Archive for the ‘ Music ’ Category

Rifflandia 2014 Review / Feedback

After Rifflandia comes “Restlandia” for a few days, then “Reflectlandia” for a week or two, and now I have arrived at “Reviewlandia.” :)

Let me start by saying I have been to Rifflandia four years in a row now, and I attend the music festival because I love music. I suppose a secondary reason for attending would be the local cultural experience, i.e. to support local businesses, try new food options, learn about the sponsors and vendors, bump into friends and acquaintances around town, etc. But mostly I attend because I’m a fan of music. I do not attend Rifflandia to party, or to get drunk, or to stand around chatting with friends the whole time while artists are performing. So, now you know where I’m coming from. Here is my review of my 2014 experience:

Layout:

I liked the Royal Athletic Park (R.A.P.) layout this year. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard about the site wide liquor license, but it worked quite well. There was a lot more open space to move around and a lot more area available to sit on the ground. There were more routes available to get from point A to point B and less bottlenecks throughout the field.

Water station placement was too close to the side stage which made it difficult to refill my water bottle when the side stage was busy and overflowing with spectators. I knew where it was though as it’s always generally in the same area, so I didn’t have any problems pushing through the crowd, but I imagine it would be difficult to locate and navigate towards for some people who might not know where it was, or if they were traveling with children or groups, or if they had mobility issues.

The washroom placement was both good and bad. They were in the shade, there were lots of them, and the lineups moved quickly. That said, the staircase used to access them was a horrible bottleneck. To get to the washrooms from the field you had to fight your way up the stairs that were the only way in and out of the stadium. The front gates and security lineup funneled directly to the top of these stairs, with everyone making a return journey from the washrooms merging in with the eager new arrivals making it very difficult to leave the field. Once at the top of the stairs you had to look to both the left and right to determine which washroom area was less busy, causing everyone who finally made it to the top of the stairs to temporarily be in the way of everyone else trying to get down the stairs, thus causing further bottlenecks.

There were a lot of people openly smoking cigarettes in the crowds in front of the stage, in the food lineups, and wandering through the middle of the field. I do not like showing up early for a set to find a perfect spot to stand only to be smoked out when a late comer pushes their way through the crowds with a cigarette in hand. And if I’m standing in a food lineup I can’t just walk away.

(We politely confronted a belligerent smoker in a food lineup who claimed smoking was allowed anywhere since it was outdoors. We did not know the rules. We saw there was a dedicated smoking area, but you had to show ID to get in and couldn’t take alcohol with you. I don’t understand making smokers jump through so many hoops and encouraging them to break the rules. Were they breaking the rules? Was it a non-smoking venue except in designated areas or was it free reign? In BC we’re just used to smokers having to go to designated public areas away from doors, windows, air-intakes, etc so why would they be allowed to smoke in a crowd of thousands of people?)

Whether the people openly smoking in the crowds were under-aged and couldn’t get in to the smoking pit, or didn’t know about the smoking pit, or were just being assholes, I have no idea. I think there should be a zero tolerance policy for smokers and second hand smoke next year. There should be a big sign at the entrance that says smoking is only allowed in the smoking pit. Smokers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get into the smoking pit. Security guards who search packages of cigarettes for drugs should inform the person of the smoking rules and tell them there is a zero tolerance policy for second hand smoke. Anyone caught smoking outside of the smoking pit should have their wristbands immediately removed. Every non-smoker will see the smoking rules when they enter the park so there’s no ambiguity about the rules and no hesitation by non-smokers to report infractions to security staff.

Food & Drink:

There were more picnic benches in the food area this year (yay!) and less congestion because of the lack of beer garden fencing. The lineups seemed to be shorter, or at least moving faster than last year. Maybe I was just lucky at the times I went, or maybe it was because everyone didn’t leave the beer garden at the same time in search of food after a main stage act finished their set. Lots of options, reasonable prices, and a lot of happy faces and full stomachs leaving the food trucks. Other snack/treat options like hand made popsicles and lemonade were a nice touch and reasonably priced too. The little bags of candy were a rip off though.

I was disappointed that the price of beer at the park went up again. It has increased 61.5% over 4 years. If it continues this trend a single plastic cup of local beer will cost $10.50 in 4 years. Not that I ever drank a lot before, but when it’s 27 degrees and sunny for 3 days in a row and beer costs $5 each I’ll have 5-6 in an 8 hour day just to stay hydrated and will hardly feel a buzz. When it costs $6.50 I’ll have 2-3 per day. Maybe that was the point, to cut down on consumption with the site wide liquor license. Oh well, I don’t really care, at least it only went up $0.50 this year instead of $1.00. If it goes up $0.50 or $1.00 next year it might start to feel like a gouge when beer costs as much or more than most food truck entrees.

The speed of the drink ticket lineup and drink pickup lineup was amazing as usual. Staff and volunteers were friendly and efficient. There were tonnes of options for beer, cider and hard lemonade. I’m still struck with a sense of awe each year when see the custom Phillips beer-tap-truck.

Lineup:

I was extremely excited to see The New Pornographers outdoors (“under an embalmed clear sky”), in my hometown, without having to travel to Vancouver or Seattle. That was a dream come true show for me and worth the price of admission by itself. Other than that, I was not very impressed with the lineup this year. Sure, there were a few highlights, but it was definitely the weakest lineup of the past four years in my opinion. I know some people were complaining about this, selling their tickets after the lineup announcement, etc. but I’m not complaining, just reflecting.

Part of the Rifflandia experience is learning about and exploring new artists. Venturing outside of your comfort zone. Becoming a fan of something new. And part of the point of a super pass wrist band is the “choose your own adventure” experience. Depending on your priorities and venue capacities at any given moment it can either be a dream come true show you’ve been waiting for for years, or it can be a “go with the flow and surprise me” experience or a “try before you buy” preview of a band that you are curious about. The format works well for me. I’ve been to a number of subsequent shows and/or bought a number of albums after seeing a band play a short set at Rifflandia. I found a few new artists this year that I will follow in the future.

I could be wrong, or it could be a fluke, but I get the impression that there has been a bit of a shift towards attracting the “young university party crowd” to Rifflandia. This is smart from a business perspective, but waters down the festival a bit for permanent Victoria residents like myself. It just seems like each subsequent year for the past few years has had more Hip Hop and DJ sets than the year before, and not just at night venues but also during the day at Royal Athletic Park. Perhaps this is because Atomique Productions also puts on Rock The Shores in July so there’s a bit of a demographic split between the mid summer crowd and the early September back to school crowd.

I’d rate the lineups in this order:
1. 2011
2. 2012
3. 2013
4. 2014

Although I did not experience it first hand, I’d put 2010 in third place between 2012 and 2013.

Sound Quality:

I’m not entirely sure how to approach the topic of sound quality at Royal Athletic Park. There’s the sound quality in the park and there’s the noise complaints outside the park. Both are important in my opinion because they go hand in hand and I’m not convinced many people really think too deeply about either, let alone at the same time. There were a lot of noise complaints in 2013 and not just from near by residents but also from residents on the other side of town. I was hugely disappointed with the sound in 2013 and totally agreed with people complaining from 10km away. I could barely put up with it inside the park.

This year, off the tip of my tongue, I’m inclined to say it was 100x better! That may be an exageration though. :) Let’s say it was about 10x better in 2014 than 2013, and 5x better than 2012. It was about equal in quality to 2011 with perhaps a slight edge to 2011. Sound quality is important to me because I like to actually hear lyrics and instruments instead of just bass distortion, and it’s also important that the festival doesn’t get shut down due to public outcry or for political reasons. I am not a sound engineer, but I think heavy bass and distortion generates more noise complaints as the sound travels further and because it just sounds like noise rather than music. I don’t think there was any difference at all between peak decibel levels or noise curfews this year; the reason it was better is because the bass wasn’t maxed out. In 2013 it seemed like the bass dial was turned to 10 out of 10 on day one and not adjusted at all for the entire weekend. Whether it was an acoustic set, ten piece rock band or a hip hop / DJ set, the bass was fully maxed out. It’s no surprise there were less noise complaints from residents this year because the sound board was decently run. I hope next year is just as good or better.

At night, I went to ANIÁN and even though it was an open air outdoor venue right next door to Phillips Backyard I didn’t even notice any noise pollution from Phillips. It wasn’t just covered up by increasing the volume at ANIÁN, the actual sound quality was quite good and I was very impressed.

Outside Royal Atheletic Park:

During peak hours (ex. Saturday late afternoon) the lineup to get into the park is so long that people have to walk down the road to get in line because the lineup fills the entire sidewalk. This causes drivers to be frustrated with pedestrians in the middle of the road and creates an unpleasant and unsafe environment while waiting to get inside. It would be nice if the lineup was better managed by staff and maybe roped off so half the sidewalk is lineup and half is navigatable. Better yet, if there were more than two security guards during peak hours, or multiple entrances, maybe the lineup wouldn’t be so long…

Report Card:

R.A.P. Layout – B (would have been an A if not for the washrooms)
Food & Drink – A
Lineup – C
Sound Quality – A

Thanks Rifflandia for another great year! See you all in 2015!

A poem; a story; a very long song!

Act 1

In the streetlight dawn
I wrote the news today
Into alcoholism it went…
The sound of the collective crumbling
There’s been a break in the continuum
You told me I could order the moon, babe
The threads of an argument lost
It’s what’s left of psychedelia
On this day which began as execution day
It’s such a dream-like view from the ceiling
With a map of the endtimes
We’ll burn this hall of justice down

Act 2

The sound of god is the screech of tires
Like cymbal crashes, would the alarm bell sound?
When we peer into the great unknown
Or is it even in the realm of possibility?
One holy ghost for a home made girl
I stole a page from your book
Was it all for swinging you around?
Faking its way through the hallelujahs
Can we control ourselves for once?
While the rest of the girls go bad
And I’ll quote scriptures
In your faith beside me
Because nobody knows the wreck of the soul the way you do

Act 3

Flipping through the photos they send ya
But something keeps turning you on
Two sips from the cup of human kindness
Next thing you know you are asleep in someone’s lap
Look we’ve seen this kind of thing before
The sadness as it passes
Marking the journey of our friends complete
And I won’t let this happen to you
You’ve turned into someone that you only know
Under an embalmed clear sky
Where the past won’t pay no mind
For you there’s not any warning
Come on, come out of the rain
The vantage falling from the ivory tower

Act 4

The medicine, it still won’t work
We knew that we would always be down
In the shade of the sun
I walked into the local record store
With matter removed of divine dimension
To find you at the pavement
The heatwave humming in the house of cards
I wanted it to be me that was with you
Always hoping for the hot flashes to come
And here’s the mutiny I promised you
These adventures in solitude never done
I’ll give you something to be sad about

Act 5

These things get louder
There’s no other show like it ’round here
You can only cover so much territory of course
She was only ever passing through
The living proof of what they’re calling love
You live for flaming, the attractions new
You’re coming around
Wrap yourself around me in the shadow show
It’s half for me, half for love
You live by another set of rules
And somehow I just knew!
Now that half your life is over, if you’re lucky

 

Leading up to the release of Brill Bruisers, the latest album from The New Pornographers, I was listening to a lot of their back catalogue. Obsessively, I should say. I have a playlist with all their albums in chronological order that I was pretty much listening to on repeat. I saw @ACNewman on Twitter figuring out what songs to play on their upcoming tour and reminiscing about his favourite lyrics. This gave me an idea to compile a list of my favorite lyrics and string them together to form… something. A poem, or an abstract story, or a very long song. Whatever you want it to be. That is what you just read above. I took one line from each song, from studio released albums only, in the order that they play when you listen to the albums in chronological order. It wasn’t always my favourite line, because sometimes it was too hard to choose, or sometimes my favourite phrases spanned multiple lines. But still, it was a fun exercise and I think the result is pretty cool. And yet there are so many other potential combinations that form completely different stories!

 

Update: Act 6

Looking for searchlights leading the charge
I think we could save lives, if we don’t spend them
Here come the fortune seekers
The rites of spring of a lifetime
I wore out grooves sneaking around the servants’ quarters, so
Let them rust, turn to dust
Are you sure we bought the right thrill here?
I was into the never-ending scene
In the high rise of the morning
Some will have to brave the line
But the city at night was not for you
Now that you are floating untethered in space
Think I could change to become what you want me

 

Rifflandia 2012 Preview

My excitement level at T-minus two weeks before Rifflandia is getting pretty high. High enough to self produce LOLcat pictures even!

These are the bands I’m most excited to see:

  1. The Flaming Lips
  2. The Jezabels
  3. DJ Shadow
  4. Dan Mangan
  5. Brasstronaut
  6. Mother Mother
  7. Rich Aucoin
  8. Cake
  9. Hey Ocean!
  10. Sloan

You can check out some Rifflandia sampler playlists by day or by venue at rifflandia.tumblr.com.

When the festival comes to a close I’ll report back with my review and we’ll see what blew my mind to move up (or onto) the list, and what disappointed to move down (or off) the list.

Wedding Playlist 2.0

Two years ago today I got married.

Last year, my boss gave me a great idea for a first anniversary gift. I bought a scrapbook, and some supplies, and the idea is to put a wedding photo on the first page and then each year on our anniversary take a photo to add to the book. Bonus points for an activity to do together and one that keeps on giving!

After reflecting on the past two years of married life, I decided to create a new playlist to share with my wife as an anniversary gift. (Do you remember mix tapes? No? What about mix CDs? I’ll admit a playlist doesn’t seem quite as romantic…)

This gesture might not come as a surprise. You may recall I blogged about my original wedding playlist last year and it was featured in a Hi-Fi Weddings post as well. I listen to a lot of music in my day to day life, so I figured why not update my picks with songs that either could not fit in the time we had, or songs that I hadn’t heard yet, or songs that hadn’t been written yet.

So here it is. Play time is 59:31. Happy Anniversary!

  1. Hey Ocean! – Make a New Dance Up
  2. Jason Bajada – The Sound Your Life Makes
  3. The Meligrove Band – Bones Attack!!!
  4. Armistice – Mission Bells
  5. Sean McCann – The Reply
  6. Diamond Rings – All Yr Songs
  7. Hollerado – Got To Lose
  8. Rural Alberta Advantage – Stamp
  9. Said The Whale – The Light Is You
  10. Gigi – Won’t Someone Tell Me?
  11. Hey Rosetta! – Welcome
  12. Rococode – Empire
  13. The Cure – Lovesong
  14. Said The Whale – Loveless
  15. Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes – (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life
  16. Joseph Arthur – Honey and the Moon

The Feeling

Do you remember that feeling? You know, the feeling you had on the last day of school when you were 10 years old?

Imagine: it’s a perfect sunny day. You’re out in the field behind the school with all the other children. Some of them are older than you. Some are younger. Some of them are your friends. Some are your enemies. Some are your neighbours. Some of them you don’t know at all. But none of this matters. In this moment you are happy. Everyone is. Everyone is excited; smiling, talking, running, jumping, playing. Basking in the warm summer glory of the last day of school. Everyone is connected then, in that moment, by that feeling.

I had almost forgotten about that feeling. I didn’t think I’d ever experience it again. But I did! I found it! Or rather, Rich Aucoin aroused it from within me.

Describing a feeling within a moment, or perhaps a moment that creates or awakens a feeling, is quite difficult. Words don’t really exist to describe the complexities of how everything can come together to form a perfect moment in time that you instantly recognize in your heart and soul as happiness. Yet it’s not exactly happiness either. It’s more like being at peace with the universe and truly living in that moment.

All I can do is describe the scene, and you can judge for yourself whether it’s comprehensible:

We’re in a small night club, with hundreds of strangers all around us. There is a white bed sheet hanging on the wall behind the stage. The sheet is covered in images and lyrics being projected in sync with the music. A strobe light is flashing. Everyone is jumping up and down with both hands in the air, shouting along with the music. Some people know the song. For others it is their first time hearing it. It doesn’t matter though, everyone is singing along. And jumping.

Oh, and did I mention that everyone in the room is under a giant rainbowcoloured pinwheel-patterned parachute? It floats up and down in the air as it glides over our outstretched fingertips. It feels as though the whole crowd is moving in sync, not just with each other, but with the universe. Everything seems to be going as planned. We can’t argue with the universe, so we keep jumping and singing along. The parachute is like the pulse of the music, floating effortlessly through the air as the sound fills the space between us all. We feel like a single entity then, as if we’ve all become the physical embodiment of the music. What if the music goes away? Will we remember this perfect moment when it’s gone? Will we ever feel this way again? We can’t take any risks, so we keep dancing, jumping, singing, and smiling as furiously as we can.

That’s the best I can do to describe the experience of Rich Aucoin’s live show. Please just trust me and go see him; you have to experience it for yourself. I wholeheartedly agree with words of Kirk Hamilton:

Without a doubt, and without hyperbole, Rich Aucoin’s live show is one of the best I have ever seen. It’s fun, and uplifting, and will leave you with a full heart and grinning for days on end. One of the lines he had everyone chant was “When you give it all up, you get it back”, and I can’t think of a better way to sum up the show; Rich more that gives it all up, and deserves everything he gets back.

Thank you for the experience Rich. In your own words: WE ARE SO LUCKY!

Queen of Hearts video

Check out the music video for Queen of Hearts by Canadian indie artist Fucked Up off their new album David Comes to Life (four free tracks are available for download on their website).

I love how this video challenged my expectations and turned out to be the opposite of what I would describe as a ‘normal’ music video. Instead of actors (or the band) lip syncing along to the original audio of the song, the actors in this video are actually overdubbed so you can hear them singing the song. It’s a totally different song when sung by children; I think I might like the music video version more than the original! Very cool idea.

Eatliz

I recently discovered the amazing band from Tel Aviv, Israel known as Eatliz. If you go to their website you will find that you can stream every track from their debut album and related EP.

After listening to their streaming tracks I was very impressed! Their music reminds me of so many different genres and artists at the same time. So I joined their mailing list and they emailed me some selected tracks:

  • Bolsheviks – reminds me of Mars Volta + Mr. Bungle + Bjork + Opeth
  • Hey – reminds me of… Fantômas + Bjork + Tori Amos + Broken Social Scene
  • Must Get Laid – reminds me of Mr. Bungle + Goldfrapp
  • Zoo – reminds me of Mew + Metric with hints of Coheed and Cambria, but mostly of Electric Turn To Me (I really wish they hadn’t broken up a few years back!)
  • Sunshine – VERY Mars Volta like + Fantômas + Coheed and Cambria
  • Army of Me (Bjork Cover) – Whoa.. I mean.. “WOW!!!” Definitely check out the video to see for yourself.

OK, so the music is good, I’m digging this new find so far… then I decided to check out their music videos… WOW, now I’m totally blown away! You MUST check out their awesome music videos! “Lose This Child” and “Hey” are both extremely impressive videos but I especially like the video for “Attractive” – a soft, delicate song with a video that seems like it could have been inspired by Little Big Planet.

Wedding Playlist

Music is important to me. So for my wedding, obviously I wanted to try and incorporate as much great music into the day as possible. I wanted to find a balance between my taste in music, music that a wide variety of other people would enjoy, music that is appropriate for wedding day celebrations and a selection of fun and spontaneous choices that the crowd on the dance floor would be demanding at any point in time. After discussing this with my wife we decided our primary goal was to host a once in a lifetime party, so for that reason we hired Drew Arrington to DJ our reception. We loved his attitude and energy at a friend’s wedding in 2009; he was the perfect fit to entertain our guests!

That took care of our primary goal, but what about my secondary goals? I wanted to include some of my favourite music! This was our day after all! What could I do without turning into Groom-zilla on our DJ (or my wife)? I toyed with the idea of giving a few favourite band names to Drew to see what he’d come up with, but as I typed out some of my ideas I quickly realized that I had too many opinions; that I’m too picky; that I really had to build some sort of playlist myself and pass it on in it’s entirety.

I had a great idea: during the time between the ceremony and dinner (roughly 1.5 to 2 hours) while we’re off taking photos and the bar is just opening up why not share some of my musical selections with our guests as they mingle? I didn’t mind that I wouldn’t be able to hear most of these songs because I knew them all by heart and I’d always have the playlist to listen to whenever I felt like it. That sounds like an easy task right, an hour or two of celebration music to psych up our guests while they’re waiting for us?

Well, the playlist grew, and grew, and grew… and soon the scope of my little project included music to play during dinner as well. I was worried that Drew would feel that I was stepping on his toes, but luckily he was ok with it, he actually complimented my taste in music! His real job for the day would begin after dinner and go into the wee hours of the morning, so really, I was doing him a favour – he could sit back and relax for the first few hours!

I took inspiration from many sources, including the CBC Radio 3 Wedding Bell’s Podcast long time personal favourite artists and tracks and of course songs that had a personal meaning behind them. I tried to group the songs such that more modern, fun and upbeat songs would play earlier when the guests were arriving, getting their first drinks and mingling in the sun. Then in the middle section when we would be arriving at the reception I chose songs with some personal meaning behind them, then later in the mix some of the more quieter and romantically themed songs would come on while guests were eating.

Here it is, my wedding playlist:

  1. Broken Social SceneForced to Love
  2. Kings of LeonUse Somebody
  3. Land of TalkSome Are Lakes
  4. You Say Party!Laura Palmer’s Prom
  5. The New PornographersGo Places
  6. StarsFixed
  7. SiaUnder the Milky Way (The Church Cover)
  8. The Tragically HipFlamenco
  9. Zero 7Somersault
  10. Cary BrothersBlue Eyes
  11. The Goo Goo DollsIris
  12. Young and SexyLife Through One Speaker
  13. Bonnie SomervilleWinding Road
  14. The Apples In StereoNobody But You
  15. Big StarI’m In Love With A Girl
  16. Jason MrazI’m Yours
  17. Smashing PumpkinsTonight, Tonight
  18. Collective SoulThe World I Know
  19. The Goo Goo DollsLet Love In
  20. The New PornographersWe End Up Together
  21. The ShinsNew Slang
  22. Royal WoodI’m So Glad
  23. LambGorecki
  24. MetricLove Is a Place
  25. Hannah GeorgasThis Is Good
  26. StarsMy Favourite Book
  27. David MylesRun Away
  28. Jason MrazLucky (feat. Colbie Caillat)
  29. Sarah HarmerOpen Window (the Wedding Song)
  30. Hawksley WorkmanOh You Delicate Heart
  31. Constantines & FeistIslands In the Stream
  32. Patrick Brealey & the KnivesHow Would You Choose to Be Loved?
  33. Hannah GeorgasShine
  34. Jill BarberChances

You’re probably wondering what the grand finale was, the song that rose above all others and was selected to be the soundtrack for our first dance. This was a tough choice, there were many contenders, but in the end we chose Celebrate by Rose Cousins. It was wonderful and amazing; everyone loved it!

I hope you enjoy this playlist as much as I do.