Last night was the first night of the 3rd annual Rifflandia Music Festival in Victoria BC. 11 venues and more than 4 hours of music at each venue. The only problem is… what shows to you pick to see?

I had three shows I had to see. Mike Edel (whom I know and have shot video of before), Acres of Lions (who I have seen twice before, but not in what you could qualify as a real concert setting), and K’naan. I missed K’naan at Coachella 2009 and wasn’t able to check him out the last time he was on the island.

Mike Edel’s show kicked off the Victoria Event Centre’s Rifflandia and for an opening gig, the attendance was quite good. Mike was entertaining as always. The sound in the room wasn’t fantastic, but the venue is more of a party room than a concert venue so the sound system being used was mediocre.

Next up was Acres of Lions at Club 9one9. That’s the nightclub at the Strathcona Hotel complex. It used to be Element Nightclub and before that used to be the infamous Legend’s Nightclub. It’s been years since I’ve stepped foot downstairs at this venue and I have to say the changes they’ve made look pretty good in my concert video shooter standpoint. The club has a multi-level dance floor so the portion right in front of the performance stage is low and then there’s a higher section with a rail. The advantage being that you don’t necessarily have to be 6′ tall to see anything. Acres of Lions put on what a solid set. There wasn’t all that much different in their overall show compared to the other times I’ve seen them, but just being able to see them in a venue with real speakers was a plus.

From there it was off to the main venue of the festival, Market Square. It was pouring rain as I left Club 9one9 so I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to stand in line for hours. As I was heading to the venue a couple tourists from a cruise ship flagged me down asking me where all the good bars were. I told them to follow me since I was going to walk passed a couple pubs anyway. I lead them to the Bard & Banker and they seemed happy for the help. Score some karma points for me!

Got to the Market Square lineup and it only took about 5 minutes of waiting to get into the venue which was pretty good all things considered. Finally seeing where the stage was kind of surprised me. Granted the stage was on the covered half of the square so rain wouldn’t cause problems with the stage equipment, but that configuration sucks for anyone short or hanging out in the beer garden. The beer garden is down a couple stairs in a lower are so the view from there is completely blocked by the wall of people near the stage. More people could get a better view if the layout were reversed. Any venue that is uphill “climb” to the front of the stage is just bad for finding a good vantage point especially if some significantly taller than yourself steps in front of you. Another interesting observation was that they don’t really fill up the venue. There was just enough people to fill up the upper half near the stage while the lower area was relatively empty of people surrounding the beer garden. Capacity of Market Square is apparently around 800. As this festival continues to grow there will come a point where Market Square becomes way too small for any large headliner acts.

Anyway on to the music. I went into Market Square not knowing much about Grand Analog and Current Swell and figured they’d just be time killer for me before K’naan, but both acts were a very pleasant surprise. So much so that I recorded Grand Analog’s last track. I kind of regret not recording anything of Current Swell, but I needed battery for K’naan. Current Swell is also local so I’m sure I’ll be able to check them out again.

K’naan’s set started a little late, and for the first couple of songs I got a vibe that K’naan wasn’t really into it. Maybe he was still dealing with the backlash from his backing out of a charity show at SFU a couple days prior. Or maybe he was worried that backlash was going to carry over to this show. Eventually he warmed up the enthusiastic crowd. One overly enthusiastic fan had this massive painting of K’naan and held it up THE ENTIRE SHOW. If I were the people that had to be behind that painting the whole time I’d be PISSED! Dude, he can clearly see the painting. Put it down for a while so others can see the show. K’naan did make a funny joke towards the end that the painting made him look like a dictator. Another notable moment of the set was the performance of ‘Take a Minute’… Or as my colleague from Island Soap Box quipped to me on twitter, ‘we were saying that, “I think he should rename it “I’m just gonna take a quarter of an hour…” ‘… The song went on for more than 15 minutes. The first five minutes consisted of “Yeah yeah yeah” repeated again and again. Now I’ve seen on YouTube that the song is extended at live shows and he tells the story about recording his album at Bob Marley’s house each time, but I don’t think the song has ever gone 15 minutes.

Overall it was a solid show though it could have been better if K’naan had been more energetic from the start.

Here’s the marathon version ‘Take a Minute’… Due to YouTube’s new time limit of 15 minutes for videos I actually had to cut more than 30 seconds out of the video to make it fit. Man am I glad the limit isn’t 10 minutes anymore.