#festivalseason - Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest, bringing together musical worlds.

Full disclosure – I'm highly involved with the Victoria Ska & Reggae Society and Festival. The people who are part of it, who help put it on, have become like an extended family. I don't see them all the time but when we do it's always lovely and once a year we all get together downtown and throw a big party for the city. As such, I'm around this stuff so much, around the band and artist bios constantly for months on months. Their music becomes the soundtrack to so much of my working day. I know this lineup inside and out. But favourites always crop up. This is just a list of the first five that came to my head. I'm writing this intro after the body of the article was written and I regret not being able to put Kingston Rudieska on this list. That's going to be really special. Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad is going to be wild, I mean as “wild” as a roots reggae show can get, I suppose. Anyways, if you like the idea of concerts as places for people from different communities and age groups and such, to gather and dance off the Weight of Life together, then you should probably come to Victoria and dance in a couple of weeks.

Yellowsky

Wednesday, June 20 – Lucky Bar w/ Bousada (Full band)

Each and every year, without fail, Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest leaves me with at least one artist that sticks with me, that I know I'm going to be a fan of for a long time. Last year that artist was Yellowsky. A captivating performer, Yellowsky is one of the finest examples of the hip-hop and reggae coming together I've heard in years. Of Plains Cree First Nation and South American bloodlines, Yellowsky is coming at this with a completely unique perspective. Since opening for the mighty Mike Love at last years festival, Yellowsky released his debut album Mixed Medicine. The album is probably the best melding of gritty hip-hop and that good street reggae that I've encountered this side of Jamrock. This is saying a lot. But this dude is legit. Inside the brick embrace of Lucky Bar, this is going to be a helluva set from Da Lion. (I'd also like to put this wish out into the world: Yellowsky rapping over some beats from Bousada and his band late in the evening. Fingers crossed, friends!)

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Illvis Freshly - Bombshells (Review)

Illvis Freshly - “Bombshells”

If you’re reading this from the West Coast of Canada, you may already be familiar with Victoria’s Illvis Freshly. If not, well then…you have some explaining to do. BC’s Freshest Exports have been making dance floors pop off for over 4 years – and with 2 albums firmly in the rear view mirror, the award winning group is hitting new highs with their third album Certified Fresh, dropping this Friday (June 1).

Straight out of the studio and into your earholes, the boys of Illvis are back with a brand new collection of tracks to bob your head to, and the album's first single, “Bombshells,” is everything you’ve grown to love about an Illvis Freshly track. Funky, crisp, clean…call it what you want, because when you know, you know. “Bombshells” is a certified head nodder. Click play and see for yourself!

Doesn’t the entire crew just sound better? Not that they ever slouched or sounded anything close to bad but the Illvis boys have taken their latest work to a whole new level. The funky guitar from the homie Phil in the back works so well with the powerful horn-stabs courtesy of Andrew Greenwood – there’s no denying the flow. And while Phil & Mt. Doyle bring the beats, Danimal & Doc Zoo’s vocals are as tight as they’ve ever been.

Thankfully the warm weather is finally showing its face – because “Bombshells” deserves its time with the windows down, and the volume up. I mean, it’s only the first track and I’m over here gushing like those fruit snacks we obsessed over as kids; you know…grapes.

Just when you thought Illvis couldn’t get any fresher, they go and add an extra cup of Downy and come out fresh as fuck. If you like the way “Bombshells” makes you feel all tingly inside, just wait til you hear Certified Fresh in its entirety! Stay woke and be ready for when this thing drops on Friday!           

                                                      - Shawn McNicoll

If you're in Victoria this Friday, celebrate the release of Certified Fresh at their Album Release Pizza Party at Lucky Bar! Or catch them later this month (Thurs. June 21) at Victoria Ska & Reggae Festival XIX.

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#festivalseason - Bass Coast X is dripping with incredible music and here are five acts you should check out.

I've been to many festivals of many kinds over the years. Few names in the world of festivals, especially in my home province of BC, are spoken to me with such high regard as Bass Coast. Over its 10 years of existence I've encountered countless people that tell me Bass Coast is where you find the best. The best music. The best vibes. The best dancing. The best stages for having room for said dancing. The best place for discovering new music and sounds in the great wide open that is electronic music. The best for reconnecting with old favourites in a special space. These are the reasons why my head is turned towards Bass Coast more than ever. I want new sounds and if this is the place to find the sounds of the future, then this is where we all need to be looking for new things to put into our ears. A quick scan of the lineup release instantly got the blood flowing with excitement. These are the five names that jumped out right away. In the next couple weeks, I'll be back to take a deeper look as I dig deeper and get into the shockingly vast expanse of names that are new to my eyes and ears.

 Photo via  BASS COAST .

Photo via BASS COAST.

Mndsgn

For lovers of quality, chilled-out space-funk, there are few names as essential as Mndsgn. The L.A. transplant is a staple of the legendary Stones Throw records, the home to his incredible, wholly unique albums. His debut record Yawn Zen is a lo-fi funk gem that demands repeated listens to unravel its intense mystery. It's been a constant staple of my listening diet since I first got it into my ears. The gentle funk push, combined with a phenomenal ear for hip-hop makes homie one of the most unique and consistent DJs doing the thing right now. Mndsgn is undoubtedly the first name that jumped out at me when I saw the lineup for Bass Coast X, as I wouldn't entirely expect him to be at an electronic music festival on a river. But, Bass Coast is clearly curated by true music nerds, so I probably shouldn't have been surprised. Soft, warm and embracing, Mndsgn is sure to lay down a sultry festival highlight.

Lazy Syrup Orchestra

Anyone who's heard whispers of Bass Coast the last few years has probably heard something about Lazy Syrup Orchestra. Legend has it they were birthed right there on the Bass Coast grounds. Their Slay Bay sets have become legendary staples of the festival, and mentioned as highlights from goers pretty much across the board. I caught them last summer during an incredible performance on a mountain at Tall Tree and their annually-released sets from Bass Coast remain in constant rotation (Also great to put on in a room full of people with disparate tastes because, from my own research, no one ever disagrees with Lazy Syrup). Their sets are always sonic adventures and the endless collaboration adds an extra level to the excitement. It kinda feels like: If you haven't seen Lazy Syrup at Slay Bay, have you really seen Lazy Syrup Orchestra?

D. Tiffany

If you like a good dose of weird with your dance intake, then D. Tiffany is for you. Her grooves are trance-inducing, helping lull your hips and mind into thoughtless movement. Once you are properly captivated it's the easiest of tasks to pump weird musical ideas and sounds into your bloodstream to both discombobulate and delight. Her recent set here in Victoria's infamous Frequency Saturday series was in my body for days. I can't imagine how my brain will respond after a day or two of dancing in the melting heat. Hopefully her set as is as deep in the schedule as possible to allow for maximum brain-melt. Get weird.

Ivy Lab

I accidentally saw the last half of Ivy Lab's set last year at a festival and was mesmerized instantly. I didn't know anything about them before that, but their electronic music fit perfectly in with my decidedly hip-hop tastes, but this wasn't just hip-hop beats. It was weird and dark, heavy and groovy, pouring itself slowly into my ears and around my brain. It was an all-encompassing musical experience. When I would mention Ivy Lab in conversation afterwards, many people didn't know who I was talking about but the ones who knew the trio lit the fuck up at the mention of their name. The fervour of their fanbase gets me riled up and this new album, Death Don't Always Taste Good, they released a couple weeks ago, HOLY SHIT. This thing is a beast. I can't wait to hear what they do with these tracks as a framework on a proper, chest-rattling system. 10/10 can't miss.

Woodhead

I've written about Woodhead before, but I honestly think that every chance you get to see Woodhead is a chance that you should take. One of the artists who helped open up house music for me, I have yet to come across anyone who consistently delights me with the utter warmth of their beats and grooves. His mixes have fuelled many a living room dance parties and his night-saving set from Shambhala in 2016 remains one of my most treasured electronic music highlights. If you like swampy warm house and disco grooves you definitely want to get after this set, and even if house isn't something you fuck with, you'll probably find something to dig if you like deep grooves of any kind.

5 Questions with Rags #68 - Rags

When Rags Blake was born, signs and auspices graced the world like none before. The sun composed a song to celebrate the occasion, the four winds conspired to whisper a secret recipe for excellence in his ear, and beneath his crib was found a pair of golden headphones. And from these humble beginnings, he has grown into the man of humble legend we know today: thoughtful and gracious in his friendship, fierce in his scorn of jabronis and pylons alike, blessed with an ear for music most tuneful, and generous in his sharing of said musics. It was with great delight that I recently turned the spotlight of 5 Questions with Rags upon his noble personage, whiling away a pleasant hour gathering the fruits of his wisdom on many a topic, for the personal edification of us all.

1. What's something you wish you'd had growing up?

Wow, that's a good question. Huh, that's hard. I had a really happy childhood. I had parents who loved me, I had friends and grandparents. I had pets. You know what? I used to really resent my mom for not letting us have a computer in the house. I didn't get a computer in the house until I was nearly graduated from high school. I was so jealous of all the kids with computers in there house, talking on ICQ and shit. But in retrospect, I'm really happy that I wasn't allowed to have a computer around all the time until I was 18. I don't think having unfettered access to the internet as a teenager would have been a good idea. I honestly don't know how young people today deal with anything. So yeah, a computer. It seems really superficial, but I was really lucky to have a lot of love in my life as a kid and that was pretty awesome, so it's going to be something like that.

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Lucy Dacus - Historian (Review)

Lucy Dacus - Historian (Matador Records) 

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For 47 tumultuous minutes on Historian, Lucy Dacus grapples with loss and change, from failed relationships (“Night Shift”), loss of religion (“Nonbeliever”), to struggling with how to move forward in the face of the inevitability of death (“Timefighter,” “Next of Kin”). Heady stuff, but Dacus' arrangements on these tracks make it all approachable, full of little flourishes, like a sudden horn sting on “Addictions,” or the tuneful guitar work at the beginning of “Timefighter.”

Despite the potentially heavy material, Dacus is always able to wring something approaching hope, even joy out of these subjects. Album opener Night Shift builds from quiet introspection about a final meeting with an ex to a barrage of fuzzy guitars and thudding drums, with Dacus belting out the lyrics, “In five years I hope these songs feel like covers/dedicated to new lovers”, perhaps reflecting a belief that love will return, even though that particular relationship ended badly. On “Next of Kin,” she argues that even the idea that there is much we'll never do in our brief time alive can be a source of solace: “Sweet relief, I will never be complete/I'll never know everything.”

And why shouldn't there be some hope amongst the messy, painful business of life? Or if not hope, then at least a little grace amidst the confusion. “Pillar of Truth,” a song about the death of Dacus' grandmother, allows the perspective to switch back and forth from Dacus to her grandmother, who wishes “Lord, have mercy/On my descendants/For they know not/What they do”. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the song arrives at a triumphant, horn-filled catharsis as Dacus sings, “If my throat can't sing/Then my soul screams out to you”.

Loss and change are inescapable parts of the whole experience of being alive, but as the album closes out with the title track's quiet meditation on relationships and their inevitable ends, it also seems to argue that taking the time to savour the moments in between is important. After all, it'll all be history someday.   

- Ben Rollo