Neither rain nor sleet nor… OK, well there wasn’t any sleet or snow, but there sure were some clouds, rain and lightning as Rifflandia laid out its fourth and final day of music.
There to save us all was the music. Like some cool college student’s playlist, the Sunday program proved to be eclectic, but always spot on, as it took us through the realms of singer/songwriter, rock, dirty synth pop, hip-hop and folky ensemble soundscape.
After an early afternoon featuring the likes of Hannah Geroges and Rykka, the festival headed into the homestretch with some of the biggest names of the event.
I’ve never really understood the mass appeal of Stars but their unique brand of drama student pop opera hit a chord with the increasingly saturated crowd as they took the main stage.
Hands in air, heads bobbing, the young crowd were firm believers in the band’s tales of youthful love lost and the possibilities of life. Soulful renditions of “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” and “Take Me to the Riot” even had skeptics like me warming up to the Montreal group.
Big Boi’s DJ asked repeatedly for the crowd to make some motherloving noise as the one half of Outkast ascended a main stage adorned with a throne at centre, and little else. The rapper, from Atlanta, Georgia, is perhaps the lesser known of the rap superstar group, but that didn’t inhibit a noticeable anticipation in the audience.
Pounding through OutKast hits such as “Bombs Over Baghdad” and “So Fresh, So Clean,” along with solo work both new and old, Big Boi proved a force to be reckoned with on his own, both a seriously skilled rhyme spitter and a whole lot of fun.
I spent half the set debating whether his leg brace was needed or an adornment I didn’t understand (turns out he recently had surgery) but regardless, he spent much of the set literally on the throne, with his foot elevated. The immobility did nothing to hinder the man’s presence however and with a lively hype man and powerful backup singer, the wall of sound attacking the audience brought energies up.
Anyone who wasn’t feeling good by this time, perhaps due to the increasingly heavy ran and a bought of lightning, surely turned that frown upside during the raucous set by Matt and Kim, the pop rock couple from Brooklyn.
I knew nothing about them, to be honest. But after an hour of confetti, synth, booty shaking and about a hundred balloons, I am a convert.
Matt and Kim are about as fun as a live act gets and it’s shocking the amount of energy two people with a keyboard and a drum kit can stir up. The music isn’t something you’d sit down and listen to, but who would want to? You want to get up and jump in the air and maybe crowd surf. Which is exactly what Rifflandiers did.
The night and, sadly, the festival ended with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, who managed a hypnotic, swelling set despite lead singer Alex Ebert’s self-declared case of flu.
While his ailing voice and lack of energy may have slowed Ebert down, the rest of the band did their best to keep the show going, largely succeeding. Ebert’s voice even worked to his advantage at times, adding a gravely edge to solo track “Truth” and set-opener “Man on Fire.”
All told it was a great day for music and community. Rain, as it so often does, brought everyone together in a common cause: having a blast despite it. There were some tired faces in the crowd on people who had been partying for the past four days of Rifflandia, but there sure weren’t many looks of disappointment. Just a whole lot of smiles.
By Kyle Wells