In a very short time, the Phillips Backyard Weekender has grown into a calendar-mark-worthy event in the Victoria summer. Over three days, the Weekender – hosted in the back lot of Phillips Brewery, the brightest jewel in world of Victoria beer – annually brings a lineup that stretches across a staggeringly vast array of genres and moods, bringing a little something for everyone, no matter where your tastes fall in the musical spectrum. This year was no different – with a newly added second stage (Dubbed the “Picnic-er”) packed with local talent, and a main stage that rarely experienced downtime, the Weekender was yet another feast for those with big musical appetites. There was a ton of tunes to take in and process, but here are the acts that made each pop and crack for this lover of groove.
Friday – Oddisee
I've been obsessed with The Iceberg, since its release in February of this year. It's one of the most thoughtful, precise and powerful records of any genre, not just hip-hop, that's come across my ears in some time. A new Oddisee album is always a welcome gift to the world, but the good homie really kicked it up a notch with The Iceberg and I to say I was excited to see these songs live would have been an understatement. Oddisee came to Victoria ready to go. The sound was fantastic, all of Oddisee's intensely thoughtful and precise raps were crystal clear – overcoming an all-too-common problem with live hip-hop shows. Audience interaction is and always should be a huge part of rap and Oddisee kept everyone engaged with the show having the crowd sing along with varied, and properly spaced out, singalongs, including Iceberg standout “Like Really.” (I've been singing “notlikereally” in a loop to myself for a week now.) With all that interaction there was very little asking us to throw our hands in the air. In fact, he only asked us to do it once, which is the correct number of times to instruct the crowd to throw their hands up.
“Hold It Back” and “Want To Be Free” pulsed and roared on that crisp soundsystem, Oddisee's nimble raps dancing around and through the beats. The rapid-fire rhymes of “Killing Time” from 2013's Tangible Dream were a welcome surprise, but the incredible sets highlight might have been a trap remix of “Want Something Done.” The track was a perfect display of Oddisee's immense talent as an MC, reworking lyrics originally set to a more classicist hip-hop beat and shifting them to perfectly fit a hyper-modern beat. Oddisee would be achieve Lord status in any era of hip-hop. We're incredibly lucky to have him working so prolifically right now, in our time. I talked with a number of people who were at the festival who pointed to the good homie as their “festival discovery” and the world is probably a little bit better of a place for it. A huge thank you to the folks behind the Weekender for bringing Oddisee to Victoria and giving him a proper introduction to the city I call home.
Saturday – Karl Denson's Tiny Universe
When Karl Denson introduced the Tiny Universe, he named each band member and didn't name himself. When he called out the band's name he didn't say “We're Karl Denson's Tiny Universe,” no, he said, “We're the Tiny Universe.” Small but meaningful choices that demonstrated where Denson places himself in relation to his band. Despite his name being on the marquee, he is not above his band in anyway. This is a tight, unified and funking powerful whole. The California outfit lit up the backlot at Phillips with their hard, jammy funk. People that I've seen at numerous shows and have never seen dance were out there busting a move, getting down with their bad selves like it was the first time they'd ever experienced funk music. There were words and songs sung, but it didn't really matter what was coming through the microphones, it was the Tiny Universe's rhythms and grooves that fuelled the proceedings. There were moments of refrain like “I feel so real, I feel so real so real so real,” during “Feeling Real” that wormed their way into the brain, but the involuntary movement of the hips is what made this set so special. It's a hard thing to describe, the unyielding need to sway and bounce, and frankly I'm not a good enough writer to do it. Make sure you do yourself a favour and go see Karl Denson's Tiny Universe live if you can. I saw them and I promise, you'll have a good fucking time. (Unless you're a soulless monster that hates all that is happy and good in the world. Maybe then you won't have a good time.
Sunday – Funkee Wadd & Mt. Doyle
After a jam-packed two days and with the Victoria Pride Parade and Festival falling on Weekender day 3, Rags Music had no intention of covering Sunday at the Weekender this year. But alas, I found myself walking from the Pride Festival grounds back down to the brewery to take in a few things, see if anything piqued my interest and of course I'm glad I did, because of course there was music to get me moving and power me through a final, only slightly gruelling day of music enjoyment. Immediate props have to go to whoever had the brilliant idea to saddled the Funkee Wadd with such immense djing duties on the secondary stage, opening proceedings and keeping this moving during “down time”. I don't know how many times I saw him spinning tunes and each time I wandered over my ears were delighted. The man's taste in and ear for music is bloody impeccable. I'm always happy to see him and especially this Sunday, as I was dragging a bit. Another schmexy beast laying down the deep grooves to fuel the mood was the always impressive Mt. Doyle. A DJ who does many, many things well, Mt. Doyle laid another set of varied, but always top-quality, rhythms and remixes including a downright unforgettable rework of Lupe Fiasco's backpack rap classic “Kick, Push.” Anyone who uses the criminally underutilized raps of Lupe in their set is alright by me. Doyle didn't need to win any more points with me, I'm established as a fan, but this really sealed the deal for me. Again, happy I ended up at the Weekender Sunday, if for no other reason than seeing a DJ I dig remixing a song I love. Little things. Savour them.