The Phillips Backyard Music Festivals returned to Phillips Brewery Friday July 7 to Sunday July 9, 2023.
Walking into the venue this year revealed an expanded festival grounds with the land on the other side of Pembroke street being used as a large gathering space with food vendors, picnic tables, shade, extra bathrooms, Quasars arcade games and also games like cornhole and oversized versions of jenga and checkers. On the other end festival goers would enter the familiar layout of events at The Phillips Backyard with the Phillips beer truck providing beverages for the weekend. The music stage at the brewery’s loading bay is bigger this year to accommodate the caliber of headliners the festival has booked this year.
The added space made a significant difference on crowd management it felt less cramped than in festivals past and also lineups seemed to flow better with less confusion on where lineups started and where they led to.
Kicking off the festival was Toronto guitarist and singer-songwriter Skye Wallace. She’s not a stereotypical singer-songwriter with gentle melodies. Wallace’s music is high energy and rocking and she encouraged earlier festival goers to rock out.
Victoria’s Pastel Blank were up next continuing the upbeat pace that would go throughout day one. Their set came just a week after their show at Laketown Shakedown. The dance vibes picked up as their performance went on.
Chicago pianist Neal Francis took audiences on a trip to the 1970s with his New Orleans and Chicago influenced funk and R&B.
Kitchener, Ontario rocker JJ Wilde was next. Wilde’s live shows are fun to watch thanks to her charismatic band running around on stage while she’s also bounding around the stage and interacting both with her bandmates and the audience.
Lord Huron returned to Victoria for the first time since opening for the Arkells in 2019. The band mentioned to the audience that the 2019 show was in the middle of a polar vortex. The weather was much better at Phillips. That was one of the few times they took a moment to speak between songs. With a 10:30pm curfew they wanted to fit as many songs as they could into their timeslot.
Day 2 started out with Victoria’s Nicky Mackenzie. Her smooth jazzy vocals brought some chill vibes to start out the hot sunny Saturday afternoon and featured some music that should be released soon.
Vancouver rapper Missy D was was second on the day’s bill. Her style of hip-hop has a little soul and also a some French language to it.
Vancouver all-female hiphop/R&B group NADUH made their Victoria debut at Phillips Saturday performing an engaging set with a good mix of rhymes, harmonies and choreography.
With it being Pride parade weekend in Victoria, Tilt brought in drag performers Vivian Vanderpuss, Woofie, and Eddi Licious to perform between a couple sets. The first of which started off awkwardly when the wrong music track was cued up.
Montreal LGBTQ+ band Fleece brought a colourful alt-pop break to the hip-hop heavy Day 2 of Tilt performing with visible joy on their faces.
The energy at the Phillips Backyard amped up when Snotty Nose Rez Kids took the stage. Their live performance is a good reason why they returned after performing at Tilt last year.
Headlining day 2 of Tilt was probably the most talked about artist of the lineup leading up to the festival. DJ Pee .Wee made his Canadian debut in Victoria. The DJ alter ego of American superstar Anderson .Paak performed an all vinyl DJ set and was joined by trumpeter Maurice Brown. His set was very genre and era diverse and included some local flavour with a couple tracks featuring Victoria’s Nelly Furtado. It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve seen such a large audience freak out over a DJ playing Alice Deejay’s ‘Better Off Alone’. The stage also featured a drumkit that DJ Pee .Wee only ended up performing on for the final songs of the night.
The final day of Tilt start off strong with Victoria rockers Trophy Dad. Lead singer Nevil Meyer was dressed in Tilt colours and his foot was in a boot after suffering an injury a couple weeks prior. The injury didn’t dampen his energy or enthusiasm on stage though.
Vancouver singer-songwriter Haley Blais mellowed things out next with music from her upcoming sophomore album ‘Wisecrack’. Album producer and member of Vancouver band Hey Ocean! David Vertesi was part Blais’ band Sunday.
Whitehorse returned to Victoria for the first time in almost two years. They had been scheduled for a headlining show in Victoria last October, but that show was abruptly cancelled shortly after being announced. So it was welcome site to see the married couple that is Whitehorse back on a Victoria stage.
Violinist Sudan Archives lost her passport and the airline lost all her gear and wardrobe. That didn’t stop her from getting from Des Moines, Iowa to Victoria for her Phillips Tilt set. She even told the audience she went across the street to the sex shop to buy the rainbow coloured attire she was wearing exclaiming “Happy Pride y’all!”
Bahamas closed out Phillips Tilt with a crowd pleasing set. Bahamas has always been a favourite for Victoria concert-goers. During the set, audience members were parading around a massive stack of plastic beer cups. Afie Jurvanen noticed and took the stack on stage holding it while performing a song.
The next festival in the series is Phillips Reverb happening Friday August 11 to Sunday August 13, 2023 with headliners Jesse Roper, Peach Pit and Fleet Foxes. We’ll have an artist preview in a couple weeks. Tickets are available at phillipsbackyard.com