The Richmond World Festival isn’t strictly about the music. After all, on-site attractions will include over 50 food trucks, a culinary stage with cooking demonstrations, a digital carnival featuring the latest in immersive technology and digital art, and an extensive artisan market. But in the event you are showing up just for the music, here are six don’t-miss acts.
Why you’ve got to see them: For those who like their radio-friendly R&B a little, well, dirty, the gritty and upbeat synth-pop of this Vancouver trio will prove infectious. Formed in 2010 as a vehicle for frontman Farshad “Shadi” Edalat to showcase his buttery vocals, DiRTY RADiO soon became a bona fide three-piece, completed by drummer and production master Zachary “Waspy” Forbes and keyboardist Anthony “Tonez” Dolhai. Showing that it knows how to amass an Internet following, the group traded releasing full albums for one-off singles in 2015, seeing a huge boost in its online engagement and bookings across the country. Those future-bass creations caught the ear of Diplo, who tapped the hometown boys to work with Sleepy Tom for a release on his label Mad Decent, and Young Franco—whose collaboration with the band on “Drop Your Love” has racked up more than a million SoundCloud streams. A critical darling with and without collaborators, DiRTY RADiO has been nominated for numerous Western Canadian Music Awards, courtesy of the group’s intense release schedule and high-energy stage performances. Given that the band makes a point of not playing too many hometown gigs, it’s more than worth checking out their set.
Killer track: Last year’s single “Curious” marries clicky, arpeggiated synths to fizzling ’80s string pads to create an upbeat, summery backing for Edalat’s versatile vocals.
> Kate Wilson
Why you’ve got to see him: It goes without saying that the world is a totally angry and scarily intolerant place right now. You’ve got neo-Nazis proudly marching through the streets on both sides of the border, and a simple goal like owning a house in Vancouver is a completely fantastical pipe dream. Luckily, not everyone has given up on making the world a better place: enter Vancouver singer-songwriter and all-round decent human being Buckman Coe. It’s one thing to sing lines like “I believe in humankind/I believe in human kindness,” which the socially conscious singer-guitarist does in “False Flags” off 2015’s Malama Ka ‘Aina. The brilliance of Coe is that he comes across as an artist who actually means it. Past outings like By the Mountain’s Feet positioned the Vancouverite as a man with a complete fixation on the sun-faded sounds of ’70s Southern California. Despite a Hawaiian-sounding title (which translates roughly to “respect the land”), Malama Ka ‘Aina finds Coe seemingly obsessed with Kingston back when Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were reggae’s reigning kings. Close your eyes during “Courage” or “Jah People” and you’ll be transported to a world where the only thing that makes a cold Red Stripe better is a plate of jerk chicken and Jamaican rice.
Killer track: “Malama Ka ‘Aina”, where Coe sings in both English and Hawaiian over tuff-gong guitars and Caribbean-breeze horn swells. All that’s missing is swaying palm trees.
> Mike Usinger
Why you’ve got to see him: Fusion music always sounds great in theory—but mashing up two totally different genres tends to be slightly more difficult in practice. Ever listen to pop-country EDM? Psychedelic rockabilly? Not great. Shamik Bilgi, however, has landed in the sweet spot of not only splicing together two rarely blended musical styles, but doing it in a way that is both inventive and exciting. On his last two albums, the beatboxer and producer has taken hip-hop beats and heavy bass lines and combined them with Indian pop and classical music, complete with melismatic vocals and traditional instrumentation. Often dramatic and highly danceable, Bilgi’s mashup of flighty Indian violins and the aggressive thuds of bass music brings out the best of both traditions, offering an audience-friendly twist to a genre uncommon in Western Canada. The artist is no stranger to big stages, having performed in 15 countries alongside names like Method Man & Redman, Bassnectar, and Tegan & Sara, and has festivals like Shambhala, Bass Coast, and Electric Forest on his résumé.
Killer track: “Udaipur Arrival”, a standout track from Bilgi’s 2016 release Channeling India vol 2, mixes a simple vocal with atmospheric synth pads and minor-key piano melodies to create a warm and smooth downtempo vibe.
> Kate Wilson
Why you’ve got to see them: When it comes to hip-hop, four heads are better than one—or at least that’s the view of DJ crew the Freshest. Vancouver performers DJ Seko, Marvel, Kutcorners, and Rico Uno, all are well-established in their own right. Both Marvel and Seko have recorded guest mixes for the seminal hip-hop radio show Sway in the Morning; Rico Uno holds down numerous Vancouver residencies; and Kutcorners does his own production on the side. As well as being familiar faces at any event that’s even tangentially related to hip-hop, all four have been behind some of the city’s biggest club nights, including REUPTRIPPYSHIT at Caprice, Fortune Sound Club’s Hip Hop Karaoke, Glory Days at the Biltmore, and even the cheeky Move Somethin’ at the No.5 Orange. Expect plenty of golden-era old-school hip-hop tunes, masterful cuts, artful scratching, and—thankfully—no Top 40. And, given that the group are named the Freshest for their idiosyncratic choice of tracks, it’s worth downloading the Shazam app before heading down to their set.
Killer track: Marvel’s remix of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”—stylized as “Sowwie”—adds a sleek, ’80s-inspired R&B groove to the big-room banger.
> Kate Wilson
Tokyo Police Club
Why you’ve got to see them: Remember the days when Canadian musicians aspired to nothing more than touring the Great White North and one day landing a spot between the Northern Pikes and Crash Vegas on MuchMusic? Tokyo Police Club clearly doesn’t. Right from the point it first surfaced with the A Lesson in Crime EP in 2006, the Newmarket, Ontario, quartet hasn’t been shy about aiming big. Elephant Shell—the band’s 2008 debut—hit the streets on the respected American indie Saddle Creek, the resulting reviews praising Tokyo Police Club for dabbling in everything from shimmering postshoegaze to morphined electronica. By 2011 the group was paying homage to the likes of Moby and Miley Cyrus for its Ten Songs, Ten Years, Ten Days covers album, and then it returned to pop at its shiniest and most powerful for 2014’s Forcefield. Along the way there’ve been appearances at gold-chip festivals Coachella, Glastonbury, Reading, and Lollapalooza. Yes, sometimes it pays to aim high.
Killer track: Newmarket has never been anyone’s idea of cooler than Williamsburg. But damned if Tokyo Police Club doesn’t outrawk the Strokes with “Wait Up (Boots of Danger)”, a song that’s all ragged art-star guitar and Sweettart vocals.
> Mike Usinger
Why you’ve got to see them: Since its inception in 2005, Dragonette has been on the edge of the big time. A synth-pop three-piece whose second-ever performance was opening for British dance-music legends New Order, the band has shared a bill with a number of high-profile artists, including Major Lazer, Miike Snow, and the Presets—as well as hooking up with house DJs like Basement Jaxx, Kaskade, and Galantis for individual singles. With its most recent album, Royal Blues, the trio has made a collection that’s lost none of its trademarked coquettish, playful feel. Making the 12 tracks even more admirable is the fact that vocalist Martina Sorbara and her bandmate producer Dan Kurtz have lost none of their enthusiasm for music-making despite separating during the album’s recording. Famed for club banger “Hello” with Martin Solveig, the Torontonians have toured globally for over a decade to showcase catchy party tunes.
Killer track: The poignant lyrics on “Body2Body” reach beyond typical pop music clichés of sex, sex, and more sex, and are neatly complemented by rolling breaks and energetic synths.
> Kate Wilson