#festivalseason - Atmosphere Gathering - Eclectic grooves and community vibes.

Nestled right in the middle of beautiful, tiny Cumberland, BC in Comox Valley on Vancouver Island is one of BC's music festival gems, The Atmosphere Gathering. It's a place where community can flourish, a family-friendly camping festival that's quickly established itself as one of the most sonically diverse musical events this side of the Rockies. It seems like an oxymoron, but the Atmosphere Gathering is a laid-back rager – perfect for those who wanna dance in the day and get to bed at a reasonable hour, or those who wanna dance their faces off late into the night. If you're looking for the perfect cap for the summer festival season in BC, there aren't too many better choices than Atmosphere. Last week the festival released its first line-up announcement, featuring 20 acts, live and electronic, crossing genres but keeping its roots in rhythm and groove. There's a lot for a music-lover to get excited about but here are the first four acts that jumped out to my groove-seeking soul.

Atmosphere Gathering takes places Aug. 18-20 in Cumberland. Tickets and more lineup details HERE.

Applecat

I had heard and seen the name Applecat popping up at events all over the West Coast, until I finally got the chance to see her incredible set at Rifflandia 2016, here in Victoria. I hadn't heard anything like it and I don't think I have since. It was an enthralling set of dense, earthy bass music that at the time I couldn't describe. Frankly, I still don't think I can do her music justice. It needs to be experienced. All the Soundcloud tags say “dubstep” but her music is more atmospheric, theatrical and sexy than any dubstep I've ever heard. It's impossibly deep and shadowy sounding music – I imagine that if smoke pouring through a keyhole could make music, it would sound like Applecat. The worldbeat flourishes she uses to pepper her music help her beats stand out, leap out of the speakers with an intensely unique flavour.

Slynk

I've lost count of how many times I've seen Slynk. I've also lost count of the number of times I've been utterly impressed with Slynk. (Take this, for example, from the first ever time I saw him rock the party.) Over the last few years he's evolved from his Ghetto Funk roots, adding more and more influences and weapons into his arsenal. Just stroll through and sample his already ridiculous output from 2017 – a hard hitting drum 'n' bass track “People Get Up” (w/ Granular Sumo), a straight-up old-school hip-hop track “So Cool” (w/ Illvis Freshly), the ultra-slick nu-disco groover “Disco Operator,” to name just a few – and you'll get a glimpse of the scope of the good homie's many talents. On any given night a Slynk set will traverse a staggering array of genres, but it'll always be funky and bouncier than a trampoline. There's a strong possibility of this being the most straight-up fun set at Atmosphere this year. Do not miss this.

CloZee

Hands down, CloZee is the most exciting glitch-hop producer on planet Earth right now. Her tracks and mixes are sure-fire body-movers, across the board. The French producer is an expert at mining for the deepest of grooves. There are few DJ sets I've seen that have engaged me so quickly and easily. Watching her engage with the music as she moves and sways behind her midi-board, pounding out those groovy, thumping, tribal beats is something indescribably special. Her debut performance at the legendary electronic-Mecca Shambhala was the most captivating thing I saw at the festival last year, a set that I've been sending to anyone who will listen. Pick an EP, a single, a mix...it doesn't matter. If it's got CloZee's name on it, either your body is swaying or your head is bobbing. If you listen to CloZee, you will move.

Astrocolor

In life and in music, I am a big supporter aggressive weirdness. Hence, I'm a big supporter of Astrocolor. I mean, how many times do you become aware of a band because they put out an album of all-original Christmas music? A Christmas album that sounds great at any time of year? What even is that? The Victoria outfit makes live, vibrant yet atmospheric dance music, perfect for those of us who enjoy the rhythms of electronic music but the engagement that comes from watching a live band. This is an enormously talented group of cats together making utterly unique, completely enthralling and ridiculously slick dance music.

#festivalseason - Shambhala dropped the lineup for Year 20. I am immediately discombobulated with excitement.

Deep in the Kootenay mountains, on the Salmo River Ranch, Shambhala Music Festival has grown from a small party to a six-staged, laser-reinforced party Voltron, powered by the thousands of beautiful, open-minded, peace-seeking dance enthusiasts that flock to it every year. About to celebrate its 20th Anniversary, Shambhala has once again put together an over-stuffed lineup of the finest in international and local electronic artists, covering nearly every imaginable nook and cranny under the “electronic/bass music” umbrella. With two of the six stages set to under from-the-ground-up reconstruction, the physicality of the festival is ready to take a change, even after some really nice upgrades from last year (ie: Next-level lasering and that huge garden upgrade right in the middle of the Festival. Lovely.).

Photo by Joffrey Photo.

Photo by Joffrey Photo.

There are a lot of familiar names coming back to celebrate the big 2-0 and really, I wouldn't have it any other way. Familiar faces like STICKYBUDS, EXCISION, JPOD the BEAT CHEF, NEON STEVE, SMALLTOWN DJs and SLYNK return back home for their annual throwdowns, while old vets like KRAFTY KUTS, DEEKLINE, STANTON WARRIORS, MARTEN HØRGER and ED SOLO all make triumphant returns to the FARM. Fresh faces like REZZ and HAYWYRE (Okay, they both debuted last year, but that's still pretty fresh considering we're at year 20), POMO (The man responsible for the beats on “Dang!” and “Am I Wrong?,” two of the best songs of 2016) and, the dance gods have looked down upon me and blessed me with my #1 Shambhala wish for 2017, THE POLISH AMBASSADOR finally makes the trip up to the Farm to hold court for all us deep-groove seekers. To help make things just a little bit easier, Rags Music has compiled a short playlist to help power the early steps of sonic research, or really, just some tunes to get you groovin' and in the mood. This list will surely continue to grow in the coming weeks and months. Only the top of the pyramid has been revealed thus far.

Your Shambhala 20 Headliners... More artists to be announced when stage-by-stage lineup releases start on April 17.

Tickets are sold out, because they sold in a mere 16 hours last September! If you are buying resale tickets please be careful and take precautions to avoid scammers! And Good Luck. If you were lucky and smart enough to get your tickets back in that short window, GET YOUR DANCING SHOES READY. IT'S GONNA BE A SPECIAL YEAR.

Photo by Xavier Photography. 

Photo by Xavier Photography

#festivalseason - Once again, Tall Tree is coming at your ears hard.

Over the past 7 years, Tall Tree has risen to the top of BC's endlessly growing list of bloody awesome music festivals. Over here on Vancouver Island, up on Brown's Mountain in Port Renfrew, in the clouds, overlooking the world below like the gods themselves, Tall Tree has split the difference between laid back alt-rock festival and balls-to-the-wall rave, creating one of the most unique festival experiences around. Vancouver Island runs at a different pace than anywhere else in the province, nay, the country, and Tall Tree exemplifies all the facets of what makes being a music fan here on the Island so fucking great. Be as normal, as weird, as chill, as wild as you want...ON A MOUTAIN.

On a lineup as deep as ever with local favourites (And past 5 Questions guests) like Mat the Alien, SkiiTour, and Pigeon Hole, Tall Tree has expanded their reach further than usual to pack their roster more full than ever. Here are the first six acts that jumped out to my eyes on my first look through the lineup. Get after it, good people.

Shapeshifter NZ

As I struggle to find myself a solid foothold on the vast mountain that is drum 'n' bass, Shapeshifter has found their way into my life like some kind of blessing from the headphone gods. The New Zealand 5-piece play relentlessly pretty liquid drum 'n' bass, throwing in heavy dollops of soul and dub reggae. Their live shows have garnered them sell-out, large-scale tours around their home country and spots at legendary festivals like Glastonbury. Highlighted by the ethereal but earthy vocals of P. Digsss, Shapeshifter's engaging live DnB opens up the genre to a whole new level of accessibility. It's important work, helping new aural seekers uncover the intense mysteries of this powerful form of music.

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#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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#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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