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Rifflandia festival set to return to Victoria, with close to a hundred acts scheduled to play including headliners Lorde and Charli XCXKeighley Kodric/Handout

One of Victoria’s most popular multiday music festivals announced its lineup this week after a four-year hiatus – with its biggest acts yet.

Headlining Rifflandia are big-hit pop stars Lorde and Charli XCX. Other well-known acts such as Russian protest band Pussy Riot as well as Shaquille O’Neal, playing under the name of DJ Diesel, will also be in B.C.’s capital this fall. Close to a hundred acts are scheduled to play at the Royal Athletic Park and across Victoria’s Arts and Innovation district in mid-September.

Rifflandia producer Nick Blasko is coy about how he managed to book such high-profile artists for a city not known for attracting big stadium acts.

“It’s never a quick process,” he said. “A lot of these artists, we’ve wanted to have over the years but the schedule hasn’t worked, the timing hasn’t worked and so on.” But over the years, Mr. Blasko strategically put together an internationally renowned roster for the comeback of the four-day festival.

Rifflandia was put on hiatus in 2019, at a time when a weakening Canadian dollar made booking acts from the U.S. difficult. That year saw a string of high-profile festivals cancelled across Vancouver Island. The pandemic and various restrictions kept festivals away for another two years. But thanks in part to provincial efforts, Rifflandia is coming back with a splash.

“It’s a small but mighty festival that truly offers something for everyone,” Mr. Blasko said. There’s pop, punk, rap and everything in between. The lineup is a reflection of the city’s growing diversity and energy, he said.

He said he’s also grateful for provincial support. The $250,000 allocated to Rifflandia from B.C.’s $30-million recovery fund for the arts allowed Mr. Blasko to hire back a core team and plan for the festival in confidence. “That fund was unprecedented,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a very busy, exciting summer in this province.”

He said that organizers always believed they could turn the Rifflandia festival into a real destination event for Victoria. “Obviously you need to book international artists for that to be a reality. We’ve gone and done that,” he said. This year, he’s expecting to attract visitors from as far away as San Francisco.

The city’s profile is rising after the pandemic, with the band Imagine Dragons kicking off its world tour in Victoria with a sold-out show in April. Avril Lavigne is playing in town this month for the first time in more than a decade.

Rifflandia, now in its 12th year, started from local, indie beginnings in 2008. It still showcases local and regional talents. “When I think about the early days, even going into Royal Athletic Park was a massive conversation,” Mr. Blasko said. “We’re proving out that big, important and relevant things can happen in Victoria.”

Rifflandia will run for four days from Sept. 15 to Sept. 18. Tickets go on sale on May 6.

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