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. (And yes, I do realize there is a huge scheduling conflict here, but come on, Ganjoid and Immerze have completely different offerings.)
DJ Kwe - Fri. 9:30pm @ Alix Goolden Hall & Sat. 9:30pm @ Sugar Nightclub
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.
Ganjoid - Sat. 11:30pm @ Wolf/Sheep Arthouse
I know very little about Ganjoid. Doesn't mean dude isn't making some seriously unique bass tunes. His weird combination of laid-back, glitchy hip-hop and warm house music sounds like it sprung out of the West Coast soil and started walking around the dispensary-riddled streets of Vancouver eating every single edible it could find. The ability to remain danceable and warm while still serving up a heaping pile of weird is a rare, beautiful gift and you should probably get down to Wolf/Sheep during Rifflandia to indulge yourself in the hazy, weird grooves of Ganjoid.
Michael Franti & Spearhead - Fri. 7:45 @ Main Stage/Jurassic 5 - Sat. 7:45 @ Main Stage
Including headliners in pieces like this is often pointless. They're the headliners after all, the big draws. But this year the good folks behind Rifflandia (Atomique Productions) have brought two absolute sure-fire must-sees. The impact that both Michael Franti and Jurassic 5 have had on my listening life is nearly immeasurable. When my life was lacking groove and was full of anger and frustration, Michael Franti was there crack open my heart and allow the colour and warmth of a Life of Love to enter my consciousness. When hip-hop was too dark and violent for me, the playful positivity of Jurassic 5 was there to remind me of all the things that drew me to hip-hop culture in the first place. I am forever indebted to both acts and the chance to see them both on consecutive nights is a landmark occasion in my concert-going career. Find me on either night and you're likely to find no bigger smile in the sea of faces.
The Katherines - Sat. 10:30pm @ Metro Theatre
During my last interview with Hawksley Workman, he mentioned that he was working with an “amazing group” called The Katherines. Despite the palpable excitement in his voice when he told me about them, it didn't really register to me to do any research at the time and now, in the harsh clarity of hindsight, I've been seriously missing out. The Katherines are making some damned fine, unpredictable pop music. In elements of soul, dream-pop, rock, theatre dramatics – it doesn't matter what they're singing the Katherines' incredible harmonies slide around and through various soundscapes with deft ease. “Tomorrow” is one of the best singles I've heard this year and reason enough on its own to check out the Vancouver trio.
Immerze - Sat., 11:30 @ Wood Hall
Toronto-born and Vancouver-based, Immerze is one of the finest new voices in Canadian hip-hop. A lot of newer, “trap rap” stuff goes over my head and makes me feel old, but there's a levity and playfulness to a lot of Immerze's jams that make him way more accessible for older hip-hop heads who are still looking for something really new. Check out his recently released Before I Go EP and your neck is likely to get strained from the amount of head-bobbing you're going to incur. All over the album, the 808 drums of grimy city rap roll wonderfully with a dash a west coast sunshine and provide an incredible compliment to Immerze's dense, acrobatic rhyme style. Check out the sublime “Tropicana” (Co-produced by fellow Rifflandia performer and wunderkind Eshe Nkiru) and get yourself hazily amped up.
DJ Wood - Thurs. 9:30 @ Lucky Bar
For your high-energy, deeply warm groove-needs this Rifflandia, look no further than DJ Wood - former 5 Questions answerer and one-half of west coast funk legends Wood 'n' Soo. The good homie, reppin' those West Coast grooves that I hold so dear, is a wealth of tasty knowledge, incorporating hip-hop, soul, house and all the other goodies into his delightful electronic stew, spiked with a blast of Ghetto Funk. His ongoing Chopping Block series is an endless source of music I use to get through shitty days, always a solid choice to keep myself and those around me in a damned fined mood. Start your Rifflandia with an early Thursday night funk party.