What: Rock the Shores, featuring City and Colour, Metric, Eagles of Death Metal, Arkells, Jesse Roper, Current Swell and more
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: West Shore Parks and Recreation, 1767 Island Hwy., Colwood
Tickets: $25/$50 (Friday), $65/$130 (Saturday or Sunday) and $150/$285 (three-day pass) in person at West Shore Parks and Recreation (250-478-8384), Lyle’s Place, 770 Yates St. (250-382-8422) and rocktheshores.com/tickets
When in doubt, go local.
That became the philosophy for the organizers of this weekend’s Rock the Shores, who have booked exclusively Vancouver Island acts for the first of three days of activity at the Colwood festival.
The formula quickly proved to be a winning one. Although programming for the remainder of the weekend features touring headliners such as City and Colour, Metric, Eagles of Death Metal and Arkells, among others, the locals-only offerings proved to be an immediate hit with fans.
“[Friday night] is on track to be the biggest exclusively local music event in Island history,” said co-producer Nick Blasko of Atomique Productions.
“It just goes to show that our market has a greater capacity to support things than many often give us credit for.”
Initially, the idea of what is being termed the 7 Mile Social — named for the distance between the Rock the Shores site in Colwood and Mile 0 near Dallas Road — was seen as a novel way of taking on stiff concert competition.
Across town Friday, at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, classic rockers the Tragically Hip will give their final Victoria concert to a packed throng of more than 7,000 devout fans.
Going up against the final bow from a group of Canadian icons was a daunting task, Blasko admitted. But it wasn’t long before he knew something special was afoot with his own, lower-profile event.
As it stands, the 7 Mile Social is matching the Tragically Hip concert ticket-for-ticket, with an expected audience of 7,000 at Rock the Shores on Friday.
Opening-night headliners Jesse Roper and Current Swell, two of the eight local bands that make up the 7 Mile Social, are big draws in the province, not merely the city.
But the entire opening-night roster — which also includes Jon and Roy, Band of Rascals, Towers and Trees, Kytami, Malahat and Stinging Belle — is also showing momentum.
“We can be credited with taking the risk and doing it, but we can’t be credited with creating the market. We’re only one piece of the puzzle. The media, radio stations and, ultimately, the fans in Victoria wanted to support this,” Blasko said.
“We have a really unique ecosystem here with our local environment. We have all these major promotional avenues that are fully game to support local, more so than a lot of major cities. Victoria is the perfect incubator.”
Organizers are well-prepared heading into the weekend. Scheduling of the other, newer events produced by Atomique Productions meant that Rock the Shores — once the first item on the production company’s annual festival calendar — now falls after Car Free YYJ, the city’s Canada Day festivities and the Phillips Backyard Weekender, all staged by Atomique earlier this summer.
The total audience for those events neared 80,000, so the organizers have plenty of momentum.
“It’s the first time we’ve done this festival after the Weekender, so we’ve had a nice amount of warm-up,” Blasko said. “We’ve never had this much happen prior to one of our festivals.”
Given the past success of Rock the Shores — which has brought the Black Keys, Jane’s Addiction, the Tragically Hip and Weezer to the West Shore Parks and Recreation fields — very little changes production-wise from year to year, despite a tweet from the West Shore RCMP on July 12 that said concertgoers with drugs, including marijuana, would be denied access this weekend and have their “tickets cancelled.”
“We haven’t changed any of our policies from any of the previous years of Rock the Shores,” Blasko said. “It’s the same great event, there’s nothing different. It is not our policy to cancel tickets for people with medicinal marijuana. We default to the RCMP and their stance on this, but we believe this will be assessed on a case by case basis.”
A new look for the festival will come in the form of a radio-frequency identification chip that comes with each festival wristband. The chip allows users to upload funds to their wristband in advance, which saves time in food and beverage lineups.
The goal of the system, a version of which is employed by larger festivals such as Pemberton, is to improve the customer experience, Blasko said.
The workload is considerable to put the process into place — a delay kept the promoters from rolling out the chip system as planned during the Phillips Backyard Weekender — but the expectation is that it will be in place beginning Friday.
With incremental steps to improve everything from customer service to the acts on stage, the fifth edition of Rock the Shores is shaping up to be one of the best.
“We’ve invested a lot into this festival over the years, and some years it has been great and some years it has come up short,” Blasko said.
“But the way this is coming together this year, it’s a win-win scenario. We’re raising the bar for what is possible for local musicians and local bands on this island.”