Organizers' goal: something for everyone at Phillips Backyard Weekender

What: Phillips Backyard Weekender featuring the Revolution, Reggie Watts, Chk Chk Chk, Keys N Krates, Too Many Zooz and more
When: Friday (4 p.m.-10 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m.-10 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.-10 p.m.), July 20 to 22
Where: Phillips Brewing & Malting Co., 2010 Government St.
Tickets: $39.50 daily ($106.50 for a weekend pass) at ticketweb.ca

On paper, a festival lineup that features the former backing band for Prince and the band leader and announcer for The Late Late Show with James Corden shows that its producers have an affinity for high-wattage party performers. In reality, the organizers behind the Phillips Backyard Weekender like their social gatherings a little more even-keeled.

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“The Weekender has always had a summer block-party vibe, but we never approached that in a frivolous way,” said event co-producer Dimitri Demers of Atomique Productions.

“It has always been backed up by a lot of culture. We like to dig deep for this lineup, and a lot of that is really the dynamics of how all the parts fit together, more so than any one particular act that is on the bill.”

The Revolution, backing band for Prince during his Purple Rain era, and Reggie Watts, a wild man with the ramshackle swagger of a standup comedian, are but two of the notable names appearing at the festival, which gets underway Friday at Phillips Brewery.

Everything from exploratory live dance acts (California’s Chk Chk Chk, New York’s Too Many Zooz, Portland’s Federale) and street-level hip hop (Minnesota’s Dessa) to party-starting DJs and producers from Toronto (Keys N Krates, DJ Shub) will find their way to the stage over the weekend, with 4,000 fans expected to take in the atmosphere of the festival’s sixth edition.

The backstory of each act is important at the Weekender, to a greater degree than some of the other area festivals. Demers prides himself on looking in unusual places for his artists, and keeps tabs on who has made waves in Victoria during previous visits.

“Too Many Zooz destroyed Rifflandia last year, from top to bottom, whether it was at Royal Athletic Park or the Capital Ballroom. They kind of blew people’s minds, and have been getting a ton of momentum wherever they go.”

The Sorority — an all-female Toronto group — and Victoria duo LINKS have replaced Milkshake hitmaker Kelis, who cancelled her planned Sunday appearance “due to personal reasons,” according to Demers.

Hollie Cook was moved up the roster to fill the spot, which was a blessing in disguise, Demers said. Fans are going to enjoy the summer vibe of the British singer, whose mother was a backup singer for Culture Club and whose father is Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook.

“She comes from a family that is steeped in U.K. pop culture. That makes sense when you think about how New Wave, reggae and punk fit together historically in the U.K. She’s got it in her blood.”

Nearly half of the Weekender lineup features female musicians, something Atomique Productions has been making a priority in recent years.

The production company is one of the first Canadian promoters to sign with the Keychange initiative, a U.K.-based organization that asks festival producers to uphold a 50-50 gender equity presence. The initiative is asking event producers to achieve and maintain a 50-50 gender balance across their festivals by 2022, which Demers believes is a possibility.

“We are part of a very large wave in the international festival community that is signing on with this initiative,” Demers said.

“We might not be at gender parity yet with this festival, but we’re definitely very close. I’m really proud that we are part of a strong movement to establish more diversity in our lineups.”

Gender was never an issue for Demers and his fellow organizers, who book artists for one of the city’s most popular summer events based solely on talent. As a result, what they come up with each year is notable for its uniqueness.

“This festival lineup is definitely not like other festival lineups out there, especially in Canada. But that is the beauty and strength of the Weekender. If it was predictable, it wouldn’t be the Weekender. It’s pretty much that simple. I don’t think we’ve ever disappointed anybody and we’re certainly not going to this year, either.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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