Supporting local musicians, some of whom find significant exposure in the aftermath, is a part of what Rifflandia is all about.
The music festival, which celebrates its 11th edition this weekend, has given various Victoria-area bands their first big break including Current Swell, who were on the roster for the first Rifflandia back in 2008 and are among the headliners this time.
“They’re a group we, as a company, have supported since Day 1,” says Nick Blasko, co-founder of festival promoter Atomique Productions. “This time they’re bringing some friends and taking a different approach to the show.”
The Swell, as Blasko refers to the group, are the kind of grassroots act that has fit in well over the years alongside bigger names that have taken the stage at Royal Athletic Park and other festival venues.
“For us, it’s always the idea that we can take one of those slots on the main stage; that shows the support for the local bands in the community,” he says. “It’s always nice to be able to do that.”
This year some of those bigger names include Jessie Reyez, a Juno Award winner and Grammy-nominated Daniel Caesar, another young Canadian who is making a splash on both sides of the border, as well as Lights, Adventure Club and Bishop Briggs.
In all, 154 bands are taking part in the festival. Sound like a crazy high number? It’s not the most ever, Blasko says.
“I think we broke 200 in the Breakout West year,” he says of 2015, when the city hosted the annual blending of the Western Canadian Music Awards, four-day conference and three-day music festival.
In terms of who’s attending Rifflandia, the demographic broadening every year.
Where the earlier festivals attracted a mainly younger crowd, the regulars are getting older and even starting to bring their children along, which has prompted organizers to include more family-friendly fun. Kids 12-under get in free when registered using the festival’s official online form.
“I’d say 25-30 per cent are core people that support Rifflandia, and maybe 25-35 per cent is made up of audiences of headliners who come to hear bands specifically,” Blasko says. “Then the remaining chunk are those people who don’t want to miss out on the excitement.”
Bringing upwards of 10,000 people into town makes for some serious economic impacts as well. “I talk to cab drivers sometimes and they say ‘it’s like New Year’s Eve three nights in a row,’” he adds.
Having three new venues for the festival – adding Canoe, the Rubber Boot Club and Vinyl Envy brings the total to 12 sites – is another way the festival is expanding its reach, both for artists and audiences.
“It makes for a more robust festival and gives us more options,” Blasko says, noting that venues like Canoe have been providing a place for local bands to play for some time now.
Rifflandia runs Sept. 13-16 at various venues across Victoria. To check out the full schedule or buy tickets, visit rifflandia.com.