Rifflandia wrapped its very successful first week of programming on Saturday night, propelled to record attendance numbers with help from its new home base.
This year, the annual music festival shifted the majority of its Electric Avenue night programming to the Matullia Holdings land adjacent to Phillips Brewery, and the move paid immediate dividends. The festival reported 8,000 people on site Saturday, a single-day record for Electric Avenue, organizers said.
The new site, which borders Pembroke, Government, and Store streets, was used in a limited capacity last year but hosted the festival’s massive main stage for the first of two weekends of programming. The festival resumes Friday with The Park, the first of three days of events at Royal Athletic Park. Performers include Iggy Pop, Herbie Hancock, and Diplo.
Hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, retro-funk favourites Chromeo, and bassist-DJ Blu DeTiger helped put Rifflandia over the top during Saturday’s Electric Avenue finale. Grammy Award nominees Run the Jewels were especially notable, and delivered the set of the weekend during what was reportedly its only Canadian performance this year. The festival also drew impressive crowds on Thursday and Friday, for sets from Paris Hilton and Chris Lake, among others. The decision to expand to six days from four and separate the festival into daytime and nighttime partitions — Rifflandia has been a one-weekend event since its debut in 2008 — was a resounding success.
It was next to impossible to take in all that Rifflandia had to offer. The atmosphere was akin to a carnival, with no shortage of activity on the ground and air. Art installations, and a popular geodesic dome dance tent accented by tech-heavy displays, were highlights. Organizers secured the groundbreaking services of Pixel Sky Animations, which decorated the sky above the mainstage with digital imagery from 180 drones on each of the three nights.
Hilton created a big buzz on Friday with her DJ set, one that drew a feverish reaction from fans. The stage for her 70-minute performance was accented by video screens showing glamour shots of the former reality TV star, and she lived up to the advance hype. By the time Hilton, who appeared at ease on stage, started her set, the audience was awash in a glitterbombed sea of Barbie-like pink. It only got more over-the-top from there.
She was deceptively funny (Hilton joked about drinking mojitos at the Double Tree on Douglas Street, which is owned by the hotel chain which bears her family’s name), and made several abrupt song changes during her set — usually a no-no in the DJ world. “Does anyone else here have ADHD?” she shouted, to a roar from the crowd. “You are my people!”
She brushed off one mid-set flub, while lightheartedly making note of her critics — some of whom claim she isn’t actually DJing. “This what happens when you play live,” she said.
Hilton was an audience favourite, and stayed for hours after her performance to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans. It was a supremely shrewd booking, when you consider the effort a star of her stature turned in on this night.
Rifflandia resumes Sept. 15 at Royal Athletic Park, and continues through Sept. 17. Tickets are available at rifflandia.com/tickets.