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Rifflandia Returns to Victoria with Some Musical Gems and Rarities

With headliners including Lorde, Charli XCX and Shaquille O’Neal, the annual multi-genre festival is back in full form. 

by Ben Boddez

Photo by Lindsey Blane

After sitting dormant for four years, Nick Blasko and the team behind Victoria’s citywide multi-genre Rifflandia Music Festival knew that the main thing they had to lock down for their return was an eye-catching lineup. In a world where festival nerds often clamour for “rare” and “unique” acts rather than their favourite artists who show up in their city every couple of years anyway, they certainly achieved that.

Running from September 15 to 18 across nine stages throughout the city, Rifflandia not only boasts some of B.C.’s finest rising stars and established icons like bbno$ and The Funk Hunters, but a wealth of legacy acts and pioneers including Cypress Hill, Bikini Kill, Pussy Riot and even Shaquille O’Neal – yes, you read that correctly – performing under his musical moniker DJ Diesel. It’s all tied together by two icons of alt-pop in Lorde and Charli XCX at the top of the bill.

“It’s like Burning Man meets Bass Coast meets SXSW in the city,” Blasko says. “Victoria is such a small community, so we can’t just go too far in one niche, you have to appeal to a broad range of people. When you try to do that, you’re grabbing people’s musical tastes, their generations, where they sit over the years. By booking bigger and bigger artists, you get to have more fun with being genre-agnostic, and it becomes more obvious to everyone too.”

The festival will be split between the more family-oriented Park stages, which will run throughout the day and features many of the festival’s biggest names, and Electric Avenue stages, taking place in downtown venues after hours and featuring most of the festival’s electronic music programming. In recent iterations, Blasko has been marvelling at longtime festival-goers bringing their kids to the Park stage to take it all in.

As for tips on surviving and thriving at the festival, Blasko has a couple of good ones – but at the end of the day, he brings it back to the music. “Comfortable footwear and hydration are things that are always on,” he says. “But also, a really open mind to see some music that you might not be expecting. They’re long days, but there’s value in that this doesn’t happen every day of the year. So, get some rest, plan to make long days, and go in with an open mind.”

Five Things You Can’t Miss At Rifflandia Festival

The ARC Stage
One of the many stages to be found at Electric Avenue, The ARC stage will be zeroing in on local BC talent, with five up-and-coming acts from British Columbia gracing the stage each day from Thursday to Saturday – including artists like Serena Sun, Bridal Party, Dacey, Nimkish and Kimmortal. “B.C. has always had incredible artists, but what ebbs and flows is opportunity for those artists,” Blasko says. “There’s so many new artists that haven’t performed live much at all because of the pandemic. I view it as an elastic band pulled back, and it’s going to spring wide open when these bands get to perform.”

Read more about the ARC Program 

Riff City
Inspired by the concept of the 15-minute city — an environmentalist term striving for future cities to provide all the essentials to its residents in a 15-minute radius on foot or biking with a big focus on green spaces — Riff City will be the space for local vendors to show off their stuff. Constructed out of a collection of shipping containers, the visual aspect will be a draw in and of itself as you scramble for some of your favourite band’s merch. 

Rifflandia Skate Park
A yearly tradition at the festival, lace up your skates or grab a board because there will be a fully-functioning skate park on the festival grounds. “We’ve got a bunch of amateur and pro skaters coming to skate it, which will be rad,” Blasko says. There’s probably not much better than watching people fly through the air on boards while the protest-punk of Pussy Riot or the laid-back West Coast vibes of Cypress Hill echo in the background. 

Rifflandia Magazine
Accompanying the festival each year, Rifflandia compiles a magazine highlighting some of the artists and goings-on – and this year’s edition is all about the love. The festival is currently hosting a contest where fans are encouraged to send in some of their Rifflandia love stories for a chance at being featured in the magazine. Above all, Blasko prides himself on creating a space where these things are able to happen. “It’s fun to put them all out there for people to see that life changing things do happen at these types of events,” he says.

The Music (of course)
Featuring artists from all over the globe, there are a number of gems throughout the lineup. Blasko points out the UK afro-funk outfit Ibibio Sound Machine and Canada’s Drag Race victor Priyanka as must-see shows, while also nodding to the catchiness of Montreal pop artist Rêve’s recent material. “We’ve also never had back-to-back super-powered female headliners,” he says. “We’re using bigger stages this year, and we’ve had a moment to rethink and rebuild a lot of things. So, I think the experience is going to feel elevated for people, but it’ll feel fresh too.” 

Rifflandia Festival runs from September 15 to 18, 2022. Grab your tickets at rifflandia.com.