Thursday, September 20, 2012

The "Rifflan-diaries" - Part 1

   It was just moments before the most anticipated performers of the night, The Flaming Lips, took the stage to close out the Friday evening of Victoria's Fifth Annual Rifflandia Festival at Royal Athletic Park and I had a firm grasp on a giant net filled with beach ball sized balloons. I was with about a dozen other crew members backstage awaiting the cue from the stage manager to open the net and start tossing the balloons into the crowd and we were all buzzing with excitement. This was going to be fun!
   Up on stage my friend, and Zone Radio midday host, Pol Plastino led the crowd in a fun filled sing-along of the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song before screaming "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Flaming Lips!!!" at the top of his lungs. It was show time!
   As the band took the stage and started showering the crowd with paper confetti, we hauled the net out from backstage and suddenly Royal Athletic Park was an explosion of colour!
   My wife Megan was in the crowd and captured this amazing photo:

   So what was it like being a part of the crew for Victoria's most talked about music festival? In a word: surreal. Yes, it was a lot of hard work, but the payoff was what my boss called "an epic weekend of awesomeness." It's hard to imagine that less than one year ago I was working as a commercial painter applying my skilled brushwork to everything from elementary schools to prominent Victorian Heritage buildings. I still can't believe how rapidly my life has changed!
   It started with volunteering. Last Christmas Season, when my work as a painter ended for the Winter, I helped out with the Zone's Toy Drive for charity. That warm and fuzzy feeling of doing good things for others carried through to the summer time when the opportunity to volunteer for the Canada Day celebrations presented itself. That was when my hard work and great people skills got noticed. It wasn't long before I was hired to work at another big music event, Rock The Shores, and that experience changed my life. I knew then that I wasn't going to be a painter anymore!
   From there I quickly gained employment within the world of live music as a backline tech - or roadie, if you prefer - and I've been spotted working at a number of different shows and festivals ever since. Throughout the year, as I've been getting more and more involved in all these big events, the one festival I couldn't stop thinking about was Rifflandia.
   If this was a movie, this would be the point where some magical force works in my favour because in early August I got the email I was waiting for:
I hope you are doing well.

I would like to know if you are available to work for Rifflandia at Royal Athletic Park.

Here is the information: ... (This was followed by the shift schedules and my pay rate.)

Please let me know if you're available and this will work for you and I will send you a contract.

Thank you."

   Well twist my rubber arm. Of course I was going to say yes! I had no other gigs booked for that week, so my schedule was wide open. After a little back and forth correspondence, I got my full schedule and list of responsibilities. My new title for the duration of the festival was Production Assistant. This all-encompassing role meant I would be responsible for everything from stage set up to assigning volunteers to help with clean up and just about anything else you can think of that goes into a festival of this nature.
   Although this year's Rifflandia Festival had been in the planning stages since last year's festival ended, we really only had just 3 days to get Royal Athletic Park ready for the big event. By the time I arrived on site on Wednesday morning, some of the tents were already set up and ready to be moved into position.

   My first task was to assist with assembling the main stage. Just as we did for Canada Day and Rock The Shores, we rented a mobile stage that was self contained in a standard sized transport trailer. Here's a photo I took showing the partially opened stage:

It took only a half a dozen people working together just a few hours  to open it up and get it ready for the sound and light crew to install their equipment.

I got to hang the big purple banners on each side of the stage!
   Rifflandia is more than just a music festival. It's also an opportunity for local artists and merchants to showcase their stuff. For this purpose, the event planers set aside an area of the park that became Main Street. Once I was finished with the stage, I was on hand to help make sure Main Street came together nicely. One of the most popular stops along Main Street was "Zone Landia", an apocalyptic themed collaboration between the Zone Radio Station and Wolf/Sheep Arthouse.  I snapped this photo of the crew raising the geodesic dome:
   There is a seemingly endless list of things that needed to be prepared for this festival that I can't even begin to list here, and I can honestly say I was directly involved in almost all of it! But, you know what? I was happy to help. I wasn't alone, either. We had hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers on hand that worked so hard to get everything set up, and by the time the gates opened on Friday afternoon we were ready to rock!
   I'm going to end Part 1 of my "Rifflan-diary" here before I start to ramble on too much. In my next entry I will share some of my favourite stories from the festival from giving hi-5's to the first people through the gates on opening day to drunken good times at the VIP Wrap Party, so please stay tuned for that.
   In the meantime, I've come down with a cold over this past weekend - likely brought on by working like a machine and partying like a rock star all week - so I need to get some rest and have some chicken soup.
   Come back soon, my friends!
The Wandering Oak


  1. Love it bro!! Volunteering is awesome. It takes a while to get noticed as you said, but when you do, it can be a huge change!!

  2. FTH: Thank you! You're right. My life hasn't been the same since!

    Laoch: Thank you! It was worth the effort!

  3. Everything looks fantastic and your enthusiasm leaps out from the computer screen! Always a pleasure getting a glimpse into your world, Will!

    1. Thank you, Amy! For the first time in my life I really enjoy what I do!


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