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'It's crazy how much I missed this': Sounds of Rifflandia fill Royal Athletic Park for first time in four years

Festival this weekend features mix of hip-hop, indie rock and roots music from across North America; NBA great Shaquille O'Neal performs as DJ Diesel

Royal Athletic Park was full of concertgoers for the first time in four years Friday, the ­second day of the Rifflandia music ­festival.

The event, in operation for the first time since 2018, seemed to thrill audiences with its mix of hip-hop, indie rock and roots music from across North ­America.

Friday featured sets by Bran Van 3000, Cat Power and Bikini Kill.

“I’m so glad it’s back,” said Tim Gower, 24, a University of Victoria student who attended the festival when he was a­ teenager. “It’s crazy how much I missed this.”

Festival founder Nick Blasko was similarly pleased. He said the audience of 7,000 was the best opening night at the park in the festival’s 14-year history. *It’s a great day of music,” he said.

The festival got underway Thursday night near Phillips Brewery that included a warmly received set by Los Angeles DJ Dillon Francis.

The crowd was far larger than previous years, pointing to a strong weekend ahead. Blasko said he wouldn’t be surprised if the next two days sell out, with the total attendance for each day cresting at 15,000 people.

Acts set to play the festival during the remainder of the weekend include Lorde and Charli XCX.

The festival was without one of its key acts on Friday, Pussy Riot, which on short notice was forced to cancel its 5:30 p.m. appearance. A publicist for the rabble-rousing, politically-motivated band, which originated in Russia but is now based in an undisclosed location, cited work visa issues as the reason. The band sent a video message in which lead singer Nadya Tolokonnikova, while wearing a ski mask to protect her identity, called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a murderer.”

The cancellation was the only scheduling hiccup for Rifflandia thus far.

“It’s a happy gathering full of support, for the entire city,” Blasko said. “Everyone has a Rifflandia story, and this is another opportunity for more.”