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 set)
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!)
Wednesday, June 20 – Ship Point w/ Panteon Rococo, Kingston Rudieska + more (Free)
Friday, June 22 – Lucky Bar w/ Jimi Needles, Sam Klassik
I honestly don't know a whole lot about the international man of mystery the people call TecStyleZ, except that he is a man of exceptional musical taste and a seemingly innate talent for rocking a party with the dopest and freshest of grooves. The first night I saw him, I actually talked to him outside of the party before he got behind the decks. His quiet, polite demeanour belied his beast-like abilities behind the turntables. It didn't take long for me to be jumping up and down, sweating an unreasonable amount (As is my way) to his songs selections and remixes. Hip-hop, soul, funk, a few choice drum n bass selections – it doesn't really matter, because you know it's going to be groovy if TecStyleZ is putting it down. Good thing he's rocking this festival twice!
Saturday, June 23 – Ship Point w/ Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Western Standard Time + more
Okay, I gotta be straight up here. I was highly skeptical when I read that Fortunate Youth was going to be on the Festival this year. I didn't have any reason to be other than my own weak, preconceived notions about the band. I'd lumped them in with a lot of boring, lame beach-party reggae bands that never did anything for me. They played the legendary Cali Roots festival a couple of weeks ago. I caught the livestream out of curiosity and I have to admit that I was way wrong about this band. This is some damned fine, sunny reggae delivered with soul and love. I have an inkling that singer Dan Kelly's voice alone is going to be one of my personal highlights of this years festival.
Illvis Freshly LIVE
Thursday, June 21 – Upstairs Cabaret w/ Sweetleaf, Lady AK
How many times can I see Illvis Freshly? Like, man, these guys are everyfuckingwhere. But here's the thing – Every time I see these cats, they're doing something new. They've added something to their sound. Someone unexpectedly sings a new thing. They have guests. They have a shitload of new music. It's always something and this time they hit the Ska & Reggae Fest stage they'll be flanked by their new live band AND they'll have their just-released album Certified Fresh in their arsenal. It'll be one of the first festival crowds of the year for the homies, in their hometown and with the ruffians in Sweetleaf as well as Lady AK, one of my favourite bass dealers on Vancouver Island, this is going to be a serious Thursday night party.
Friday, June 22 – Lucky Bar w/ Sam Klassik, TecStyleZ
Okay. I really wanted to spread this out and recommend five artists playing on five different shows of this years festival. So I wrote the last four and I've been sitting here trying to shoehorn someone other than Jimi Needles into this spot (As I've already recommended TecStyleZ whom Jimi is playing with). But really, having a list like this without Jimi Needles on it would be flat out dishonest of me. There are few DJs who have delighted me so deeply and consistently as Jimi Needles. It's hard to believe it's been more than two and half years since Needles was a guest on 5 Questions with Rags and since that interview it has been a musical goal of mine to see the homie spin and party-rock live. There is no musical experience in the next few months, DJ or band, that I'm looking forward to even half as much as this set. It should be at the top of this list just by default, but I've written a lot about the homie and was really trying to branch out here. But resistance is futile. Just see Jimi Needles at Victoria Ska & Reggae Festival as he rocks his Canadian debut. For fucks sake. (But if bass and DJ ing isn't your thing, you should go to see Culture feat. Kenyatta Hill that's going on at the same time. Because that's what would have been in this slot if not for Jimi. Two Sevens Clash is legendary reggae and it's going to be an incredible show.) Also, I first heard the track below while I was traveling in Vietnam. I was alone and it had been a really stressful trip to that point and homie sent me a preview of it. I was instantly soothed. It was the first time I was emotionally moved by a drum n' bass track. Seriously a pivotal moment in my musical development of the last few years.
Special Mention – Elements of Hip-Hop Workshop + Open Discussion Panel
Friday, June 22 – Vic Theatre, w/ Chali 2na, Que Rock, Erica Dee, Degree One, Ostwelve, Jimi Needles (Free)
I listen to a lot of music and try to keep my ear-offerings diverse. But hip-hop is the most near and dear music to me. My listening diet always comes back to hip-hop. The rise of the culture, so quick and impactful, continues to be felt across genres and cultural borders. With so many people from so many walks of life being touched by hip-hop in some form or another, it is truly a culture of the people – a canvass for anyone with love of the form to tell their story. This workshop is going to be a very special look at the many ways hip-hop has impacted not just musical history, but the personal histories of the people who practice it. Que Rock of the legendary Ready To Rock Crew will be offering knowledge from a life lived combining his love of hip-hop with his Anishnawbe culture, as he walks us through the elements of hip-hop culture, as well as the healing power of the culture. We'll be treated to a scratch demonstration and dazzling courtesy of the previously mentioned Jimi Needles. Then the open discussion panel with the legendary Chali 2na, powerful Erica Dee, Vancouver's mighty Ostwelve and Victoria hip-hop legend Degree One will be talking about hip-hop's past, present and future. And, for all you Rags Music fans, the panel will be lead by yours truly. Yes. Come see your guy ask questions to some big hip-hop folks and watch me sit there grinning moronily as they answer. It'll be grand.