by Mark Anthony Brennan


Last day at the Riff and the only place to be (quite literally) was Royal Athletic Park. First up, those talented group of guys from Toronto, Zeus. Just to show off how talented they really are, most of the members switched places and instruments throughout the course of their set. Their highly polished and infectious music grabbed the Victoria crowd’s attention from the very first note, even though it was apparent that most of them were not familiar with the band. Not that it mattered because the band won them over with their Beatles/ELO retro grooves. Slowly getting stronger with every song, Zeus saved the best for dead last: “27 is the New 17” from their latest album ‘Classic Zeus’. 


One of the best performances I witnessed during the entire festival was Lowell’s set under the big tent. It was her birthday and so she was in a clearly playful mood, sporting a neon pink baseball cap, bare feet and a newly purchased Zeus tee-shirt. The crowd didn’t seem familiar with this Toronto artist’s music either but she quickly wooed them with her frisky antics. Lowell struck up an immediate and genuine rapport with the delirious audience (who sang her “Happy Birthday”), and they were rewarded with solid performance after solid performance of her quirky electropop. There was such a bond formed that she felt comfortable enough to tinker with a yet-to-be-completed song as her closing number. A mutual love affair, to be sure.


Back at the main stage, the alternative power pop duo Dear Rouge played a rich and robust set backed by a full band. Then came a duo of another sort – Vancouver’s Lightning Dust. Amber Webber and Joshua Wells started LD as a side project to Black Mountain back in 2007, but it has since taken on a life of its own as it allows the duo a creative outlet that the hard rock of Black Mountain doesn’t always provide. They thrilled an intrigued audience with dark and dreamy sonic landscapes sculpted with inventive synths and Webber’s haunting voice. Part goth, part experimental, part synth-pop, but all good. 


And so I headed home – saddened that Rifflandia was all over, but happy that I’d heard some interesting new music (new to me, that is), made some new friends and packed away some great memories.