#festivalseason - Bass Coast celebrates 10 years of immense taste and endless style.

2018 marked the 10th birthday of Bass Coast and also Rags Music's first in-person experience with the legendary BC festival. After years of whispers of the wonders inside and pleas to attend from musical and non-musical-friends alike, Bass Coast had reached near-mythic status and much to my delight, did not disappoint. In fact, even with my expectations at an all-time high, Bass Coast blew away my ideas of what a festival of its kind can be, do and inspire. After three full days of music, art and colour on a river just outside of Merritt, BC, it is evident that Bass Coast is the result of an incredible group of people – artists, organizers, light/sound people, builders, etc – at the top of their fields, working together to create an experience unlike anything else in the adjacent space around it. There's something immeasurably beautiful about so many talented people working in conjunction to expand, tantalize and delight the senses of not just their friends, but of complete strangers.

Interactive art installations abound throughout the festival grounds, encouraging attendees to interact with not just the art but with their fellow festival goers. Most entertaining among these were the telephone booths. The sparkly phones on opposite sides of the “downtown” area of the festival were hooked up to each other, ringing when the other was picking up and throwing both caller and answerer into the fires of impromptu conversation. Rags Music contributor Shawn McNicoll spent an inordinate amount of time taking pizza orders and pushing car insurance on people, to his own delight and, presumably, the confused delight of the folks on the other end.

The majority of festivals I've been to feature hoards of unwashed/disheveled masses zombie-ing about until the sun starts it descent back under the sky line. But not at Bass Coast. The lovely people of Bass Coast, if not stripped down and cooling in the river, were dressed in their finest and most colourful ridiculously early in the day. From around lunchtime on, wherever you looked, Bass Coast was all-out fashion show and I was more than impressed. Some peoples' dedication to their costumes, to the weirdness, was flat-out awe-inspiring as the heat generally led me to basketball shorts and a t-shirt. If you were one of the people who managed to stay costumed-up in the sweltering heat and swirling winds, I commend you! SALUT!

While incredible lights and art installations, beautiful humanity wherever the eyes laid and breathtaking landscape views all abounded, it was the music that truly brought me there and the music that really made this one of the best full weekends of dancing I've personally had in a long time. The women behind the organization of Bass Coast, particularly the booking of music, have done a fucking incredible job of putting together a diverse lineup that thankfully all shares the same important thread... QUALITY. I admittedly didn't know a large portion of the lineup and I was either pleasantly surprised or straight-up astonished as I made my between stages taking in act after act I'd never heard of. Bass Coast might genuinely be the most musically well-curated festival I've ever attended. These are some serious music nerds putting together this line up and everywhere a brother turned, there was world-class groove to be had.

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#festivalseason – After 19 years, Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest burns as bright as ever.

#festivalseason – After 19 years, Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest is burning as bright as ever.

It dawned on me the other day that after Shambhala, Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest is my second longest-running festival in terms of personal attendance. If you were able to hear 95% of the music coming out of my speakers, that stat would probably surprise you. But the truth is that ska, along with punk, and hip – hop, were the soundtrack to my youth and pretty much all of my early 20’s. When I first heard about Ska Fest back in 2010, I thought it would be a one off kinda deal; after all, I was still living in Edmonton.

But here we are, almost a decade later, having attended my eighth Ska Fest, and living about a kilometer from the very reason I ever came to Victoria in the first place. It’s funny how things can change over such a short amount of time. But while there are plenty of things that change over time – there’s also some that never need to.

This year Ska Fest kicked off much like my first as the lineup was relatively unknown in my books. Sure, there were a few big names that most people would notice, but as I dug deeper the unknown outweighed those I knew. Thankfully, the good thing about not knowing a lineup is that it leaves you with plenty of new favourites to discover…and discover I did!

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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.


Lucy Dacus - Historian (Review)

Lucy Dacus - Historian (Matador Records) 


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.   

SCRAM - Hundreds Of One (Review)

SCRAM - Hundreds of One


Hundreds of One, the latest EP from Vancouver rapper SCRAM, is a welcome, soulful little shot of west coast hip-hop. With such slick and shiny production, the EP sounds more intimate and warm that it has any right to. From the opening track and first single “Girl All Alone” with it's lilting, jazzy guitar chords, simple snare beat and pensive storyteller lyrics, Hundreds of One sets a high standard for its music. SCRAM's storytelling ability is on full display here, as he's on top form throughout, keeping pace with the first-rate beat creation. “Orchestrated” is a right proper boast track but with a spiralling sexy beat. “Dead Parade” is a showcase for SCRAM's technical talents as a rapper, rapid-fire and controlled as he goes in hard on, I dunno, society at large. The music is appropriately epic, even if it's a couple string samples away from being too heavy-handed. But, given the size and scope of the target, teetering on the brink of such weight serves the song well. “We raise our fists at politicians and their artifice, good luck, how far is it to Christy Clarke's address?” It's a small snippet on a track with a ton of quotable lines, but name-checking a more local politician on the track, rather than a larger profile/easier target, demonstrates a commitment to staying true to the area that informs his life while keeping an ear turned to the sounds outside to inform the beat side of things.

There's a classic boom-bap base to the beats throughout the record, highlighted by flourishes of live instruments, but the music tiptoes around the edges of electronic influences just enough to inject fresh energy into the sound. This juggling act is on full display in “The Weekend” as trance-like saxophones give way to a wonderful little glitch beat. It's one of the warmest sounding songs on the album,even as SCRAM raps about the all-encompassing feeling of the hopelessness of modern life that drives some people to make questionable decisions in the freedom of the weekend. The album closes with “Photobook,” the song on the EP you're most likely to drop the windows in the car for or walk a little quicker down the street to. It's a smooth driving ode to the power of looking back to where you came from, for inspiration and comfort. It's a welcome blast of sunny energy to help cleanse the palette after the contemplation and soul-searching that came before it. Hundreds of One is a helluva debut EP that'll work on your headphones or in your car. Enjoy it wherever you enjoy quality hip-hop.