Rifflandia Day 1 Overview

25 09 2009

“It was pretty good for a Thursday, pretty busy,” said Element doorman Tristan Connelly. “The crowd is really mellow. There are people here who are usually really aggro, but I guess because it’s Rifflandia they’re alright. There’s this one guy, I’ve seen him run down the street, punching in windows for now reason, but tonight he’s super-friendly. He wanted to shake my hand.”

Vancouver band Analog Bell Service took the stage in front of barely more than a few dozen people, but they set the tone of the night quickly. The ukulele-equipped five-piece played their energetic, upbeat, indie rock to welcome people into the club, getting even the unfamiliar feet in the crowd tapping along with “I Guess,” in what was an entertaining and enjoyable performance, even if it partly went unseen.

Monday interviewee Dan Mangan (see previous post) took the stage next, introducing himself as “Said the Mangan,” making light of the fact half his backup musicians weren’t even his own. Mangan played about half a dozen tracks from Nice Nice, Very Nice, beginning with the itunes sensation Road Regrets and ending with album standout Robots. Mangan came out visibly exhausted, but the upbeat and excited crowd quickly energised him, and he finished what was one of the best sets of the festival smiling laughing, joking, and jumping up and down.  The only stumble was a minor one: “The Indie Queens are Waiting,” the third song on his new album, was performed (by necessity) without the balance of the beautiful, smooth, female duet it has on the album, which functions as a brilliant counter-balance to his sand-paper-sorrow croon,but no one else seemed to notice. The audience clapped along with “Robots” and hundreds of people chanted the chorus back to him to finish the set while he bounced around on top of the speakers.

In the middle of the last song, I got shoulder-checked by a 60-year-old woman pulling so hard from a frosted bottle of Lucky Lager I thought she’d die from thirst if I interrupted her. So I waited. Her name was Deb, and she was there with her husband, Clark, also 60. Their son was a huge Dan Mangan fan, but they were there to see Said the Whale, several members of which they’d know since they were infants; I wasn’t able to find out which members. Deb and Clark took off on their way down into the dance pit, so they could “really get into it.”

Said the Whale took the stage next. I talked to a dozen or so people who’d been blown away by Dan Mangan, saying he was probably the best band they’d see in the fesitival, and I talked to one girl who swore up and down that Hannah Georgas was the best band of the day. Most people though, came down for Said The Whale, and the band delivered. The bar had nearly filled up by the time they hit their anthem, “Camillo.” Near 500 people vibrated in unison, hung off every note. True to their word (we talked about it in the interview, READ IT), STW also moved into their slower, mellower work, which was well received over all. The set ended with a massive onstage orgy of pop anthems,  jumping, confetti, Dan Mangan, and a rogue fan before the band attempted to call it quits. The chants of “Encore!” were expected, but also respected, and the band came out one last time.

Post-show, I talked to about a dozen people who had come to the show simply for the song “Camillo,” and were now hooked, though there were a few who thought that this may not have been the best venue to showcase the slower points on their discography.

Feeling good and full of enevrgy, I went to Market Square for one of the most pleasantly surprising shows of my life. (I can count on one hand the times I’ve been this blown away by a performance like this.) Market Square was full, the balcony area, the beer gardens, and the stage area. Full. The band came out: A hippie-haired guy with a lap-top and a row of five indie-looking guys with guitars. I didn’t know what to expect, but their 15-minute, slow, progressive intro wasn’t exactly electric and I started to Yawn (with a definite capital Y). Then, Market Square exploded.  “Champion and his 5 G-Strings” shifted gears and hundreds of people started to bounce and move with him. And they kept doing it as the song built up . . . and built up . . . and built up. Champion was clearly calling audibles to his selection of strummers, pointing and yelling at specific members to build on certain sounds to keep the energy up. The vocalist didn’t even touch the stage for nearly half an hour. It was what I’d imagined it would have been like if you’d have been able to watch The Music right when they’d first come out, but had somehow turned their songs into one hour-long progressive epic which left everyone completely exhausted.

I eventually had to get out. I went to the beer gardens. I asked everyone how their nights went. They all told me the same story: festival favourite Final Fantasy failed to show. Bad news for fans of his music, good news for fans of alliteration. They walked from Alix Goolden hall hoping to see Shad. They missed him. I asked them what they thought of Champion. “Wow,” they said.

That pretty much summed it up.

-Adrian Markle

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