Image: Colin Smith Photography

With sunshine and a vibe crafted by heaven itself, the first night of Rock the Shores 2016 exceeded expectations of both festivalgoers and that of Atomique Productions, in their fifth year of producing the festival.

Dimitri Demers, Co-Founder of Atomique Productions, says of this year’s kickoff day, “Ticketed or unticketed, it’s an attendance record for local acts.”  A crowd of near 7,000 music fans gathered for one of the most supportive nights of local music this year.  Jesse Roper, who’s show proved to be a highlight of the evening in both performance and musicality, says of the evening, “Rock the Shores is great for Victoria – the festival and bands have grown together and it’s a testament for how wonderful a music city this is.”

The day began with Stinging Belle, a new band this year in the Victoria music scene, but don’t let their short time together fool you – these three came to play and play hard.  With the sound of a band who’s been around for ages, band members Jon Williams, Allie Bowman and Jordan Ambrosi are some of the most humble and authentic people you’ll meet.  Drawing from a music range of 70’s rock, country, dance, etc – really anything creatively inspiring to fuel their evolving sound, their intention is simple: “To write good songs and connect with people” says Ambrosi.  Stinging Belle is one we’ll be watching closely in the months and years to come.

Next up was Malahat, with heavy hitting vocals dancing on technical lines and driving intensity, they proved to be a force to be reckoned with.  These guys brought a fresh take to memories of grunge, funk, blues and rock so heavy you’d need a forklift.

The Malahat Band Image: Colin Smith Photography

Kytami proved to be memorable and surprising with her band of eclectic musicians and guests, Spaceboots.  Their set was engaging, prolific and electrifying.  Kytami’s violin style is so outrageously dynamic that you just can’t tear your eyes away and the band’s style, a melting pot of sound textures, was like pop-rocks for your ears.

Image: Colin Smith Photography
Kytami Image: Colin Smith Photography

Towers and Trees got the anticipating crowd singing and swaying to lead vocalist Adrian Chalifour’s lyrical genius and guitarist Dave Zellinsky’s inspiring guitar lines.  Early in the set, the crowd remarkably broke out into harmonious song (the festivalgoers literally sang the actual harmony parts) to “West Coast” and, if we were a smoking community, there would have been lighters in every hand for “Last Breath” as the entire crowd resembled the motion of a rolling ocean. Their sing-every-word crowd was disappointed, to say the least, that the band’s set was shorter than expected and their radio hit “Bad Heart” was no where to be seen.  Stay posted to see “Bad Heart” live as they do have a show or two happening later this summer.  Come fall, the band has no outward facing plans and will be taking time to get back to a quiet, creative space. Chalifour says in letting the band’s most recent project go, he’s looking forward to digging deep creatively and to giving space for the spark to build in this next chapter.

Adrian from Towers and Trees Image: Colin Smith Photography
Adrian Chalifour from Towers and Trees Image: Colin Smith Photography

The Band of Rascals were up next and met the cool July vibe of the day with ground-shaking melodies and triathalon energy levels.  In their third year together, the band’s west coast blues rock feel was on point with lead vocalist’s Sam Trainor’s warm and texturally intricate vocals.

Jon and Roy were next and rounded out the day by playing a sound track for the west coast soul to the gorgeous backdrop of the descending sun.  Their laid back vibe and smooth vocals were welcomed companions to the dusk beginning to settle on the festival grounds.

Who leaves your jaw on the floor every time?  Jesse Roper .  His raw talent, out-of-the-stratosphere musicianship and show stopping performances are the stuff dreams are made of.  Decades from now (if not already) he’ll be known as one of the greats and we’re honoured to know he’s our hometown guy.  There really is no limit to what this musician and his phenomenal band will accomplish.

The evening came to a close with Vancouver Island boys, Current Swell.  The arena was packed, every eye was on the stage and we had a good old fashioned sing-a-long on into the evening.  There was such an apparent air of togetherness on the festival grounds during Current Swell’s set.  We were a community, a unit, one big huge family spending time together doing something we love.

Vancouver Island is certainly a place where art and culture thrive.  Travel anywhere in the world and there’s no place like it in the sense that there’s a general feeling of “we’re in it together” and that sentiment was so apparent last night at RTS… maybe it’s because it’s flipping expensive to actually leave the island, but when it comes to celebrating with your community – there’s no place like home.  There’s just no place like Vancouver Island.  Thank you, Rock the Shores, for providing a space for us to celebrate who we are.