ZOLTAN'S DAY FOUR
Okay, I have a confession for whoever may be reading this… I’ve got more than a few years on my colleagues who are also posting here. That’s why in my regular role at Fast Forward I’m the arts editor — I get to go to plays with comfortable seats and be home by ten.
I mention this because of a semi-epiphany I had after heading to Broken City on Saturday afternoon to find out who the secret guest was. At first, I was kind of disappointed when it turned out to be Eric Bachman. Actually, my reaction before that was, “who?” I had my girlfriend Google his name on her phone-thingy to confirm it was the singer from Archers of Loaf — a band I had never been into.
But then he started to play, alone on an acoustic, and I thought, yes, I’ve seen some really good music over the last few days, but this… This I truly UNDERSTAND — a balding, middle-aged man singing rustic songs about rivers and mountains and shit. And it’s over by four in the afternoon. Perfect.
So, feeling entirely comfortable in my decrepitude, I abandoned my ridiculous plan to go stand around in the rain at Olympic Plaza to see some hip hop (Shabazz Palaces), went home, threw on Tom Waits’ Asylum Years, and napped like a motherfugger.
But, all good things must come to an end, and seeing how I vowed to see Sled through to the end, I eventually got out of bed and ventured downtown to see how a bunch of bands who weren’t Feist were doing on such a drizzly day. Sad to say, the rain really put a noticeable dent in the crowd.
Not helping matters was the performance in session — the sound coming from the non-descript looking players on stage was Indie Rock 101, all nasally vocals and an irritatingly sharp guitar sound (I think the proper music crit term is “angular”). I had no clue who they were, but I ran into Mike Bell from the Herald and asked him to fill me in. “Stephen Malkmus,” he replied. Oops. Colour me embarrassed. And colour me out of there while you’re at.
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Off then for my third try getting into Theatre Junction Grand, and it proved a charm. I’m glad I made it — Yamantaka//Sonic Titan were probably my fave act of the festival — an art-damaged freakout that sent more than a few patrons scurrying for the exit after one-particularly epic track that was little more than a really long chant. On paper, they seem like the perfect act to spark a spliff for beforehand, but I’m glad I didn’t — I honestly think that they would have scared me had I been in a more suggestible state of mind.
Given how freakishly wiped I felt on the fourth day of this, I probably would have been wise to cap things right after that. But, I pushed on to the Legion. Toronto’s Hooded Fang were on, and proved, unlike Malkmus and his Jicks, that there’s a right way to do the indie pop thing — make it danceable and, you know, catchy?
Upstairs, Magas was doing his thumping, weirdo-electro deal, and it too was fun. Andrew W.K. was sitting at the back with a grin on his face, a beer in his hand, and his wife, fellow performer Cherie Lily, on his lap. Then a guy dressed like a giant light bulb walked up and asked me to screw his inflatable head back into place before he Travolted on to the dance floor.
Just some guy...
But, fatigue was seriously kicking in at this point, and the next act downstairs tipped the scales in favour of a speedy exit. Aleister X — done up in corpse paint and attired in a boxer’s robe — shredded away without form or reason on electric guitar while disjointed backing tracks blared annoyingly over top of the din. I suppose there was some intent there of a confrontational performance piece, but I wasn’t buying it — it was just lame.
I headed over to the Republik to catch the reunited Archers of Loaf, which was kind of a surprise thing to do — as I mentioned, they were never really up my alley. But it turned out to be pretty decent. Kind of like Weezer with throat cancer. I was pretty taken by how large and loyal a fanbase they have — I saw them in their recording heyday at the Night Gallery, and don’t remember people being as rabid about them then as they were at this show. Then again, I don’t really remember a hell of lot about the ’90s in general, so there you go…
Archers of Loaf
And as much as I like to complain about this and that, I have to say Sled Island was pretty great. As I mentioned a few posts ago, this was my first one as I had been away from the city for several years. But I’ve been to similar events all over — CMJ, CMW, NXNE — and honestly, the community element of this is in a league of it’s own. Hearing good music was just the gravy — it was the biking around, bumping into friends from all over Western Canada, and catching up with locals whom I hadn’t seen in years that really made this memorable.
— ZOLTAN VARADI
JOSIAH'S DAY FOUR
I wrote my contribution to the Day Three blog post after 4 a.m. on Friday, and it took a long fucking time to write. That sent me into a bit of a panic on Saturday in that I was so tired I didn't even know what to do with myself half the time.
What I did do was hit the streets early and make my way over to Local 510 for the early in the day brunch show. I missed the free breakfast tacos (pretty sure that's okay by me — fuck breakfast foods that come on tortillas) but I did get there in time for some music.
The first act I caught was the sweet sounds of infant baby local wunderkind Jean Sebastien Audet and his band Faux Fur. With the addition of a bass player, this was the best I've ever seen the group perform, which is a common trend. Every time I see them is an improvement on the last time, and there was nothing ever wrong with their hypnotic guitar runs to begin with. Now, they're really flirting with perfection.
Up next was Halifax indie rock trio Quaker Parents, who sounded a lot like, well, many of their contemporaries. But the Halifax sound is an awesome one, all weirdo time signatures paired with fuzzy, melodic songwriting, so they were a welcome addition to my day.
I wanted to see Each Other, but my hunger got the best of me so I made my way to Clive Burger. Then I drove downtown and braved the rain for a spot at the depressingly empty puddle that was Olympic Plaza.
I'm no big fan of the mainstage to begin with, but it was especially disappointing that it was raining so hard. Come on, Sled organizers, why didn't you try to control the weather?
Still, sitting on the ledge as my pants dampened, it was still a pleasure to check out the worldly hip-hop of Shabazz Palaces. While they were definitely more of a granola rap group (not a single “Maybach Music” drop!), they were solid performers doing interesting things. The bass was heavy, and the band was a pleasure for both the hippies and the normies in the crowd.
I couldn't handle the rain any longer, so I started making my way back to 17th Ave. After some free ice cream (thanks TD Bank! Not gonna switch to you, though) the stars aligned so that I could catch another Love Cuts set, this time at the Ship and Anchor. While their performance at the fancy, wacky shoe store was all feedback and falling apart, they hit the Ship's stage like seasoned performers, powering through their twee punk anthems.
I wanted to stick around for Samantha Savage Smith, but I was starting to feel like I was going to die. In what felt like an actual crawl, I made my way back to my car and went home to try and nap. Trouble is, when every 30 minutes you're running into an old friend or watching a new band or seeing a pseudo-celebrity on the street, it's hard to shut your brain off. So my nap was more of a “lay on your bed and think about what just happened” time.
Even more tired than when I left, I made my way back to the Ship for Chron Goblin, whose weed-themed stoner rock is ably performed, decently written, and my idea of hell when I'm running on no sleep. The music was loud, the crowd was obnoxious, and I found myself woozily walking around in an alley as I waited for it to end.
I was back in time to catch some of Victoria indie rock group Slam Dunk, then I played a set at the Ship with my band.
After we played, it was time for the secret guest at the Fast Forward party — Chixdiggit. Let me preface this by saying that I've never understood people who don't like pop-punk. That's like saying you don't like smiling or you don't like being with your friends.
As always, Chixdiggit goofed around, occasionally fumbled a song or two and made fun of their lack of professionalism, but the reality was that they were insanely tight. It was The Mandates and Knucklehead bass player Jimmy James' first Calgary show with the band, and he did a top-notch job.
Chixdiggit's many decades of experience mean that they owned the stage at the Ship, and won over everyone in the audience with crossed arms or frowns. I couldn't imagine a more fun way to close out the festival.
And that concludes my Sled Island coverage. Today, I'm going to do my best to not leave the house or even wear pants. If you're still craving more, there's an unofficial house show on 6 Street S.W. or the official Sled Island wrap-up party at Republik.
In closing, this was definitely the best Sled Island I've ever been to. As always, the organizers did a fantastic job of doing something big in our city, and the result was four days of non-stop fun. We've got something truly special in this festival, and it feels like the city turns into one small community for its duration. Here's hoping Sled is around for many decades to come.
— JOSIAH HUGHES
DREW'S DAY FOUR
I started out the final day of the festival feeling energetic. I have no idea how that could be, but I wasn't complaining. I was also a little worried, because the previous night had been one of the better evening's in my life thanks to some amazing performances.
Starting later in the day, I headed to Tubby Dog to catch the Wicked Awesomes because, well, their name suggests a certain amount of skill. They proved to be fun, whipping the cramped Tubby crowd into a tizzy.
From there, it was time to get a little beer into the system while listening to Love Cuts and then Samantha Savage Smith at the Ship. I'll be honest, I was only half paying attention to the music, with most of my energy directed at my man lover Dev and his sister (okay, well he's not my lover, but we do have a bromance going on). Pub food and beer happily sloshing around my belly, I mounted the bike for the ride into Inglewood.
I got to the Blues Can just in time for Bash Brothers to take the stage. This was fun, simple, dirty punk/garge rock delivered with a big-ass smile. Seriously, the drummer could not stop smiling. It was infectious. I developed a bit of a crush.
— Bash Brothers. Seriously, look at how much fun she's having. How could you not have a crush on her.
It was also great to see that a lot of people had made to the trek to the Blues Can. I wasn't sure if the venue would attract crowds simply because it was out of the way compared to most venues.
The show was a weird one, with The Ballantynes following Bash Brothers. I don't think you could find two groups that are more different. Bash Brothers is a two-piece (drums and guitar), while The Ballantynes couldn't even fit on the stage. The organ player had to set up off to the side. Where the Bash Brothers are stripped-down and messy, The Ballantynes are big and polished, with some serious soulful singing to anchor the whole set. It was another great performance.
— The Ballantynes. Big band, little stage.
Things get a little tequila-and-beer fuzzy after that. I headed to Broken City to catch Doldrums, Gothic Tropic and Prince Rama. All good? Yup, all good. That much I know. Prince Rama was the real hit though, with their strange Hare Krishna tinged beats (the sisters grew up on a Hare Krishna commune). Weirdo electronic good times is all I have to say about this one.
— Prince Rama at Broken City
Day four didn't quite live up to the amazingness that was day three, but that would have been almost impossible to do (Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, Thurston Moore, Magas and Duchess Says is just way too good of a combo), but that's just me being spoiled by this point. Sled has once again given this city four days of musical bliss that can't really be comprehended until you've had a couple of days to reflect on what just happened.
I'll join my colleagues in saying that this is a great event that just keeps getting better. I don't think anyone can really appreciate just how lucky we are to have Sled Island in the city. After a bit of a sleep, I'm going to start getting excited for next year.
— DREW ANDERSON