#festivalseason - The Phillips Backyard Weekender delivered all I expected...And then some.
There was a ridiculous amount of great music at Phillips Brewery for the annual Backyard Weekender in Victoria this year and I could go on and on about it. I could tell you how The Revolution was better than anyone could have thought, laying down a set comprised entirely of some of Prince's best tracks – and even a couple surprises... “America,” anyone? Or we could discuss how Too Many Zooz and their non-electric instruments dominated a day of electronic-based music. Or how Victoria OG s, Murge and Verse – The Champion Sound, held it down between sets all damned weekend. Or I could tell you about the fiery and relentless disco assault of !!! (Chk Chk Chk) lit up a mostly unsuspecting crowd. In a weekend packed with highlights, here are the four acts that inspired my lazy ass to get back to important work, like creating things and listening to new music and spreading the word of shit that'll make you dance.
Reggie Watts is so good at what he does that people now believe non-facts about Victoria.
Ask anyone who was there - apart from the two dudes I saw walk out early declaring, “This guy's a fucking weirdo.” - and they'll tell you that Reggie Watts' Saturday night performance at The Phillips Backyard Weekender was a incendiary force of creativity. It was funny, fresh and relentless. It demanded attention to mine its deep rewards. During his set, which my words will never do justice to, Watts told the potted “history” of spare ribs. We all had a good chuckle. Early the next day, whilst in the smoke-pit, I overheard a discussion about the improvised glory that Watts laid down the previous night. “He must have done a lot of serious research about Victoria. Like, he talked about the history of the spare rib and how it came from Victoria. I didn't know that!” “I'm from Victoria and I didn't know that!” These are actual things I overheard. Are there hundreds or possibly thousands of people out in Victoria now spreading the wholly false idea that Victoria is the legit home of the spare rib? God, I hope so.
Like many, I was sad Kelis couldn't make it, but it worked out because we got the Sorority. And The Sorority fucking rules.
On Friday night a friend whose taste in hip-hop came up to me, obviously with a purpose. “There's this group called The Sorority playing on Sunday that you have you to see. Four of the best female rappers in Toronto and they're going to kill it.” He was right. And hell, four of the best female rappers?! I'd imagine they're pretty high up on the list of best rappers in Toronto period. Even though they were apparently missing a member – Haviah Mighty, who I've been told is the straight up hardest (and from the recorded verses they played and what I've heard since, I can agree) – the remaining three MCs (Keysha Freshh, Lex Leosis, pHoneix Pagliacci) delivered an energetic and ridiculously engaging set of some of the best hip-hop I've heard in a long time. I have a deep, unsatisfied love of the hip-hop collective – multiple MC s working together and lending their different skills to a part of a powerful whole. It's something I see less and less of all the time and getting to see these women on stage, with an abundance of talent and having incalculable fun, reminded me of many of the reasons I fell in love with hip-hop when I was a kid. I think apart from the solo selections (1 each) they played, the majority of their set was compromised of songs from their fucking banging album Pledge. If you like hip-hop, if you like RAPPING, you should get this into your ears right away. And for fucks sake, if you get the chance to see them live, don't sleep and go see The Sorority.
Two sets from Dessa was a real treat for hip-hop and non hip-hop fans alike.
(Okay, I can't promise that non hip-hop fans loved both sets, but I saw a lot of people I know to not be non-listeners of rap pretty captivated when Dessa was on stage.) Seeing the same main stage artist two days in a row isn't a very common thing around these parts, but having Dessa play two sets this weekend was a pretty amazing decision by the organizers. Playing right after The Sorority on her second day, Dessa commented “I play a lot of festivals and the number of times you see a female-led hip-hop act play into a female-led hip-hop act is ZERO.” It's good someone on stage pointed it out loud because female-led hip-hop is the goddamned future of hip-hop and people need to know it. One of the most singularly captivating rappers I've seen in some time, Dessa (Backed by a full band. Always a solid choice.) gave people a taste of her past with tracks like “Matches to Paper Dolls” and her present with the powerful “Fire Drills” from her incredible album Chime, released earlier this year. Proof that she's been a mighty purveyour of hip-hop with no signs of slowing down any time soon.
You should listen to Diamond Cafe and get on the train now before he takes over the world.
A few months ago, Garden City Grooves celebrated their 5th Anniversary with a show featuring Seattle's Delvon Lamar Organ Trio and Victoria act Diamond Cafe. As the person in charge of press, I became familiar with the lineup and was buzzing with anticipation for all the acts, but particularly intrigued with Diamond Cafe, the new project of Victoria's Tristan Thompson. Unfortunately, due to prior obligations, I had to miss the show and just heard whispers about what had happened. But thankfully the good people of Do250, who curated the Picnic-er Stage, gave me another chance to check this out and HOLY SHIT. Clearly someone raised on as much Prince as I was, Diamond Cafe is smooth, sexy and impossibly smooth. Thompson's vocals are simply incredible, with a staggering range and unrelenting passion. I briefly considered throwing my underwear on stage, but no one needs to see me without underwear and I probably would have been removed from the premises. Instead, like the hundreds who got drawn in by the music, just moved my hips in a sexy manner and let Diamond Cafe take me away to R&B Heaven. Goddamn, get Diamond Cafe on your radar now.