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Black Keys, Jane's Addiction raise bar for Colwood's Rock the Shores

What: Rock the Shores featuring the Black Keys, Jane’s Addiction, the Sheepdogs, TV on the Radio, 54-40, Current Swell, Father John Misty, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and more When: Saturday (12:30-11 p.m.) and Sunday (12:30-10 p.m.
Drummer Patrick Carney, left, and singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. The seven-time Grammy winners headline Rock the Shores on Saturday, their first Vancouver Island appearance.

What: Rock the Shores featuring the Black Keys, Jane’s Addiction, the Sheepdogs, TV on the Radio, 54-40, Current Swell, Father John Misty, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and more

When: Saturday (12:30-11 p.m.) and Sunday (12:30-10 p.m.)

Where: West Shore Parks and Recreation Lower Fields, 1767 Old Island Highway, Colwood

Tickets: $84.50 (single-day general admission), $159.50 (single-day VIP), $149 (two-day general admission) and $289.50 (two-day VIP)


The main attractions at Rock the Shores this weekend are two notable U.S. bands from entirely different eras, which broadens the festival’s appeal for rock fans of varying ages.

The Black Keys, who headline Saturday, give festival producers Atomique Productions one of the most popular rock bands ever to play Greater Victoria. Sunday headliners Jane’s Addiction, who helped found the alternative-rock revolution in the late 1980s, bring their own array of experience, in addition to an armful of hits.

The bookings have been the best possible advertising for organizers, after what they termed a successful but flawed 2014 edition.

“Coming out of last year, it was clear where we lacked at the event,” said co-producer Nick Blasko, who produces the event with his Atomique Productions partner, Dimitri Demers.

“It wasn’t the site or the execution or the experience, it was that we needed some higher-level talent. We want to produce a top-tier, premium festival that has the biggest artists we can get and showcase them in a smaller environment. We didn’t have that last year. We lacked the international-calibre headliner.”

This year’s attractions — which include popular performers (the Sheepdogs, 54-40, Current Swell) and cult favourites (Father John Misty, TV on the Radio, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) — go beyond last year’s bookings, which included Billy Talent, Our Lady Peace and Tom Cochrane, among others.

But the success of this weekend’s event, which dropped from three days to two, is expected to involve more than music.

Festivals are big business in 2015 and audiences expect ticket prices to be warranted. The festival environment has changed dramatically since the 2012 inaugural Rock the Shores, a one-day, four-band event headlined by the Tragically Hip.

This year’s edition spreads 17 bands over two days.

“It’s not enough to just put a stage in the middle of a field anymore,” Blasko said. “You’ve got to go deep.”

Atomique added an air of rock-star exclusivity this year by offering Helijet transport from James Bay to the site (travel time: 10 minutes) along with private stage-side cabanas (price tag: $5,000).

The huts, made of reclaimed wood taken from an airplane hangar, have been “incredibly popular,” Blasko said, as they come with 10 VIP tickets and a private valet to fetch food and drink.

The West Shore Parks and Recreation Lower Fields site was reorganized slightly.

The popular VIP section has been relocated so that one corner gives wristband-holders access to the front of the stage. The bank of washrooms has also been moved off the field, to open more space for revellers.

It has taken Atomique four years to make optimum use of the grounds and decide where to put the necessary ingredients, Blasko said. As always, care was taken to ensure the natural beauty of the site is front-and-centre at the festival, according to Blasko.

“It’s so pristine, you want to do whatever you can to leave maximum room for blankets, and so that there’s sightlines from pretty much every corner.”

The site can accommodate 15,000 people, but Blasko expects about 10,000 each day. In previous years, traffic has not been an issue. Blasko doesn’t expect that to change this weekend, but he is urging attendees to plan ahead.

“Considering the thousands of people that do the trip [to the West Shore] every day, the corridors work. You can get people in and out. There has been so much paranoia about carmageddon over the years, but it has never happened. We take it seriously and try to educate people, but it’s not something we’re concerned about.”

At this point, he can’t control who buys into Rock the Shores. But he can do everything in his power to maximize the on-site enjoyment of those who have purchased tickets. And through a unique booking alliance with the producers of this weekend’s massive Pemberton Festival on the mainland, which enabled Atomique to attract a higher calibre of act, Blasko thinks his team has done that.

The Black Keys, Jane’s Addiction, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Father John Misty, Bleachers and PPL MVR will play both Pemberton and Rock the Shores. That’s a huge benefit to audiences on the Island, who wouldn’t normally have access to seven-time Grammy Award winners such as the Black Keys.

“It’s pretty crazy to think the Black Keys are going to play in Colwood,” Blasko said with a laugh.

Mike’s Must-sees

There is only one stage at Rock the Shores, so hard-core fans could theoretically catch every act. The reality, however, is that most attendees will miss a portion of the proceedings. Our advice? Don’t stick only with what you know, or you’re bound to miss some gems. Here’s a list of five acts — some big, some small, some unknown — to plan your weekend around.

1. No Sinner, Saturday, 2:05 p.m. This Vancouver soul-inflected rock combo has been on the bubble for years now, but its long-awaited breakout has not yet materialized. Could the band and its roadhouse rock stick a marker in the ground this weekend? If what singer Colleen Rennison does at Rock the Shores matches what she did on the band’s cigarettes-and-alcohol hit Boo Hoo Hoo, expect fireworks on the festival’s opening day.

2. The Sheepdogs, Saturday, 6:15 p.m. Judging by the Sheepdogs’ new single, Downtown, Southern soul music will play a bigger role on the band’s forthcoming album. But that doesn’t mean their set at dinnertime Saturday will be any less rocking than their beer-friendly Rock the Shores appearance in 2013. The quartet from Saskatoon comes with a built-in party, so expect more of the same.

3. Jesse Roper, Sunday, 1:15 p.m. There will be a big audience to see Metchosin favourite Jesse Roper in the second slot Sunday, and it’s not just local boosterism. Roper, who has special guests lined up, is a legitimate star-in-the-making, with no shortage of hits to please the masses. He surprised nearly everyone at Rock the Shores last year, but is heading into 2015 with a little more wind at his back.

4. Bleachers, Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Jack Antonoff — a Grammy-winning guitarist (with his group Fun) and acclaimed songwriter (with his solo project Bleachers) makes music that sounds as if it arrived in the ’80s, but with a modern twist. Get ready for an aural onslaught from this New Jersey native (boyfriend of Lena Dunham of Girls). He will steal some spotlight with his summer-sized hit I Wanna Get Better.

5. Jane’s Addiction, Sunday, 8:30 p.m. The Black Keys are the weekend’s biggest act, by far. But without Jane’s Addiction, alternative rock would not exist as it does today, nor would anyone be getting paid what they are at festivals such as this. Frontman Perry Farrell created Lollapalooza, and Jane’s Addiction was hitting platinum sales certifications when Nirvana wasn’t even a band. Respect must be paid.

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