Two weekends, six nights, seven stages, over 80 artists and around 50,000 in attendance.
It’s safe to say that Rifflandia was a smashing success once again in Victoria.
Acts like Run The Jewels, Paris Hilton, Herbie Hancock, Iggy Pop, Diplo, Melanie C, KALEO and even Suicidal Tendencies all shared stages in a meticulously curated lineup of other acts large and small.
This year broke records and taught the Riff team about ways they want the festival to grow further.
Victoria Buzz caught up with Nick Blasko, the President and CEO of Rifflandia, just over a week after the festival had been put to rest for another year to chat about what attendees thought about the festival this year.
“I’ve had some time to reflect on it over the past 10 days, and I’ll say it feels like a huge accomplishment for not only our team here at Rifflandia that worked for a year to put that on, some of us for a decade, but it was a huge push to execute that vision at two different sites,” Blasko told Victoria Buzz.
I’m just really happy with the way it all played out and I thought it was a big accomplishment for Victoria as well.”
This was the first year that Rifflandia had been spread out over two weekends, which Blasko said allowed for his team and those working or playing the festival to have a better handle on it and enjoy themselves a bit more.
“It felt different, it felt like we were entering into a new chapter,” Blasko explained.
“There were a lot of question marks as to whether or not the two weekend model would work, whether people would support it and whether those experiences would be different enough.”
He said that although he can’t guarantee whether or not Rifflandia 2024 will be spread out over two weekends like this year, he is certain the model they tested worked. Although it brought new challenges with it, it also provided them with some new benefits when it came to booking the calibre of artists on this year’s stacked lineup.
A highlight for many at the festival was the new layout of the downtown Victoria Electric Avenue site.
The main stage was shifted into a larger space to mitigate overcrowding issues and allow for some smaller acts to play on a big stage in the Phillips Brewing backyard.
“It was clear that the site was very limited, the way we were running it [in past years],” Blasko explained.
“We were kind of maxing out in terms of the level of sound and light we could use, the footprint of a stage, all those things and as a matter of fact, the size of artists we were able to book.”
“The placement of the main stage was awesome — we debated the angle and where to put it for a long time and have it make sense operationally too… that was the best placement we could conceive of for everyone.”
Electric Avenue also had a new setup for comedy at the Hecklers sponsored Lafflandia stage which was packed full for every comedian who stepped up, whether they were a local or a fly-in from Los Angeles. At The Park, Lafflandia’s stage was also upgraded thanks to the efforts of local comedian and host Dan Duvall
Another one of the numerous unique aspects about Rifflandia is how revered their backstage setup is for artists, their managers and agents, volunteers and even some members of the public this year.
Jones Bar-B-Que is Rifflandia’s go-to caterer and for good reason.
Blasko says their food helps Rifflandia stand out among all the hundreds of similar-scale festivals across North America and beyond.
“The KALEO guys said this was the greatest experience and greatest festival top to bottom they’ve played all year long,” Blasko exclaimed.
“They were like, ‘not only did you take care of us, what you did here with the audience, it just looked and felt amazing and hands down the best catering at any festival we’ve ever been to.’”
This year the public could get a Jones Bar-B-Que ‘all access dinner’ for $150.There were only a few slots available every day, but for those who did it, it was worth it to get to be backstage where all the bands and artists were hanging out before and after their performances.
“You might run into one of the artists, you might be sitting with them at a table having dinner,” he said.
Blasko got to catch most of the acts this year in between making sure everything was running smoothly.
He said some of his favourite acts of the year were Iggy Pop, LUV, local band Poor Choices, Mallrat, Herbie Hancock, Blu DeTige, the Choirs of YYJ and of course, Paris Hilton.
“She really kind of got it and embraced Victoria and everyone she met,” Blasko reflected. “Whether it was her fans or someone she met or volunteers, she was just awesome.”
“These are bucket list artists and it was wild to see them — some kind of dream.”
“When Iggy took the stage with his band it was so good, I was just blown away by the respect and reverence for the music the band had.”
Blasko says he takes pride in his team’s ability to truly offer something for everyone at this festival and he is excited to watch it grow even further with the years to come.
What was your favourite thing about Rifflandia 2023? Let us know in the comments!