Continued Ska Fest Day 3

10 Jul

Arriving at Ship’s Point, the gate was buzzing with volunteers and staff preparing for the day. Over the two days prior I met Alex and Lucas the official Ska Fest videographers. Alex approached me about my rapport with the musicians and if I would be interested in joining forces. He and Lucas would film the interviews and I was to be the interviewer. Originally Ska Fest had a reporter but didn’t end up coming. Her name was eerily similar to mine so Alex and Lucas assumed I was her. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time and fate brought us all together. We formed a trifecta of creativity and trust thus spawning Ska Fest T.V. Alex, Lucas and I jumped on any interview we could muster and I had the opportunity to meet every musician that graced the Ska Fest stages. It was truly a surreal experience and I had to keep reminding myself it was real life.

Sweet Leaf started the day with catchy upbeat tunes and multiple cannabis references. Chris Jones, the lead singer, suggested we conduct Sweet Leaf’s interview in his new van. Next thing I knew, I felt like a sardine packed in a hippie van with eight other people. Sweet Leaf is a local Victoria band and play a mix of funk, reggae and ska. Many have been involved with Ska Fest either as performers and or volunteers for the BC Ska Society. They have a family orientated vibe and made me feel like I was part of their tribe.

The Expanders were originally set to play, but ended up not making it through the border. Rude City Riot filled their spot last minute and played a tight set elevating the energy of the crowd. I had the chance to speak with lead singer, Dustin Lionhart and share our appreciation of having them play Ska Fest last minute. Lionhart says, “Dane called us up about a week ago and said The Expanders cancelled could Rude City Riot fill in? We jumped at the opportunity because we love Victoria and Ska Fest.”

After my interview with Lionhart I went backstage where I was met by The Aggrolites. I have been a huge fan of their music for a long time and felt the heart tickles inside my chest. I introduced myself to lead singer, Jesse Wagner, and bassist, Jeff Roffredo. It happened to be Roffredo’s birthday and he invited me to have a jager bomb with the rest of The Aggrolites and the legendary, Lynval Golding. I clinked cups next to my biggest musical idols and had an ear to ear grin the rest of the day.

The Aggrolites drew in one of the largest crowds I had seen yet this Ska Fest. The dance floor became a swirling human whirlpool which The Aggrolites highly encouraged. Wagner sported a leg cast and a stylish cane and hobbled around the stage with finesse. The band was sweaty but beaming when they invited Lynval Golding on-stage.

The Aggrolites and Golding practised once before hitting the stage together and The Aggrolites were so honoured to be playing a show with a member of The Specials. Golding wore a beautiful maroon suit with a tan fedora; he looked super fresh. They played Special songs and ended the set with a cover of “Don’t Let Me Down.” It was truly a surreal experience to see ska legends playing together for Ska Fest. Golding was a pleasure to interview. He tours with his wife and son which keeps Golding grounded but also exposes his son to many different cultures.

After our interview with Golding Alex, Lucas and I headed to Upstairs to catch Grossbuster, Giraffe Aftermath and Burnt. I caught the tail end of Grossbuster’s set, where his MC Orilla, was throwing down slick rhymes while Grossbuster worked the control pad. We huffed upstairs to a hobbit sized green room where we found some couches and boxes of cereal. Frosted and corn flakes sat beside milk and a bowl. I realized I ate a breakfast wrap 10 hours previous I helped myself to a bowl. Turns out Giraffe Aftermath makes a communal band cereal bowl and eat it before most shows. That’s how they get into the right head space. I saw Giraffe Aftermath a few months before at Sunny Daze camp ground. We spent a crazy night in the forest beat-boxing and free styling so it was nice to see them again. Their set showcased how talented everyone is and how well they played together. They take music very serious and it shows because they played one of the tightest sets at Ska Fest.

I interviewed Burnt after watching their set and they combine reggae with hard-core elements creating a truly unique sound. Of the three members, two sport the dreadlocks and hold a charismatic presence on stage.

After every band played we filmed them saying who they were and where they were at. Asking Burnt to give a shout out turned into them singing a song about being Vikings while tapping their boots in time. It was amazing to witness and yes we recorded it. I asked them about their hard-core influences and how they interwove it with reggae music. dFranx, lead singer and guitar, says, “We grew up in the suburbs in California and that hard-core element you hear is our angst living in these neighbourhoods.”

We finished up our interview with Burnt after discussing our plans for the follow day Alex, Lucas and I parted ways. I got in at nearly four in the morning climbed into bed thinking about my radio show a few short hours away. Falling asleep with a smile on my face I drifted into sleep, my ears still buzzing from the music.

Ska Fest Day 2

3 Jul

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Time seems to have sped up for me in the past few days and skanky dance moves have taken control of my body. After the dazzling display of fireworks downtown on Canada Day, I headed to Sugar to catch the Ska Fest after show. Dia-Nos opened the show followed by fiddling sensation Kytami. Kytami’s Celtic tones mashed with grimy dub beats, harmonica, and guitar. It was truly a new experience to see and hear. Not everyday you see a lovely lady rocking out with a black fiddle.

Walshy Fire of Major Lazer took the stage a laid down all the electronic hits. Walshy Fire asked members of the crowd to come on stage and I jumped at the opportunity. I managed to grab a photo with Walshy Fire and thanked him for playing such a great set for Ska Fest.

July 2nd

I arrived at Ship’s Point just before 4:30 to catch Vancouver’s own, The Brass Action. They had quite the comedic performance parodying UB40’s “Red Red Wine,” changing it to, “Box Box Wine.”

I asked trumpet player, Richard Mitchell, if their silly antics on stage were a true representation of themselves. Mitchell says, “Were pretty goofy we don’t really have any ego. We don’t take ourselves seriously- we take ourselves less seriously and it’s more fun that way.”

Next Downtown Mischief took the stage as an 11 piece ensemble. They spread a conscious message while laying down the freshest beats, biggest smiles and best dance moves. I retired from the dance floor and while backstage, met the guys from Providencia, a Caribbean-rock band from Columbia. Their English was on par with my Spanish so we conversed through the universal language of music.

After I met with Zvuloon Dub System, an Ethiopian dub band from Israel. They mix reggae roots with traditional Ethiopian music and were the first performers to include the crowd in their set. Zvuloon Dub System had everyone singing along as the sun set behind the stage.

I talked briefly with the lead singer, Gil Yalo, about the Ethiopian dub genre. Yalo says, “When you bring Ethiopian music to people who have never heard it before- in one way it’s very strange and in another it’s very interesting. The reggae is the reggae and the hip-hop is the hip-hop, but people like something fresh and new. We bring in something new because we bring in the Ethiopian style with the Reggae roots rhythm.”

Today ska and reggae legends will take the stage at Ship’s Point including: Lynval Golding of the Specials, The Expanders, The Aggrolites and local band Sweet Leaf. The after show starts at 10 PM at Upstairs Cabaret: featuring Giraffe Aftermath, Burnt and Grossbuster. It’s going to be another glorious day at Ska Fest. After a great night’s rest I’m ready to bust out my best dance moves and dive into Ska Fest Day 3 head first.

 

Ska Fest Day One

1 Jul

This morning I awoke from a nightmare- I dreamed that I missed Ska Fest! Thankfully, that was not the case so I shook it off and put my best foot forward. I decided to walk downtown with the beautiful sunshine as my guide.

I arrived at Ship’s Point to see Ska Fest’s venue adorned with tents, tables, and people garbed in red and white. I was greeted by smiling faces – Ska Fest has begun! I hopped over to the merch tent to grab my media pass and found some shade with my program schedule in hand. Kicking off the day was The New Groovement, who had just returned from Tall Tree music festival. The New Groovement is an 11 piece soul band with a four piece horn section. Danimal, MC of The New Groovement, claimed to have the best mic check ever- counting up to 40, saying the ABC’s and only using words with the word “check” in them. Check republic, Czechoslovak, check-mark, the list goes on….. As for their set, they pulled surprised onlookers to the dance floor and had everyone dancing. The horn players also had synchronized dance moves which made their show even more aesthetically pleasing. The sound was smooth and soulful and started Ska Fest with a bang.

Up next was Whitey, a reggae band from Vancouver. Interestingly enough, I had met a few of the members previously at RudeFest who played with another band: Ninja Spy. We had a sneaky beer in the parking lot where I managed to interview Cole Grizzy, who plays trumpet and lays down vocals when necessary. Curious about how they heard about Ska Fest, Grizzy said Whitey has wanted to play it for years.

“We’ve been bugging Dane (Ska Fest curator) for a few years to play Ska Fest and he finally did. Actually, I think it was because last time we saw him, I bought him breakfast and that clinched it. He felt guilty,” says Grizzy.

I had not previously heard of Whitey, thus my intrigue to see their live set. They sounded like a mix of reggae and psychedelic rock.

Grizzy says, “We’re pretty open to any style of music. We will play anything we think sounds good and that people will enjoy dancing to. We consider ourselves a dance band. If it feels good do it!”

As I left the trumpet player of Whitey, I ran into Dani Jackson, one of the lead vocalists of The Leg Up Program. I asked her a few questions before her set began. Keeping it Ska Fest related, I asked Jackson about her favourite Ska Fest memory.

“Last year when Toots was playing, I managed to get up front stage and I really banked on the fact that I would be the only black girl there. And I was. Over the duration of his set, once he laid eyes on me, I was centre of attention,” says Jackson.

After sweating more than humanly possible, interviewing artists, and working out minor social media blimps I managed to sneak away from Ship’s Point. I guess this is what living the life of luxury is really like. I wish I had originally said that, but it was Cole Grizzy’s wise words, not mine. Brave New Waves is currently playing and Dope Soda is the final act of Ska Fest Day One. Walshy Fire from Major Lazer plays Sugar tonight.

I leave you with a photo of The New Groovement. Until tomorrow, keep it real! 

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15th Annual Ska Fest Begins!

30 Jun

July 1st is not only the birthday of our nation, but the kickoff to the 15th annual Ska Festival happening in Victoria B.C. This five day event features local and international artists hailing from all parts of the globe to share music with the lucky citizens of Victoria. Our ears will be subjected to funky beats, soulful sounds, and downright groovy tunes that will resonate long after the music’s finished. On top of great music, Ska Fest guarantees smiling faces of all ages which is my favourite part of the festival. Babies, grandparents, teens and adults- Ska Fest offers something for everyone.

I guess I should take moment and do the ol’ intro. I’m Melissa Faye Reid a radio personality on CFUV and will be your personal behind the scenes liaison for this year’s festival. On top of being an avid live music attendee, I’m a huge supporter of local talent and events. I feel so blessed and privileged to be part of the festival and will do my best to make you all proud.

My first memory of Ska Fest was many moons ago when I was sitting on the iconic grassy knoll at Ship’s Point, the inner harbour as my backdrop. Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra was playing a free show and I saw an interesting character dancing before me. He had long flowing hair and no shoes on his feet. His were eyes closed as he let the music intertwine with his soul. He danced with such precise convulsions people of all ages and colours passed by couldn’t help but dance with him. It was such a beautiful sight to see people joining in rather than making fun. To me this is what Ska Fest is about. Uniting us through our differences because in the end we are all the same.

In order to survive the next five days, I’ve prepared a Ska Fest survival guide to encourage optimal music festival attendance.

  1. Schedule- nothing more practical than a guide telling you which shows are happening and where. Also time spent trying to figure out who is playing means time lost watching live music.
  2. Sun Screen- (or Sun Cream to our commonwealth cousins) will save your skin and who knows- maybe even your life!
  3. Camera- some people these days even have cameras attached to their phones! THE FUTURE IS NOW.
  4. Fuel- bring some snacks or if you forget local food venders will provide you with all the greasy delightfulness you could ask for.
  5. Cash- You’d be surprised how often I wanted to buy a one of a kind piece at a festival but couldn’t because I didn’t think ahead. Learn from my mistakes people! ATMS on site.
  6. Hat- see #2.
  7. ID- Personal identification is important to remember if you want to hang out in the beer gardens- especially when you see what local breweries have on tap.
  8. Ear Plugs- I’m not a huge advocate of these but I know ear plugs are very important because if you stand too close to the speaker it can damage your hearing permanently! But yolo right? Am I right?
  9. Tickets- seems redundant but you’d be surprised.
  10. Sick dance moves- better be bringing nothing but the heat.
  11. Positive attitude- nobody likes a fun sponge not even a fun sponge. If you’re not happy about something change it!
  12. Water- hydration is the key to success in any aspect of anyone’s life. Have YOU hydrated in the last hour? Didn’t think so.

I wish all of you the best this Ska Fest and remember to pace yourselves. We have an entire five days of jam-packed musical performances with some of the biggest names in reggae and ska.

Ship’s Point kicks off at 1 p.m. tomorrow featuring Dope Soda, Brave New Waves, The Leg Up Program, Whitey, and the New Groovement. The best part? It’s all free. So put on your finest red and white attire and come join the infectious positive vibes that will be emanating from Ship’s Point this Canada Day.

p.s. Make sure you follow my adventures via Twitter and Instagram and all your social media shenanigans at CFUV 101.9 FM.

Cool Videos from 14th annual Victoria Ska Fest

17 Jul

DAY ONE OF THE 14th ANNUAL VICTORIA SKA FEST

Jk. & The Relays

The Planet Smashers

Sweet Leaf Back Stage!

DAY TWO OF THE 14th ANNUAL VICTORIA SKA FEST

Serra Leon’s Refugee All Stars

New Groovement

The Bananafish Dance Orchestra

DAY THREE OF THE 14th ANNUAL VICTORIA SKA FEST

Tanya Stephens Rocks Victoria’s sock off with talk of ding dongs!!

Dope Soda

Henry the volunteer tells all

DAY FOUR OF THE 14th ANNUAL VICTORIA SKA FEST

Bocce Avocado

David Hillyard & Rocksteady 7

DAY FIVE OF THE 14th ANNUAL VICTORIA SKA FEST

Dub FX

2013 Victoria Ska Fest Wrap-Up

17 Jul

Don’t forget to tune into The Fiji Mermaid Wednesday at 3:30 for interviews and other clips on CFUV 101.9 in Victoria and online at cfuv.ca!

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The final day of the 14th Annual Victoria Ska Fest was on Saturday July 13th and it has taken your diligent reporter three days to recoup from the event! My delay in sharing the exciting evening of the 13th is also due to the full week of back to back sweaty late nights filled with eclectic tunes all in the ska variety.

 

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The final day of ska fest was a douse but it was also very bitter sweet, the fun all week was exhausting but nobody wants the fun to stop! Saturday afternoon was a started with Victoria’s own The Chanrelles giving everyone the soul food they were in great desire for and followed with Calgarian Freak Motif’s chill out tunes! A brilliant precursor to David Hillyard & Rocksteady 7 who played just the night before at sugar in place of J Boog & Hot Rain, I felt spoiled being able to see them twice in a row!

 

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Dub Fx was in such good humor even though he had to last minute extend his set for another 30 minutes due to Yasin Bey’s late arrival. Benjamin Standford (Dub Fx) kept the crowd grooving, new beat boxed loop after new beat box loop and even threw in some unique instruments. One of his buddies played a PVC pipe didgeridoo while Dub kept the beat, wonderful expression of sound structure and manipulation.

 

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After some waiting filled with excited conversation Mos Def hit the stage, he was running late not only for the show but he did not make it to his workshop at Uvic in Cinecenter. The Stage was lined with colourful live orchids during his performance; he seemed a little wiped out but still gave it his all. When we consider the impressed CV of Yasin Bey there is almost an expectation to be blown away just by his presents, but it is what is forgotten in this thinking is the fact that his is just human like any of us and what sets him apart is his reverence to what he believes in politically and personally. Yasin Bey commits his time to what he truly cares about and is not afraid to say so, and this in many ways is his performance.

 

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Once Mos Def was done, and the crowd began to clear it was hard to believe that Ska Fest was in fact finished, it just seemed impossible that after all the great live acts that is was just over! Thankfully it was not quite over, the Victoria Ska Fest after part was just starting up over at the Victoria Events Center.

 

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As I ascended the creaky wooden stairs I could hear The Ponderosas in full swing and could see as I reached the top all the skankers getting their last fix until the next secret Ska Society Show! Do seek out The Ponderosa’s EP they have such a lovely sound that instills a charming mix of sensuality and hope, absolutely adorable!  Sadly they did not play as long a set I had hoped but Giraffe Aftermath followed and kept everyone in good spirits well past 2AM!

 

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There was so much love at this last and final show for the 14th annual Victoria Ska Fest, it just left me in anticipation of next years!

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