By Christine Leonard, Gareth Watkins, Jenna Lee Williams, Jennie Orton, Jibril Yassin, Max Maxwell and Sara Elizabeth Taylor
June 18, 2014
The Allovers – #1 Legion, Upstairs
Overall veterans of the bi-lateral provincial punk-rock scene, these musical maesters displayed their collective experience by effortlessly vacillate between the heavy and the humourous. A three-headed hydra in an Oxford shirt, the composite trio was definitely primed for a sunset showdown. The Allovers nailed their manifesto to the wall with hard charging lines that conjured the might of a NoMeansNo. Tight and tidy, but with a mussed-up garage nonchalance capable of transforming a lyrically-absurd proposition like “Rinky-Dink” into something you’d actually be caught dancing to. Yes, you can have some more. Just don’t call them “The Olivers.” (CL)
Bass Drum of Death – #1 Legion, Downstairs
Visiting us all the way from Oxford, Mississippi, we graciously received some of the most revered of garage rockers in a can’t-miss show for the lucky attendees of the evening. Ravenously enjoyed by what could only be described as the calmest mosh pit of all time, the crowds were stirred by classic garage rock guitar backed up by a rapid and insistent drumbeat acting as its spine. Lively and spirited, festival goers were energized by these talented and esteemed rockers in a symphony of soul-grabbingly great music. (MM)
Burro – #1 Legion, Upstairs
A great way to launch one’s Sled Island experience, Burro entered the fray like the inaugural rays of dawn fingering the horizon. Shyly precocious, this instrumental meanderthal bathed their audience in a sonic deluge that rivalled the June rains pouring down outside the hallowed establishment’s cowboy-festooned windows. An intuitively piloted soundtrack to an imaginary Western, Burro’s transient radiance mitigates the need for a personal Geiger counter. (CL)
Fist City – #1 Legion, Downstairs
Dear citizens of Lethbridge, we make fun of you a lot most of the time but we’d like to take a minute to give thanks to you for lending us a group of solid garage rockers for an unbelievable session filled with overdriven guitar, thumping bass lines, and rhythmic and infectious lyrics. Delving into shitgaze territory with overdriven guitars and aesthetic that screams, “Hey, let’s crank this shit as far as we can take it,” the crowd was whipped into their first frenzy off the night as the massive room started to fill with occupants. (MM)
MANCub – #1 Legion, Downstairs
Proud to lay claim to the lion’s share of this vetted venue, Calgary’s MANCub proposed a forthright answer to the existential riddles being plied above. Plundering Black Sabbath’s vaults, the four-man wolf-pack seemed driven to dredge up riffs and work them in until they’re as well-pocketed as a leather catcher’s mitt. Perhaps their beer-commercial good looks were lost on the crowd, but the steady grind of their earnest labours certainly evoked a spontaneous outpouring of brotherly love from the longhairs in the audience. (CL)
Thundering out of the mean streets of Calgary, these heros of our wonderful hometown took the lower stage and declared that business as usual was done for the night. Starting out from a foundation of solid blues rock, these dangerous and bearded dudes got right to the business of the evening and warmed up crowds for what would be an epic night of rock ‘n’ roll. Crescendoing into cresting waves of noise rock, the very highlight of this set rested on the trusty shoulders of some of their more outerworldly, dare we say grungy, moments of the set as they sent the crowd into a solid groove of harsher tones. (MM)
Radioheaded 2: A Listening Party to Watch (event) – Big Secret Theatre
Though enjoying music has become, in many ways, a social activity, the act of listening to an album still remains largely solitary. One Yellow Rabbit brings the album-listening experience out into the open with Radioheaded 2: A Listening Party to Watch, in which 20 up-and-coming artists perform a physical interpretation of Radiohead’s 2007 album In Rainbows. With crisp choreography moving the performers in expertly synchronized harmony, appearing more like a school of (weird) fishes than individuals, Radioheaded provides unexpected perspectives on the album’s 10 tracks. Moving from manic to hedonistic, Radioheaded is a compelling interpretation that Radiohead devotees will not want to take their eyes off of. It will happen one more time tonight at Big Secret Theatre at 8 p.m. (SET)
Rhye – Central United Church
It’s hard to say if anyone went to the Central United Church last night with the intent of having a full-on out of body experience but that’s exactly what Los Angeles group Rhye did to the well-attentive crowd. The band’s mix of soul and downtempo R&B, emphasizing lean songwriting, had an incredibly intimate feeling to it that only heightened the experience of being in a packed church with other festival goers. The set, while arranged similar to what was found on their debut album Woman, had the habit of taking extended detours; stretching out notes into what felt like eternity only to snap back into a groove. At the center of it all was vocalist Milosh, piercing through the well placed mix like a siren. It left its mark on the hushed-out crowd. Not a sound could be heard as the band ended their set with a group vocal melody coda that started off as haunting before transforming into something all the more welcoming and endearing. (JY)
Bitter Fictions – National Music Centre
Bitter Fictions played to a sparely populated room, a room that is the home to a blazer worn by Jan Arden. His set began with minimalist country riffs similar to those you would hear in the film Brokeback Mountain, but from another dimension. Highway driving visuals were projected onto multiple screens that surrounded the solo guitarist.
I felt I was taken on a journey throughout this set. Guitar loops, feedback, and musical notes would evolve into ambient noise. He produced lovely sounds that I have not heard come from a guitar. Drumsticks were pulled up and down the neck of the guitar behind the strings. He rubbed a second drumstick along the first, kind of if we were trying to start a fire with two sticks sans a lighter or match.
Bitter Fictions creates sounds that sound alien to guitar riffs, while still including bits of rock country that form an original musical mosaic. (JLW)
Jerusalem In My Heart – National Music Centre
I arrived late for this set, so I unfortunately did not see how it opened. The room was full and I had to tiptoe past many people. More than half of the audience was seating on the floor. I found myself standing up and wanting to move. The small room in the National Music Centre was the perfect space for the performance, which featured Montreal’s Radwan Ghazi Moumneh creating a beautiful soundscape using traditional Arabic instruments, vocals, electronics, tapes, loops and delays with a projectionist feeding hand-processed strips on 16mm film onto three projectors. As mesmerizing and as polished as Ghazi’s set was, I caught myself glancing back at the projectionist frequently. The constant sound of the projector has a nice metronome effect for the entire performance. I enjoyed this experience immensely. (JLW)
Diamond Mind – Palomino, Upstairs
Diamond Mind have charm coming out of their ears, and that enhances a strong set seriously marred by two of the worst jokes I’ve ever heard (Joke two: “What is a dyslexic alcoholic’s least favourite insect? A Flagon-dry.”)
They play literate, slightly jangly guitar pop, at times sounding like Franz Ferdinand, other times (thanks to the singer’s high, strong vocals) like Muse without distortion pedals. They’re one of the bands that you can just *tell* have clever lyrics, even when they’re difficult to hear (thanks Palomino sound engineers!) If you like smart, plaintive guitar pop then you should have picked up one of their tapes. Yes, tapes. (GW)
One of the joys of a festival like Sled Island is the hope that you just might stumble on a band that you’ve never heard of before that instantly becomes a new favourite. It’s only the first day, but already, Diamond Mind may be that band for Sled Island 2014. Though their six-track release Fake Tape is dreamy and meandering, Diamond Mind’s live set showcases a more punchy, attention-grabbing side of the Edmonton foursome, with songs punctuated by guitar modulation and the lead singer’s irresistible vocals. They’re playing again tonight at 9:30 p.m., and if it’s anything like their show yesterday, it is not to be missed. (SET)
Divepool – Palomino, Downstairs
Divepool describes their sound as being as captivating as “doing somersaults through an ocean full of warm milk.” Another hilarious musical description for the hype machine but it’s also not too far off. There is a kind of self-propelled weightlessness to it despite the very large sound. Amanda Fuenzalida and Charles Roberts shoot each other the occasional glance while their instruments bleed out sound to fill the room with. Fuenzalida’s vocals are just lonesome enough to soar but not morose or droning. The result is a melting moving feast for the ears that had zero problems holding the crowd hostage. (JO)
Hana Vave – Palomino, Upstairs
My Sled Island starts as rain falls on everyone’s parade and the clean-cut kids from Hana Vave take the stage. Their shoegaze-pop is reminiscent of Thrushes and (especially) Asobi Seksu. They play to an audience of jaded hipsters (because Sled Island) and some old folks who I think were the singer’s parents. Cute.
The audience is Eating. This. Shit. Up. It’s 6 p.m. on a Wednesday and the Palomino is blowing up like the Hindenberg every time these kids finish a song. I don’t think that they’re going to be anyone’s favourite band, but they sure feel like it. (GW)
Jom Comyn – Palomino, Upstairs
I admit it: I love an over-the-top show. Give me a man in drag doing a strip tease and spitting beer on the crowd and I’ll go home happy. But there’s something wonderful about a show that’s the opposite of that. A show like the one Jom Comyn performed at The Palomino on Wednesday evening. Hailing from Edmonton, the four-piece was authentic and relatable, from the lead singer referring to an upcoming song as a “tuneskididdle,” to the fact that he has dined at The Palomino with enough frequency to recommend the brisket. Couple that with the Jom Comyn’s rich, baritone-soaked folk (surprisingly well-complemented by the quiet rumble of the post-work crowd) and you’ve got the perfect start to Sled Island 2014. (SET)
Jons – Palomino, Upstairs
An unassuming foursome of guys took the upstairs stage for their first Calgary show and the result was a relentless Fender-fuelled locomotive of sound. They’re like the band you’d be surprised to see at that roadside dive on Route 66, only to have them bring the house down by injecting that lonely desert outro they throw on the end of every song. A terrific strummy groove erupts from every tune, rumbling meandering harmonic goodness. They just really know how to play their instruments and are terrifically in sync. Not what you’d expect from four skinny kids with the same haircut. Colour me impressed. (JO)
The Pygmies – Palomino, Downstairs
It’s no secret, good things come in small packages and The Pygmies packing the basement at the Palomino was certainly a testament to that adage. Having seen them play exceptionally well while inebriated, it was doubly impressive to see this handsome foursome so very on top of their game. A shower of golden nuggets, their set bounced and whirled through a bevy of upbeat ditties that put everyone in the mood to groove. Smart as a licorice whip, The Pygmies cracked off super-tight turns en route to a cloverleaf of intoxicating dirges from the magic fingers of raven-tressed Kenna B, who enthralled the ample crowd with her hypnotic keyboarding. (CL)
Is anyone tired of hipsters playing really good surf pop? Yeah, me fucking neither. These guys are exactly what’s right about Sled: a local band who absolutely kicks ass showing everyone in attendance what we’re packin’ as a city. Jim Blood’s fearless vocals defiantly swagger over top of the pitch-perfect rhythm of his electric blue axe while he and partner in crime Brendan Tincher create the kind of exhilarating sound that you could totally see playing during one of those Tarantino scenes where something shockingly violent happens. It rampages at you like Thunderbird fulla surfboards and shotguns, the kind you’re dying to follow. See them. (JO)
Balacade – Republik
I’m going to address this directly to Balacade:
Dear Balacade, you need a band. As you and the eight or so people in Republik tonight saw, a MacBook just isn’t cutting it. A band means drama and sharing the spotlight and profits three or more ways, but it won’t stop playing when the screensaver kicks in.
I really wanted to like you Balacade. You have a beautiful voice, your lyrics are great and you’re prettier than most girls. But come on, Balacade: step up your game. Be the Balacade we all know you can be. (GW)
Catholic Girls – Republik
These guys are one of the better bands I’ve seen so far, and definitely the most visually interesting: a drummer who might be Animal from the Muppets reincarnated as a cute farm boy; a keyboardist who looks like an emo kid just getting into black metal; a singer/guitarist who looks like the waitress you’ll tip 15 per cent because she’s clearly too cool to work at State and Main; and a second keyboardist who looks like the history teacher who touched me that one time.
They have songs to back it up: dirty, nasty, fun. For once there were people dancing. You should check them out. (GW)
Operators – Republik
When I’m Sledding, I like to loosely plan my daily schedule, and allow for some wiggle room for shows that I may stumble upon. I hadn’t planned on seeing the Operators: I admit I missed reading up on them prior to arriving at the festival. When I heard some friends mention this was the new project of a huge name in the world of indie rock, Dan Boeckner (Divine Fits, Handsome Furs, Wolf Parade), I decided to make my way to Republik after catching Jerusalem In My Heart at the National Music Centre.
Upon hearing mention of the Operators, I automatically thought of the lovely ska outfit that was around years ago. Operators played their seventh show last night. Joining Boeckner (guitar, vocals) was Divine Fits drummer Sam Brown and Devojka on synths and vocals.
Their show was a great way to end day one of the festival. I had a few drinks in me and was ready to dance. There is no better way to end the evening to some synth pop. They poured energy into their performance to a small, but enthusiastic crowd. Among their stage banter, Boeckner thanked the crowd for getting excited about tunes that we had never heard. This outfit has no recordings on the Internet. I enjoyed experiencing their set surrounded by a room of people with fresh ears. (JLW)#1 Royal Canadian Legion, AB, Alberta, Balacade, Bass Drum of Death, Big Secret Theatre, Bitter Fictions, Burro, Catholic Girls, Central United Church, Diamond Mind, Divepool, Fist City, Fury Things, Hana Vave, Jerusalem in my Heart, Jons, MANCub, National Music Centre, Operators, Palomino, Pinner, Radiohead, Republik, Rhye, Sled Island, Sled Island 2014, Sled Island 2014 Day One, The Allovers, The Pygmies