Rifflandia 2012 Royal Athletic Park review

Three days of music, art, beer and fun at Royal Athletic Park during Rifflandia V

The Flaming Lips

As Monday rolled around and people got back to work, the afterglow of the Rifflandia 2012 festival resonated.  It was a glorious weekend, one which showed once again that Victoria hosts one of the best music festivals in the province.  Oh, and the music was phenomenal.

Everlast striding on stage, grey beard and all, singing some of the most sombre, truthful  lyrics out of anyone in the whole festival, a man who has seen some things.  The Ends and another song dedicated to “the hard working folk” had us all feeling it, a Johnny Cash type figure, almost brought to full reincarnation when he busted out with Folsom Prison by the great legend.   Mr. Whitey Ford told us stories in a raspy voice and ripped some wicked blues guitar to go along with it.  He honoured us, exalting our awesome “BC green” and saying how he needed a couple of whiskies just to get fired up for going on stage!

Sloan rolled in like a fashionably sweatered fog from the east coast, playing their entire Twice Removed album, essentially dictating that everyone just chill the F out.  The Haligonians played with the style and grace of the 20 year rockers which they are, the drummer even having a 70s style mahogany coloured coat rack next to his place of work, where he hung up his day coat before starting to play.  Their set was like sitting on a cool east coast beach watching the sun occasionally pierce through the fog bank offshore and the slow but powerful, full waves hit the beach softly.

Hey Ocean!  and Current Swell both played enthusiastic sets filled with energy, love and beautiful good times.  Like a true mermaid, the lead singer of Hey Ocean!, Ashleigh Ball sang about touring across the country and getting lonely for the sea around the Winnipeg part of the trip.  She and her band mates sang ballads of islands and water, honouring their coastal homes.  Current Swell rocked their hits, a spicy, soothing blend of surf folk rock mixed with some hearty blues, complete some most awesome slide guitar!  When little Owen breakdanced on stage with Hey Ocean!  it just resonated the power of family and community.  The crowd literally loved it, especially when Ball declared the little man officially part of the band.

Despite the wealth of talented acts at Riff 2012, it was undoubtedly the Friday, Saturday and Sunday night closing acts which stole the show.  The Flaming Lips, Cake and Mother Mother simply rocked Royal Athletic Park with authority.  The Lips’ visual circus extravaganza was mesmerizing and beautiful, waves of green seaweed coloured 3D lights visible through the “double rainbow” glasses, giant balls bouncing and floating through the air, and a man in an inflatable rubber ball walking across the crowd.  What more can one say?

Cake took it, however; these California rockers simply preached good times and good humanity.  They were the complete package, lead singer John McCrea, playing his signature magical percussion device, the name of which escapes the writer’s definition,  captivating the crowd with a hypnotic ability.  Cake was a virtuosity of self-actualization, releasing their latest album Showroom of Compassion on their own label and simply being messiahs on stage, appropriately ridiculing the crowd for the constant tweeting and facebooking during the show, telling everyone to just “enjoy the moment”!  For it may be all we have.  Every song this band played was clear and to the tune the crowd expected-it was like listening directly to one of their albums.  The crowd loved the sound, pumping their fists and dancing the night away (especially on War Pigs!), all the while feeling slightly more in tune with how the world was turning.  Cake most assuredly vibed with the Victorians on a very mutual level.

Watching Mother Mother close out the festival was like watching your child, all grown up — and it was the perfect way to bring Victoria back home.  The entire park packed the main stage grounds and bounced to the progressive and excellent guitar rifts of lead singer Ryan Guldemond and the crooning voices and tickling ivories of his beautiful sister Molly and the fiery Jasmin Parkin.  The band’s sheer diversity of sound and emotion was, and always is, phenomenal, possibly attributable to the lovely masculine-feminine composition of the group.  Songs like Simply Simple and Let’s Fall In Love pulled at one’s heart strings, while the bass and guitar driven, siren shrieking sounds of The Stand and Hayloft sent the crowd into a bouncing, crowd surfing frenzy.  Mother Mother is quickly mastering their sonic spectrum and will undoubtedly continue rising to the top of the Canadian and International music scene.  The Body of Years which we have seen this terrific band rise have been truly enjoyable and have possibly cemented Mother Mother into Victoria’s soul.

Royal Athletic Park just scratched the surface of what Rifflandia brought to the city this year. The night venues put on their own mini festivals and rocked some serious stages.  Of note, the hip hop show at Club 9ONE9 on Thursday night was definitely most assuredly tight.

Rifflandia 2012 was just a little bit better than the year before, and the year before that.  More people seemed to be checking out the festival from abroad, showing once again that us Victorians know how to rock it best, drink it best, and hey you know the rest. M


Review by Matthew R. Taccogna


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