Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The "Rifflan-diaries" - Part 2

   As I look over my collection of Rifflandia 5 mementos, I find it hard to believe that over a week has passed since headliners Mother Mother took the stage to close out the festival at Victoria's Royal Athletic Park. Their blazing set of new songs and old favorites left the crowd wanting more, but sooner or later it all had to come to an end. By now the park is completely clean and all the building materials have been stored away in a warehouse for next year. The bands and their crews have moved on to other cities and the mobile stage they played on is likely already set up for its next gig somewhere on the mainland.
   Rifflandia 5 is now in the history books.
   Based on what I've read and heard, the festival was a success. People in Victoria are still talking about it a week later and new photos continue to appear on Facebook and on the Rifflandia website.
   I still feel very honoured to have had a role in making sure the festival ran smoothly and I had a fantastic team of staff and volunteers to work with. It didn't matter what the task at hand was, everyone I worked with all jumped into it with a genuine, positive, and helpful energy that really helped to make everything come together nicely. I can't say enough good things about the staff and volunteers.
   It goes without saying that anyone who attended, or worked at, this year's festival has a long list of awesome memories and will have stories to tell for a long time to come. I'm no exception. I could write about SO many things, but I know that the generation we live in has a short attention span and I don't want you to get bored.
   Instead, I'm going to quickly rattle off a few of my favorite memories and some well deserved shout outs in point form and pop in a couple of photos. Short, sweet, and to the point. Here we go:
  • I'm so grateful to the producers that as part of my payment for working at the festival I was given an extra wristband for my wife Megan so that she could come enjoy some of her favorite bands and keep me company as I went about my work. Megan also thanks you.
  • I got to go for a short ride in Sloan's tour bus. It was just around the neighborhood as I helped the driver find a place to park the giant bus, but it was still pretty cool. I would have taken a picture but something told me not to. Perhaps it was the friendly tap on the shoulder from the menacing looking body guard.
  • I really love being present when a band is doing their sound check in the morning. It's fun for me to watch the bands work out any kinks in the sound system. A lot of times I'll hear a loose rendition of one of their hits or they'll do a cover song. Cake covered Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On". Yes, you just read that. I was there.
Mother Mother's sound check was also fun to watch. "That would sound better if our voices were awake!"
  • In exchange for helping the Main Street merchants and food vendors with anything from changing light bulbs to hanging signs, I was given a lot of free drinks, snacks, and swag. Not a bad deal!
  • I loved that we had golf carts to drive around the park before and after the shows. They made moving materials from one end to the other so much easier - and they're just fun to drive!
  • Shout outs to all the awesome food vendors. I tried to sample something from everyone, but I know I missed a few. All the ones I did try had excellent food!
  • A big part of my job involved working with each band's road crews. From load in and set up to strike and load out, it was an absolute pleasure to work with every one of them. Many of them had no problem sharing their knowledge and experience and I learned a LOT! So did the volunteer stage hands that worked with us!
  • I'd really like to give a big shout out to every one of my friends at The Zone radio station. Many of the staff members I've known for some time now from previous events or through Social Media interactions and it was so great to finally meet the rest of the crew. Boss Man Johnny, if you get to read this, you have an amazing, friendly, and approachable staff that have become such a part of this city that if The Zone wasn't here, CERN could come to Victoria to study the black hole left in its absence!
  • Finally, it goes without saying that my best memories come from working backstage after the park was closed each evening and having access to the Artist Lounge and Green Room. Many of the day's performers would still be mingling about signing autographs or posing for pictures or just idly chatting with anyone lucky enough to be there. Although I kept my cool, believe me, it was hard not to get star stuck - especially when engaged in casual conversation with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips!
Wayne Coyne autographs the Zone's "Star Guitar", which will later be auctioned off for charity. Photo by me.
Yours truly with the "Star Guitar" just moments after it was signed by Wayne. Photo credit: Webmeister Bud of The Zone.
   All in all, my time at Rifflandia 5 will stand out as the biggest highlight of my summer. The producers have told me they'll keep me in mind to help out at future events, including Rifflandia 6 next summer, and I can't wait. It's sad that festival season is winding down for the year. I'm going to have to find myself a part time job to get myself through the winter, but I'm clearing my schedule for next summer.
   To all the young volunteers out there that helped us present the biggest festival of the year, thank you for all your hard work. Keep it up and maybe you'll get noticed like I did and get yourselves put on the payroll. Who knows? Maybe next year you'll be hanging out with rock stars backstage at Rifflandia Six!
   I hope to see you there!
The Wandering Oak

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

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Showed Him The Ropes

   I had the day off, so I decided to visit the cruise ship pier today.
   At one point an elderly gentleman came up to me and asked me to explain how the crew handle the ropes that moor the big ships. I was caught off guard at first, mainly because I was listening to music in my earphones, but I really didn't mind answering his questions. As the crew hauled in the lines and tied the ship off, I gave play-by-play details of what they were doing. He seemed genuinely interested in what I was saying as we watched the ship come in.
   After I answered all of his questions, the gentleman then walked over to a bench where his wife was sitting and proceeded to explain everything to her as if he was suddenly an expert on the subject. I don't think he realized that she could hear me. The smile she gave me was priceless!
   Elderly people are great!
The Wandering Oak
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...