Sunday, September 17, 2023

Concert review: Rifflandia 2023 Day Two

Rifflandia at the Park –  Victoria, BC
September 15, 2023

For this next entry we’ll be doing “live” concert stuff only, on account of the fact that I don’t own a single album by a single band I saw on Saturday. That may change soon, though – live music can be inspiring that way.

Victoria’s Rifflandia music festival has grown a lot over the years, to the point that this year sprawls across two weekends. We’re now into the second of those, so on Friday I took the afternoon off work and headed down early for some tunes.

The venue

For Week Two, Rifflandia has moved back to the comfortable confines of Royal Athletic Park (RAP), a charming little baseball field near Victoria’s downtown. As per Rifflandia tradition, the venue is surrounded by homes and condominiums to ensure that those who live nearby receive a free concert (mostly bass) whether they want one or not. It all ends at ten, so for a Friday night party, not that terrible an ordeal.

I am used to RAP from many years of beer festivals, back before my body rebelled against me and told me I could no longer drink beer. I was hoping for a better bathroom set up than Beerfest, and as good a crowd or better as we got the previous weekend.

The crowd

The crowd was a much bigger age range this time. The 20-35 year old twenty-four hour party people were still there but lured by old rock bands Suicidal Tendencies and Iggy Pop, there were a lot more folks closer to my vintage as well. Also, the flashes of neon had been mostly replaced by black leather and rock shirts.

Once again, everyone was friendly. At one point late in the Iggy Pop set, an older gentlemen raced over to me, eyes wide with unbridled excitement, exclaiming, “Can you believe we’re listening live to “Death Trip”. This is happening!” I confirmed for him that it was, in fact, happening and he then pinched his own cheek to ensure I wasn’t just a further manifestation of his fanciful dream, and capered off at high speed into the night.

We were also lucky to run into many friends, some who we see all the time, some seldomly, and some not for long intervals. All the encounters were welcome.

OK, let’s get to the bands, shall we?

The Poor Choices

As we arrived, local Victoria punk rockers The Poor Choices were already lighting it up on the main stage. I did not know this band prior but was immediately impressed. They were crunching it out and the sound was crisp and clear.

Yes, I know punk rock doesn’t have to be crisp and clear to be good, but I’m of the opinion that being viscerally, authentically, rock and roll does not require the production to suck.

I liked the Poor Choices so much that it was the only t-shirt I bought from the merch tent. I was lured by the logo of an alligator (or crocodile) attempting to devour a dismembered arm on a chain. Also, had for only $20 to the headliner’s $50. I’ll be chasing down their albums anon.


OK, technically I do own a U.S. Girls record but I like it only a little, and didn’t feel like reviewing it, OK? It’ll come up soon enough. U.S. Girls aren’t U.S. girls at all, they are the project of Canadian Meghan Remy.

I was pretty excited to see them, but I found the performance lackluster. I admit I didn’t give it the chance it deserved, hanging near the back and only partially paying attention. Also, the sound cut out mid-way through, killing any momentum Remy might have built. After that the mix seemed off, and I just wasn’t feeling it. Bummer.

Sports Team

Up next was British pop band Sports Team. Sports Team sound like a British version of the Killers if the Killers didn’t suck so much. Sports Team apparently gets played on local radio, which I cannot confirm, since I do not listen to local radio. Or radio at all.

I liked Sports Team, but didn’t love them. It was easy to digest pop music and they had good energy. The drummer looked good in a soccer outfit, although based on their name, Sports Team is more about making fun of sports than loving them.

Suicidal Tendencies

Mid-way through Suicidal Tendencies’ set, my buddy Ross noted that the only original member was lead singer Mike Muir. Further research shows a LOT of lineup changes (over the years 35 different people have been in the band. Yes, 35). This was disappointing, although I’m not sure why. I’m not a fan anyway, and if it sounds good, who cares? I think if I were a hardcore fan it would annoy me more, but the hardcore fans in attendance (and there were many) seemed perfectly fine with the lineup.

I don’t fully pick up what Suicidal Tendencies is putting down. They played tight though and had some good crunch to the set. In between songs Muir would exhort cheers from the crowd with various rants amounting to not letting anyone tell you what to do. These rants were underwhelming and a bit rambling.

Suicidal Tendencies had some great t-shirts, easily the best art in the merch table. Unfortunately, not being a fan I couldn’t bring myself to buy one, but did I wish it otherwise? Reader, I did.

OK – next up two artists we intended to skip.

Marc Rebillet

Sheila and I had preplanned to ditch Marc Rebillet and get dinner. We found the festival’s teriyaki hut (a different teriyaki joint from the one the previous weekend, but even more teriyaki-licious!)

Teriyaki bowls in hand, we sat in the stadium stands and got to watch a steady stream of semi-inebriates file their way to the washroom, noting the best t-shirts or outfits as they presented themselves.

Ignoring Rebillet turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. His one-man show, where he improves grooves and rants like a preacher, while interacting with the audience for inspiration was a hell of a lot of fun. Best song was “This One’s For the Children”. A song definitely not for children but that Rebillet would periodically stop to berate the audience, with rants of “Stop enjoying this song. This one is for the children! Let the children have a song!” Etc.

Later he would wear a bra and panties and scream gutterally at various people. It was weirdly entertainnig, and it was nice to see Rebillet use his surfeit of personality to entertain rather than, say, becoming a cult leader.

Two Feet

Then came Two Feet, a band of droning idiocy, where the only good thing was the laser light show behind them. I did not watch much of that either, as facing away from the stage made Two Feet’s music slightly easier to ignore.

Iggy Pop

Finally, as the sun set (in our eyes) Iggy Pop emerged to take control of the stage.

Immediately shirtless, Iggy Pop, now 76 years old, proceeded to show us young folks how to be a punk rocker. You could see his leathery, sagging skin in full glory and a small “skinny man” belly that he would pat affectionately just to let you know he was fully aware of its presence and cared not a whit.

Iggy still has a great voice and he commanded the crowd from beginning to end. The band had a horn section, which (not being an Iggy Pop expert) may or may not be a part of his historical repertoire. I suspect not.

The horns were an awesome addition and did not de-punkify the show in the least. The setlist had commercial standards I recognized (and loved) and cuts clearly for the hard core fans that I did not know (but also loved).

Iggy Pop was born to do this and held the crowd in the clench of his fist from beginning to end. The fact that he is so old makes him more authentic and punk than ever, and the energy he puts into every movement, every note and every crowd interaction, is timeless. I didn’t know I was going to enjoy that show as much as I did, and it was a furiously pleasant surprise. I bought one of his albums the next day and expect more on the way.

That was the overall experience at this day of Rifflandia for me, discovering new bands and finding more than a few I can’t wait to explore further. In fact, the whole time I’ve been writing this I’ve been listening to the Poor Choices’ studio albums and liking what I hear.

My next review will be a third day of Rifflandia, plus an album, as we ease our way back into the traditional format.

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