#festivalseason - The Phillips Backyard Weekender rides once again, groovier than ever.

I remember when I used to go to the Phillips Backyard Weekender and see a few people I know. And by 2018 it's grown into one of the crown-jewels of Victoria's rich musical summer, a place where I am bound to see countless familiar places, while – and this part is of the utmost importance – we get down with a full-slate of fantastically chosen music. With the return of the Pinic-er Stage featuring a lineup boasting some of Vancouver Island and Vancouver's freshest talents, as well as a full slate of afterparties each night, the good folks behind The Weekender, Atomique Productions, have doubled down on making this one of Vic City's best dance parties this year. The main stage at the Weekender is absolutely dripping with groove and that's where we're going to be focusing our attentions here. It doesn't matter which stage you're spending your time, if you're paying attention you're going to see some great music. And while I'd like to recommend everything here, that would be ridiculous. But if you pay particular attention when I tell you to, you're probably going to have a helluva time – bolstered by your own, wonderful decisions as well.

It all starts right off the bat as music opens with the mighty GROSSBUSTER. Both one of Victoria's finest beatmakers and owners of one of the city's most immaculate beards (A true feat considering how many people in this place make beats and/or have beards), Grossbuster has impressed me every time I've caught one of his sets over the last half decade. Even, hell especially, when he comes out with a set comprised of stuff you've never heard him play, seemingly out of nowhere. With an endless arsenal and roots in hip-hop (Just like I like), you can rest pretty assured that his set is going to be the perfect way to start your weekend. So, don't be a pylon and make sure to get down to site early.

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#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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#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.


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.