing like that I listen to, other than a book on tape. It was just Josh Gondelmon's “Physical Whisper.” It's excellent. He's the sweetest New York Jew. He's so cute and weird. You can sample it on his website. You can just stream it in the browser. Other than podcasts, that's the last full spoken-word thing I've listened to. 

#festivalseason - An in-depth musical review by a Groove Rider at Shambhala.

There is no experience like Shambhala. The mountain setting, the Life-giving river, the PK Sound, the hoards of beautiful people, the ridiculous stage designs, the colours, the art...all of it combines for one of the most unique experiences any of us are likely to find on this planet. But all of this pivots on the music. The best Djs, spanning nearly every genre of dance music you can imagine, provide the soundtrack for all the ridiculousness and that soundtrack is the thing is thing that keeps me coming back year in and year out. There are many places to read about the people and the culture of Shambhala, albums of photos by people far more qualified than me documenting the bliss (Check the Shambhala FB page for a cornucopia of said photo albums). So with that, here is my overly long, in-depth look at the way I spent my musical time on the Farm this year.

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