One of the first big music festivals happening this year is the Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival, taking place from Wednesday, June 21 to Sunday, June 25. And, despite its name, this one isn’t just ska and reggae.
“It’s a lot broader than the title indicates,” says Ska Fest director Dane Roberts. “So, it says ska and reggae, but it has a lot more to offer. And there’s a lot more genres that extended to Jamaican-rooted music than people may think, like hip hop and jungle. There’s… global roots… jazz… soul music, folk music.”
Roberts’ passion for third-wave ska and Jamaican-rooted music was influenced by his friend Matt Bishop, who hosted Skankster’s Paradise on CFUV; Bishop died in 1998. Continuing Bishop’s legacy, Roberts wants to introduce people to Jamaican-rooted music they may not have heard before.
“It’s kind of interesting, because, you know, some of the bands that we ended up getting, we’ve been talking to them for like five years previous, and then we just ended up getting them and we’re always constantly talking to new bands,” says Roberts.
Roberts says that Ska Fest competes with other festivals in the US and Europe when it comes to booking bands; the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar also creates challenges.
“It’s a small miracle we can put together such a great lineup,” he says.
However, word has spread about Ska Fest, and bands want to come to Victoria. Roberts says that they’ve heard about how professional the staff is; they see the photos and videos; they hear what a fun time it is. But Victoria is a smaller market, and it’s expensive for bands to come because of ferry costs. Sometimes bands want to come to Ska Fest, but the timing doesn’t work out and they end up either coming to the Victoria Ska and Reggae Society’s Garden City Grooves festival or they just come to play their own show.
Despite the challenges of booking bands, Ska Fest continues to offer three free shows at Ship Point on the first two days and the last day of the festival; the shows at Ship Point and the Victoria Curling Club are all ages and all shows are licensed for alcohol. The fest also offers 15 free workshops with various artists that are playing at Ska Fest. It’s an opportunity for fans and artists to get together in a more personal way. The focus of workshops is music, not industry.
“[It’s] something to do with the historical aspect of music or something to do that will teach people about the genre of music that the artist is playing,” says Roberts. “So, I think it’s a good music education tool for us to do.”
Saturday June 24th
2:00 PM – 10:00 PM