We're hitting the ground running for our 20th birthday with another packed FREE, all-ages show for our Ska & Reggae Massive. We wanted to get things started in seriously rhythmic style so we packed Night 1 with those good, good grooves – ska, reggae, hip-hop, soul and funk are all here to help us get our bodies moving and the blood flowing.
Headlining this kickoff extravaganza is Victoria's one and only hip-hop/soul orchestra THE LEG-UP PROGRAM. A true original, this 16-piece funk/soul/hip-hop behemoth is one of the city's most reliable sources of grooves and great musicianship. Fresh off the release of their debut album, you can bet that they're gonna be even more full of energy than usual. Coming from Montreal is phenomenally talented singer and rapper, MERYEM SACI. A member of Montreal's hip-hop gurus Nomadic Massive, Saci's own music is a soulful celebration that mixes hip-hop, r&b, soul, afrobeat and reggae into a potent groove cocktail.
We are also proud to welcome back from California our longtime friends BURNT. With the return of One Drop (on Saturday, June 22), having Burnt back on the festival is a special treat. We helped One Drop and Burnt find each other with My Space (!!!) while trying to find a band to trade California and BC shows. The trade was a rousing success and a lifelong friendship was born. Burnt is a serious part of our Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest history and having them back for our 20th is big! The honour of kicking everything off this year as they take the stage first, is Vancouver 9-piece ska/reggae monster BREHDREN. After opening up for The Slackers in Vancouver this past winter, we pegged these cats as a group that needed to part of Year 20! And last but certainly not least, one of our favourite selectors of all-time, DJ Anger will be on the decks holding it down and keeping things bouncy between sets.
*Don't forget to grab tickets for Dub Pistols (DJ set),Mat the Alien and Greenlaw at Distrikt (19+) right after the harbour and cap night one off proper!*
Dub Pistols (DJ Set), Mat the Alien & Greenlaw at Victoria's 20th Anniversary Ska & Reggae Festival
When asked about Barry Ashworth, the founder of iconic UK reggae outfit DUB PISTOLS, 2018 Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest alumn DJ Jimi Needles just says, “He's the coolest man in the world.” After a bit more research on our end, we can confirm to you that indeed, Barry Ashworth is, at very least, in the top 5 coolest men on our planet. One of the most (in)famous UK reggae acts of all time, Dub Pistols has, according to the bands own recorded history, “burned through members and thousands of pounds on assorted capers and hedonism.” The sound that Dub Pistols champions is the classic sound and feel reggae soundsystems – tending the flame of the ska and dub rhythms that informed the birth of modern sounds like dubstep and grime. A set from Dub Pistols, DJ or otherwise, is going to take the crowd on a journey through everything reggae has to offer – its truly global reach and sonic diversity, its rich past, colourful present and powerful future.
Joining Dub Pistols for this deep journey through the future past of riddims is west coast legend MAT THE ALIEN. We've been a fans of Mat the Alien for awhile – one of the most versatile and reliable DJ s in the land – and when he mentioned to us that he'd be into putting together a special set of reggae and dancehall-inspired bass, we knew we had to get him onto our stage. To get things kicked off on this Night 1 party, local legends GREENLAW will be bringing their ultra-soulful drum 'n bass and hip-hop to our stage for the first time in over a decade! Far too long if you ask us. Come out, get sweaty and let's get Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest kicked off proper!
Victoria Ska & Reggae Festival 20th Anniversary FREE Showcase!
Victoria Ska & Reggae Festival has a bit of a reputation for digging up the musical diamonds and bringing them to our stages for all our Ska & Reggae Massive for our signature free shows and year 20 is no different. Coming up from Portland for their Canadian debut to headline the night are THE BANDULUS. This is a band seeping with soul, playing some of the most luscious ska and reggae tunes you're going to hear anywhere around these parts. We are so excited for them to make their debut with us!
Vancouver's rhythm powerhouse SALSAHALL COLLECTIVE is making the trek across the Strait for the first time and we can tell you, you do not want to miss this band! They opened up for Ozomatli at the Rickshaw this past January and they set the place on fire. Dancehall, salsa, hip-hop – whipped together and delivered with serious fire, Salsahall Collective should be on the must-see list for any serious groove lover this year. Before Salsahall Collective lays down their musical smoothness, another gigantic music-powerhouse (in terms of both size and sound) is making not only their festival debut, but indeed their world debut. THE CAPITAL COLLECTIVE is a veritable ska supergroup, gathering members from some of our favourite local bands – Dope Soda, Bananafish Dance Orchestra, Jon & Roy, Astrocolor, Batuque Axe, Lovecoast...and those are just the ones we know about now! We've heard rumblings of guests and surprises from this very special presentation, so we'll have to wait like everyone else! Kicking things off are our longtime friends THE STEADIES. One of Canada's most engaging reggae acts, it's been too long since The Steadies have been in Victoria and we figured Year 20 was the proper time to fix that. Expect big, warm sounds this whole night and ALL FOR FREE in our beautiful Inner Harbour. You have zero reason to miss this...
And be sure to grab tickets for the Cherry Poppin' Daddies rocking Distrikt with Apex Breaks and Stephen Lewis right after the harbour!
We are so excited to welcome back one of Oregon's most ferocious bands, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies. The band cemented their place in the collective musical memory of an entire generation as the head of the neo-swing revival of the late 90s with their album Zoot Suit Riot – which spawned the criminally catchy hit song of the same name. Born as a ska-punk band, Cherry Poppin' Daddies rode their success into a career that has seen them embrace their classier side, incorporating lots of 1950s jazz and Tin Pan Alley blues influences, playing it all with serious teeth and power. When it comes down it, the band is an Americana band – tying together many of the ends of the country's vast musical history: punk, swing, jazz, big-band, blues and rock 'n' roll, third-wave ska – turning into a cocktail all their own. It's been awhile since the Cherry Poppin' Daddies made it up this way and we're pumped they're finding their way back to help us celebrate Year 20!
To provide support and get the night started with serious funk we have both of Canada's coasts coming together to light a fire in Distrikt. Victoria's own 9-piece jungle-funk monster, APEX BREAKS. Featuring members of some of our favourite bands from around the city – Rocky Mountain Rebel Music, Zoubi & The Sea, Crude Cultura, to name a few – Apex Breaks puts on one of the most explosively fun live shows we've seen in a long time. When they got a packed Lucky Bar dancing and soaked with sweat last fall playing our show with Erica Dee, we knew right away that they needed to be on the Festival stage. And getting things started on the night is New Brunswick's multi-instrumentalist looping wizard STEPHEN LEWIS. A one-man funk phenomenon, Lewis' sets are little celebrations of joy, drinking deeply of the happiest grooves. We're so thrilled to be able to catch the leader of the Big Band of Fun for this special performance in the midst of one of the busiest touring seasons ever for he and his band. And last, but certainly not least, our good friend and renowned Man of Taste, TECSTYLEZ. The groovy homie will be kicking the speakers warm between sets with the finest in hip-hop, soul, funk and all associated sounds that people love dancing to.
As luck would have it, Victoria's 20th Annual Ska & Reggae Festival falls right around this years Summer Solstice. And what goes better with a long, sunny day than reggae music? As we prepared celebrate our 20th year of bringing the best global riddims to the Massive, we thought back to some of the most legendary Ska & Reggae Fest shows, the ones that really left an impression – and we couldn't think of anyone who made a splash like KY-MANI MARLEY did in 2011. Playing to a capacity crowd of over 1200 people (With dozens more being denied entry), Marley gave an unforgettable and exhilarating performance, radiating the true joy associated his family name. one foot planted in the reggae traditions that his father helped build and another foot planted in the sounds of reggae musics future. Carrying the torch of the royal family of reggae music, Ky-Mani has been releasing world-class reggae for more than two decades, low-key becoming one of the most prolific and consistent members of the ever-expanding Marley family tree. On top of his own work, Ky-Mani has created global hits with other modern reggae heavyweights like Proteje and Gentleman. A link to reggae's past and a leader of reggae's present, Ky-Mani Marley's return to Victoria, under the sun, bringing in the Summer Solstice is going to be something really special for music lovers of all kinds.
We are also proud to welcome SISTER NANCY to Victoria's Annual Ska & Reggae Festival for the first time!
Sister Nancy is a living legend and one of the most influential female performers in the history of reggae music. She is known to the world as the first dancehall DJ and singer. As the younger sister of underground legend Brigadier Jerry, Sister Nancy is someone that shaped her own life from an early age and learned to survive on her own.
Over the years Sister Nancy has maintained her own career but music will continue to be her passion. We are extremely lucky to have her at the festival as she does not tour regularly.
Getting things kicked off for our Friday night reggae part is are returning Mexican reggae-rockers Mamá Pulpa. Legend has it that their incredible band was forged in the fires of a collective alien abduction that implanted them with extraterrestrial musical knowledge that has led them to be one of the globes most secretly powerful and creative bands. And they return to bestow their intergalactic reggae wisdom to the Massive once again!
Finally HANDSOME TIGER will be providing the best in reggae, drum n' bass and world during interludes throughout the evening!
The Pietasters, SweetLeaf, Sexweather, The Funkee Wadd @ Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest 20!
To all the Ska & Reggae Fest Massive, far and wide! We have heard your cries and we agree – It's a crime that it's been seven whole years since The Pietasters – inarguably one of the most soulful ska bands North America has ever produced – has made the cross-continental trip from DC to Victoria. This 8-piece balances grace and power, softness and edge, like few other outfits can claim. There aren't many better ways to kill a Friday night than getting soulful with The Pietasters, and we've put together an incredible evening headlined by this phenomenal band featuring a couple of our Victoria favs.
We welcome back our dear friends, one of Victoria's most reliably fun and consistently rioutous sources of ska goodness, SWEETLEAF. Channeling the horn-laden sounds of ska revival powerhouses like Reel Big Fish and No Doubt, the six-piece (Half horns! Real horny!), SweetLeaf long ago established themselves as warriors in the battle to keep classic ska sounds alive and infusing them with new, funky energy. Getting the bands kicked off for the party is power-trio SEXWEATHER. If you haven't seen Sexweather before, you are in for a treat. And if you do know, you know better than to miss this band. Gruff, soulful, powerful – Sexweather could be playing straight punk rock one minute and hypnotic blues-based hip-hop (Or anything in between) the next. Truly unpredictable but always a thrill, Sexweather is one of Vic City's hidden gems. Last but certainly not least, our friend and resident expert in all things funky, FUNKEE WADD will be keeping the dancefloor on fire between sets with his expert bass-dealing skills, vast musical knowledge and taste.
Def3, Ganjo Bassman @ Victoria's 20th Anniversary Ska & Reggae Festival
One of Canada's most formidable MC s, DEF3 has spent a career establishing himself as a pillar of the hip-hop community. On the mic or in front of a canvas with a spray-can in hand, Def3's deep love of and respect for the roots of hip-hop culture is at the forefront of whatever he does. Always working to help push the culture forward, much of his recent work has found him working to bridge the divide between old-school hip-hop and heavy bass-music. His incredible album Small World found Def3 working with Late Night Radio, one of the hottest hip-hop bass producers in North America, and who he's apparently just recently finished recording another album with. So expect some new, equally dope stuff from the homie Def3 as he takes the intimate stage at Lucky Bar.
Getting things spiced up before Def3 will be Mexico-to-BC transplant and musical powerhouse GANJO BASSMAN. The man known has Ganjo spent his time with a variety of bands in his native Mexico before developing his own signature sound. Dubbed “rock-reggae-hop” Bassman's music is a blend of unique, shifting basslines, grunge guitars, and hip-hop drum beats wrapped in reggae aesthetic. A blast of straight reggae energy to get things sweaty on a Friday night.
Less Than Jake, One Drop, LowDown Brass Band, Danny Rebel & The KGB, Mt. Doyle @ Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest 20!
Saturday night of Victoria's 20th Annual Ska & Reggae Festival is coming in hot and is going to be one of the most blisteringly fun nights on the summer calendar. One of the pillars of the third-wave ska revival, Florida ska-punk rockers Less Than Jake finally take on our main stage and all we can say is, “It's about time!” Legends of the genre, Less Than Jake has been relentless in their music and have firmly cemented themselves into the memory and playlists of ska fans around the world. Few bands have stuck to the DIY principals that birthed the movement like Less Than Jake and it's that dedication to their roots that has helped build a solid fan base from the ground up over two decades.
One of Victoria's most beloved bands is making a triumphant return to help us bring in year 20 in absolute style. ONE DROP is finally coming back to get the masses jumping. It's been a decade since these icons of rowdiness have joined forces to rock a crowd proper. In fact, their last show was at Victoria Ska Fest 10, opening for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and they return for our 20th, playing before another group of ska legends, Less Than Jake. If you want to see a professional, polished, flawless performance, One Drop is not what you are looking for. If you want to hear music that is raw, entertaining and unpredictable played by a crew of seriously talented maniacs who are almost as surprised as you are, this is your chance.
Joining these two Festival favourites is Chicago powerhouse LOWDOWN BRASS BAND. One of the quickest rising live acts in North America, the band's relentless touring schedule has taken them around the continent, dazzling audiences with their ridiculously funky, big brass grooves. Combining hip-hop, funk, ska, reggae and delivering it with the grit and grace of a New Orleans line, LowDown is making seriously exciting music and we're pumped to introduce them to our west coast massive. Kicking things off for our Saturday party under the sun are the self-proclaimed “Bastard Sons of Reggae,” DANNY REBEL & THE KGB. Longtime friends of the festival and Montreal's greatest reggae ambassadors. 12+ years of playing their high-energy reggae has helped honed the band into one of the tightest, hardest-hitting groups of music healers in the country. And keeping it smooth in between sets is our dear friend and one of the coolest cats we know, MT. DOYLE. The resident DJ for hometown heroes Illvis Freshly, Mt. Doyle is a force to be reckoned with behind the decks. Versatile, knowledgable and as talented as they come around here, Doyle is always bringing the choicest grooves, no matter the genre.
Macka B, Entangados, Blackwood Kings, Tank Gyal @ Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest 20!
You know we couldn't have year 20 go by without at least one legend of Jamaican music making a debut in Victoria. And we are so very excited to welcome for the first time, the mighty MACKA B. Recognized as one of Britain's most legendary and influential influential dancehall toasters, Macka B has used his music to push dancehall back towards Rastafarian political consciousness, while bringing elements from other branches of the reggae tree like roots, dub and lovers rock. With a career spanning nearly four decades, Macka B has built a career on his insanely unique delivery and stage presence, and a voice unlike few others on this planet. Macka's voice is rich, emotive and able to downright wondrous things with cadence and timing, gentleness and ferocity. he music on his massive output of albums displays an uncanny ability to move between serious and more lighthearted subject matter in his music. Earlier albums like the landmark Sign of the Times (1986) and Looks are Deceiving (1988) are marked by dark political undertones with a constant eye on the struggle and strife of everyday life. Many know him from his wildly popular, on-going “Medical Mondays” web series where he shares his ever-growing knowledge of bodily health and veganism (Of which he is an adherent) spawned a surprise smash hit when his raps on the health benefits of cucumbers (Appropriately titled “Cucumba”) went viral, racking up over a million views.
As if Macka B wasn't going to be one of the most fun shows all on his own, we've gathered up a couple of our favourite bands of rabble-rousers to jam-pack Night 4 of Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest. Argentina's foremost band of happiness-inducing musical clowns, ENTANGADOS is ready to return to Victoria do that super fun thing where they take ska, cumbia, funk and rock, mix them up all up then blast it at the audience from the stage with the radiant power of 100 suns. We also have one of our all-time favourite local bands, a true Victoria original – BLACKWOOD KINGS. Incorporating not just traditional reggae sounds and punk aesthetics, but also disparate influences from math rock to jungle and everything in between, Blackwood Kings is one of the most sonically exciting bands the area has produced in some time.
And holding it down between the bands it the one and only, the Vancouver riddim legend TANK GYAL. Long-time friend of Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest, the creator of the Thursday Ting – the longest running dancehall reggae night in Vancouver – and one of the founding members of Van's infamous Lighta! Sound Crew, Tank Gyal has most assuredly cemented her place as one of the west coast's foremost authorities on reggae music and its many offshoots.
We figured to help us wind down one of our most musically diverse lineups to date, we'd shut down Ship Point for Year 20 by giving the festival Massive something of a musical sampler platter, and hit as many of those sonic satisfaction spots as we could. Making his Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest debut and headlining the night is New Zealand electronic reggae emprersario ISAAC CHAMBERS. Fusing soulful reggae and hip-hop with electronic flourishes and deft live instrumentation, Isaac Chambers creates luscious, engaging rhythms to get you moving and back in touch with your funky inner child. He and his band of musical friends are sure to close down this years' main stage in seriously groovy style.
When a musical legend keeps whispering to you about a band, you kind of have to listen. That's how we found THE SCOTCH BONNETS – thanks to the constant insistence from David Hillyard of The Slackers. The Baltimore crew plays some of the bounciest punk-reggae tunes going today and are sure to be a shot in our arms on day 5, as we're all dragging just a little bit. Heating things up before The Scotch Bonnets is one of Canada's hottest purveyours of groove, BOOGÁT. Fresh off a Juno nomination for Best World Music album for his phenomenal San Cristobal Baile In, Boogát is setting the music world on fire with his powerfully funky mix of hip-hop, salsa, cumbia and reggaeton. The Quebec City native, born to immigrant parents from Mexico and Paraguay, sings in French and Spanish, paying homage to his whole, rich musical heritage. Getting things kicked off for our main stage closing showcase is inarguably one of the straight-up smoothest bands Vancouver Island has ever produced, Nanaimo's BOOMSHACK. The festival favourites are guaranteed to get your feet moving while concurrently soothing your soul with their warm, funky grooves.
What would Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest 20 be without a performance from at least one of reggae music's most legendary vocalists and contributors? LEROY SIBBLES of the Heptones returns for a very special and intimate show at Distrikt to close out this landmark year of the festival. Ever since he started singing with the Heptones as a teenager more than 50 years ago, Leroy Sibbles' has consistently and rightly been considered one of the genre's most talented, expressive vocalists. Not only an insanely soulful singer, Sibbles' contributions to rocksteady and reggae music can be felt as a top-flight bass-player and producers. We are so excited to have this titan of Jamaican music closing out our 20th year. He will be backed by Victoria's own rocksteady powerhouse PHONOSONICS, who will be playing a special set of their own to open the night.
Playing before Sibbles for this Sunday night extravaganza is ERICA DEE LIVE. After an electric show at Lucky Bar this past fall and a highlight set at last year's festival before Culture, we knew we had to bring her back to help us round out the year in style. Singer, rapper, producer, teacher, community activist, Erica Dee has used her skills and talents to build musical community wherever she goes. Her tastes and influences are vast and her music is a reflection of that diversity. She'll be bringing some musical backup for a special live band performance that promises to be equal parts groovy and soulful. One of Vancouver's most notable dancehall selectors, DJ ABEL will be keeping booties and hips moving throughout the night in between live sets from the bands.