Sled Island is already well underway, and the choices audiences face can be a little overwhelming. To help you pick and choose between the myriad options, Fast Forward is happy to bring you part 2 of our festival guide — having covered Tuesday through Thursday in last week’s instalment, this week, we’ll tackle the weekend. But first, a special addition to last week’s coverage....
Thursday Surprise Show!
Loose lips sank the ship: the first of three very surprise late-night performances will be Okkervil River. Scheduled to take place at the Legion, Sled Island’s go-to venue for post concert mayhem, fans who were unable to catch the Austin rockers’ set earlier on in the evening will be regaled with melodic rock tunes from their solid discography, including last year’s excellent “Stage Names.”
This will be the first day of action at Mewata Field. The site boasts a solid lineup in a rapid-fire, two-stage configuration that promises a continuum of music without the endless waiting between bands that tends to drag down single-stage events. Only a fool would miss the one-two combo of Portastatic and Yo La Tengo, but surely the members of these bands would agree that some of the night’s best shows will be in small rooms across the city.
Strong contenders for first shows of the night are Wax Mannequin at the Legion and Andy Magoffin (of London, Ontario’s beloved Two-Minute Miracles) at The Underground. The pair swept through town just a few weeks ago to play a fantastic show at Ironwood, so now’s your chance to make up for missing them — it’s simply a matter of deciding whether you’d prefer Wax’s haunting baritone and crushing guitar jams or Magoffin’s charming, pithy self-deprecation.
Either way, there’s a very good chance that they’ll both be making a beeline for the Pumphouse Theatre shortly after their sets to enjoy the smooth sounds of Kara Keith and Your Dignity. Keep an eye out for some other big names in the room: southern man Mac MaCaughan (of Portastatic) fondly recalls his last trip to Calgary, when he went to his first ever NHL game and played a gig with Keith’s old band, Earthquake Pills.
Alternately, if you’re looking for an excuse to spend a few hours on your arse, make for the beautiful Martha Cohen Theatre. Well practised from last weekend’s free show at Olympic Plaza, local favourites Neighbourhood Council and Azeda Booth will share the stage with one-man garage band fiasco BBQ,, best known for his much-lauded collaboration with King Khan. Deerhunter, whose live show is renowned for the spastic antics of front man Bradford Cox, will round out the show. When one member split from this Atlanta five-piece last year, it appeared that the hype had overtaken the music and put the band off the rails for good. Fortunately, differences appear to have been resolved, and Sled Island will be treated to their notorious live show in an unforgettable setting.
The evening’s festivities will come to an exciting culmination with the second “Special Guests” show at the Legion, where fans will enjoy an intimate performance from Wire, one of the following day’s most exciting mainstage headliners. Seminal players in the post-punk movement, Wire’s set confirms Sled Island’s desire and ability to bring internationally revered talent to the city’s intimate venues.
The festivities start earlier than ever on the last day of the festival, but the temptation to stay in bed must be resisted! Throw on some faux-vintage threads, toss back a spicy Caesar and head down to Mewata Field for Jose Gonzalez, whose delicately strummed acoustic guitar pieces are nothing short of the perfect hangover cure. Shortly thereafter, the delightful twang of Drive-By Truckers will lead into the ominous strains of Gutter Twins, featuring industry veterans Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age) and Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers).
Following the day’s action-packed schedule at Mewata, revellers will take to the streets and choose between half a dozen events to round out their festival. Some will head east towards The Palomino, opting for a trio of Western Canadian delights (Medicine Hat’s Mt. Royal, Saskatoon’s Junior Pantherz and Vancouver’s Mohawk Lodge). Others will descend upon Broken City, the preferred venue of prog-rockers Bend Sinister, who will be giving their loyal cadre of Calgary fans a first taste of material from their upcoming concept album, Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers. For those who just didn’t think mainstagers Mogwai were as loud as everyone said they’d be, the cozy confines of the HiFi club will offer an epic set of face-melting riffage from Qui, featuring David Yow of the legendary Jesus Lizard.
No Sled Island preview would be complete without a mention of the No. 1 Legion, the de-facto after-hours meeting point for all involved. Among the many exciting bands that will grace this venue’s two stages Saturday evening, the most exciting is San Francisco’s the Dodos, a duo that at times manages to sound like an orchestra. Their unique brand of psychedelic folk will serve as the perfect warm-up for the Spiral Stairs meets Broken Social Scene collaboration that has been dubbed Human Milk. If nothing else, Calgarians will be the first in the world to see this music performed. It promises to be an exciting night.
Just as the festival started early, it will end a day late. The Palomino features free grub for full pass holders. Without a doubt, this will be the best place to witness tearful hugs and barbecue-flavoured kisses between organizers, curators and the like, but it might be worth attending due to the promise of still more “Special Guests.” And if that doesn’t float your boat, there’s always a screening of the excellent documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston at Kensington’s Plaza Theatre. Either way, you’ll get a low-key conclusion to a weekend of great music, camaraderie and civic pride.
Chris Adeney, a.k.a. Wax Mannequin
Who are you most excited to see at Sled Island?
I'm randy to see Kara Keith perform. I've liked her music for awhile but have never seen her perform live... though [she’s] playing at the same time I am. Piss. It'll be nice to see Rock Plaza Central play on Saturday, if I can swing it.
Why should people see your show?
I'm the one who will make you scared and dancey. I'm the one who will sweat the most. The people can look forward to a friendly and electric stamping on the brain. Also, I'm touring some new songs from a record I'll be putting out in the fall. I think they're good.
Dan Moxon of Bend Sinister
Who are you most excited to see at Sled Island?
I’d love to see Okkervil River, Yo La Tengo, Beans, Grizzly Bear, Mogwai and obviously the RZA. Wow, there’s some pretty great bands! I’m excited.
What’s your advice to people having a hard time deciding which band to watch during your time slot?
It’s always hard for people to choose when they have so many options, but if they do come see us, I don't think they’ll be disappointed. I can throw down some of the “sounds like” stereotypes that we get sometimes, just in case they float someone’s boat — so if you like Supertramp, Queen, Elton John, the Beatles, Deep Purple or Steely Dan, come see our show!