The sun is hot, the skies are clear, and the 19th anniversary of the Vic Ska & Reggae Fest is in full swing just in time for tourist season. This Saturday, Victoria’s Inner Harbour is packed with local music lovers and curious cruise ship passengers alike as the music kicks off at 2 PM.
With Ship Point, the festival’s main stage, being free to the public, the reaction is instantaneous: the sloped festival area is framed by First Aid tents, beer garden ticket vendors, food trucks, and the VIP lounge, and its enormous mingling area is immediately filled. Families with small children head up to sit on the sprawling lawn with full view of the stage; tourists take to the beer garden to sample the local breweries; others line up to taste the Freshcoast and Greek on the Street food trucks.
Ship Point’s Saturday lineup exemplifies the ska roots that the festival is partially based on: Boston-based The Mighty Mighty Bosstones delivers with their high-energy two-tone ska revival sound; the Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra, the world’s premier Jamaican jazz orchestra, wows with their ensemble of over 20 world-class musicians; the California-born Fortunate Youth, which hypes up the crowd with their beachy vibe and lyrical emphasis on messages of love, peace, and unity; the local Hillside Hooligans, long-hailed as one of Victoria’s reggae, gritty ska, and punk-rock darlings; and the dance-heavy The Funkee Wadd.
The other free stage, the Vic Theatre, is also in full swing from 12:30 to 3:30— with a reappearance of the Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra and The Legends of Ska, the intimate setting and electric live performances make for nothing short of an immersive experience, especially for first-time Ska & Reggae Fest-goers.
As for the night stages, the V-lounge and the newly-christened Capital Ballroom are the places to be; both with 9:30 starts and running ‘til late, the night venues offer a perfect mix of exclusivity and diverse musical lineups. The V-lounge is offering up Vancouver’s sea shanty-inspired The Dreadnoughts; The McGillicuddys, masters of Celtic punk-rock; and veterans of punk, Fableway.
The Capital Ballroom is the venue I had the pleasure of spending the most time at. Starring Doubtless, Victoria’s self-made No Doubt tribute band featuring local talent from LOVEcoast, Fox Glove, Dope Soda, and The Chantrelles, the show runs from 9:30 to 2 in the morning with Mt. Doyle keeping the party in high gear during interludes. While high-energy, the Capital Ballroom undoubtedly caters to the locals— the first DJ interlude lasts from 9:30 to shortly before 11:30, leaving concert-goers swathes of time to mingle and rack up a hefty bar tab. By the time LOVEcoast opens, the audience is chomping at the bit.
But once they do? The night shoots off, and there is no slowing down; frontman Danielle Sweeney’s honeyed vocals easily do No Doubt justice, and the band’s charisma with the crowd heightens the atmosphere to new levels.
Doubtless, however, is doubtlessly worth the pre-festival hype: each and every makeshift band member is thrilled to be a part of it, and it shows. With fantastic stage presence, a clear love of the source material, and an audience that is already riding on the high of an all-day festival, day 4 of the Vic Ska & Reggae Fest was nothing short of a smashing success.
My name is Emma Sloan. I am a Canadian content writer, columnist, and published poet. As of 2018, I have five writing credits to my name including Beatroute Magazine, This Side of West, The Martlet, and BALDHIP Magazine, but that list continuously being added to. Follow me on Instagram at @emmacsloan for writing updates and news.