Live Review: Rifflandia Festival Day 1 in Victoria – September 13th 2012

God, do I love Rifflandia – the only thing counterbalancing the downbeat of a post-summer delusion, the awfulness of shiny textbooks and brash early-morning bus rides, when returning to a timed life is your biggest burden. Rifflandia can do no wrong: good people, good beer, and good music, when you stop thinking and start listening, when you scream for no reason, or for some reason, when you begin to glow in the dark and when bodies collide, when the night just happens, and you can’t do anything to stop it from happening.

Thursday night followed an eight-hour shift, and therefore bore the responsibility to be rather spectacular to draw me out of my why-am-I-not-in-my-bed downer mentality. So I headed over to Market Square to catch Kids & Explosions, one of my long-time dance-floor head-bobbing favourites, and damn, am I glad I did. Thank you, past Shelly, good call. For one man, K & E had an intense and incessant stage presence, as if his body too was an essential instrument of the production of exquisite noise. He pushed and pulled, and moved the crowd as though we were attached by strings. The best thing about Kids & Explosions, and the man behind the loops and beats of it all, Josh Raskin, is that he estranges the familiar. He cuts and manipulates and plays with his audience’s senses until we, too, understand. He’ll start off with Sigur Ros, then it’s like, “is that Biggie?”, then it’s like “is that The Pixies?”, then it’s like “is that the drum line from We Will Rock You?”. It’s unbelievable how he manages, being warped and still so intuned to how music sounds. His album, Shit Computer, is still free for download on his website!!! Get on that shit!!! website

After that ecstatic epileptic fit, I turned myself around and ran over to the Event Centre to catch Wake Owl, Vancouver-ites with tender hearts. This is lovely, lovely, music, sounds that would force you to fall in love if you only dared to look at the person beside you. It says to you, find someone and take their hand, it doesn’t matter if they end up being ghosts. If four lanky twenty-somethings can have something like grace, then this is it, with lines like: “And who are we to say we never had it good?” It’s hard against the soul, but it softens you. These are songs to listen to in a lover’s arms, with someone you think of going home to all afternoon. They are loud but quiet, newness that speaks of age-old sentiments.

I stayed at the Event Centre for the infamous Rich Aucoin, who promise confetti and group hugs, and deliver he did. I don’t even know how to express such a primitively joyous feeling that his one-hour set exuded. Just… oh my god. Fuck. How is it even possible that there exists such a determinedly alive person? And how can I become that? And why isn’t everyone so fucking grateful and so fucking expansively living? And man, dancing under a giant parachute with what feels like five thousand other bodies and screaming sentences like “WE ARE NOT DEAD YET / WE ARE UNDEAD” drains and adrenalizes you like nothing else. The greatest charismatic feat of Aucoin is his ability to enthrall, to make us count down to the new year in mid-September, to make us be thankful, if nothing else, be really fucking glad to be alive on a golden-hot night. All the minor complexities like the music almost draws away in comparison to his – and our – desire to lose our voices and hold each other and love and have a good goddamn time. It’s profound, the banality of admitting our aliveness. Everybody should attend a Rich Aucoin show.

Post-Aucoin, I ran my battered body to Alix Goolden to meet Austra. In my exhausted and half-drunk daze, this was almost a hallucinogenic experience. I love Austra for its angelic women, beautiful ladies with beautiful voices who transport you into an almost extraterrestrial soundscape. This was perfect for my horribly chemical-drenched mind, and I got caught up in it all and danced maniacally in circles, round and round and let Katie Stelmanis [of the aforementioned angelic vocals] take me on a sparkling journey. Unfortunately I only caught about two-thirds of their set, but when they played “Lose It”, I – apparently – lost it. It was great and mildly embarrassing and magical. Austra’s name comes from the goddess of light in Latvian mythology, which should tell you all there is to know about them.

Anyway, now I’m off to do it all again. Let me tell you, this is the place to be. This is the perfect place. This is the perfect time. This is where all your friends are, where you are, where I am. Where your friends are my friends, where no one misses out, where someone else will clean up our messes. Don’t change your mind. I’ll see you there.

Photos © Alix Critchley

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