Rifflandia has a track record of bringing artists out of the shadows and into the limelight, so there’s a chance you’ll see something special in the making this weekend.
But four days of festival activity is no joke, even for the most seasoned festivalgoer. You’ll need to move economically between the festival’s 14 venues in order to keep up.
Allow us to help. Here’s a sampling of must-see acts playing the festival’s 14 stages, ranging from alt-folk to ’80s-friendly funk.
Phillips Backyard, 11 p.m.
Rifflandia will open with an electronic dance music bang at the Phillips Backyard, which has morphed into the home for big names not booked into Royal Athletic Park. Adventure Club certainly fits the bill: The Montreal duo has become a serious export, with stops at Coachella, Ultra Music Festival, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo on its résumé and dance hits aplenty on the charts. Still, the duo remains unknown to some.
TassNata & Tona
Phillips Front Yard, 11 p.m.
Hip-hop is taking something of a backseat at Rifflandia this year, but there’s one potential winner in the bunch. TassNata & Tona bridge the gap between new- and old-school, with styles that harken to their hometowns. Vernon’s TassNata is the West Coast connection, while Tona comes out of Toronto. Both have hits of their own, but they sounded smashing together on their 2017 single Let’s Go. That’s good news for fans hoping to catch their set at the very intimate Phillips Frontyard.
Capital Ballroom, 12:30 a.m.
Victoria synth-funk fashionista Tristan Thompson is so ready for prime time, labelling him an underdog is a serious mistake. His set at the Capital Ballroom will be a highlight, but his afternoon appearance at the Rifftop Tent on Saturday could be the bigger game-changer. Bowie and Prince are easy touchstones for this intriguing artist, whose day on the big stage could work wonders for his career trajectory around these parts.
Rifftop Tent, 5 p.m.
Size-wise, the Rifftop Tent at Royal Athletic Park is a significant upgrade from Lucky Bar, the venue where Blitzen Trapper made its 2008 debut at Rifflandia. The band from Portland, Oregon, is back with an increased profile and set celebrating the 10th anniversary of Furr, its breakout (and, to date, best) album. The band is still making relevant new music, but its alt-folk output never sounded better than in the Furr era.
Rubber Boot Club, 11:30 p.m.
The duo of Jon Middleton (from favourites Jon and Roy) and Sierra Lundy is one of the top local acts at Rifflandia this year; remarkably, the two have been playing music together for just over a year. They headline a night of stellar singer-songwriters at the Rubber Boot Club. Jon and Roy fans not familiar with their mixture of originals and covers will be pleasantly surprised. Ocie Elliott is currently prepping its second EP, which should put them in bigger venues.
Main Stage, 5:45 p.m.
Born in London, raised in Tokyo and based in Los Angeles, this 25-year-old performer — born Sarah McLaughlin, believe it or not — is a mess of musical contradictions, which is a very good thing. Named after the Scottish town of Bishopbriggs, where her parents were raised, she already has a tour with Coldplay under her belt, and all signs are pointing to a bright future for this pop-electro powerhouse. Her single River (47 million views on YouTube) is one for the time capsule.
Electric Avenue Stage, 11 p.m.
Be prepared: French producer Chloé Herry is capable of turning the Electric Avenue Stage into something resembling the Electric Daisy Carnival — the annual electronic dance music festival in Las Vegas — during her Saturday-night set. Her bouillabaisse of bass music and glitch-hop has been wowing audiences internationally for years, raising expectations that she will finally break through with a full-time focus on North America.
Rifftop Tent, 6:25 p.m.
Britain’s Beardyman has scores of videos on YouTube, the majority of which offer erratic mindtrips that include everything from beat-boxing and comedy to on-the-spot looping and mash-ups. He’s a likable performer whose recorded music can’t compare to his on-stage antics, but that shouldn’t stop fans. He’s almost unbeatable in concert.
— Mike Devlin, Times Colonist