By Cait Lepla, Christine Leonard, Gareth Watkins, Jenna Lee Williams, Jennie Orton, Max Maxwell and Sara Elizabeth Taylor
June 19, 2014
GIRL ARM – #1 Legion, Upstairs
To those that are unaware of the genius and madness that is GIRL ARM, consider yourself warned. This band very well may have a groundswell of supporters well underway. As the evening of shows ramped up, the crowd considerably plumped around the small upstairs stage as the boys with the Montreal math rock sound started to catch everyone’s ear. Although some of its own members admit that they could see why people might not enjoy their set, the strangeness that comes the aesthetic of math rock quickly wore off as people were entranced by this exuberant bunch. Jumping back and forth across the line of pop palatability and avant-garde rock, there was a little bit of something for everyone. (MM)
Gretchen – #1 Legion, Upstairs
I had initially assumed, based of a lazy misreading of the programme, that Gretchen were girls. My bad. My disappointment turns to surprise when they play exactly what Beach House would sound like playing a set of Joy Division covers with a resurrected Ian Curtis singing. Gretchen’s lead vocalist has the doomed Mancunian’s baritone down and has even gone to the trouble of sweating and never opening his eyes. It’s details like this that matter. Their surfy, tropical instrumentation melds perfectly into angular, post-punk freakouts.
These cats are still young, but I’d recommend keeping them on your radar. They could go places. (GW)
Modern Aquatics – #1 Legion, Downstairs
By far, one of the best performances of the night, local jangle pop dreamboats Modern Aquatics were the magicians of the evening, weaving enchanted tapestries of ringing guitar tones and beautifully synched-up harmonies. Bringing to mind the likes of The Cure, the audience was simply in awe of the unfolding tableau before them. Javier Palermo popped as his beautiful vocals shone through in what could only be described as style resembling Bob Dylan’s lovechild with Morrissey. Tight and polished, they provided an excellent setup for the headliners of the night, Mission of Burma. (MM)
Phalec Baldwin – #1 Legion, Upstairs
The crowd slowly filters in from Fountains downstairs, stays a while and bleeds back out. Phalec Baldwin, awesome name aside, can’t hold many people’s attention for long. This would be a great time for this reviewer to demonstrate his discrimination and taste by arguing that the audience should have stayed and appreciated the music, but PB just don’t have the tunes.
Their songs might sound good hung over on a Sunday morning, but on a Thursday night when I’m gearing up for Chelsea Wolfe they come off as limp and uninteresting. It’s time to start being as awesome as your name, ladies. (GW)
These lovely ladies of the Saskatoon scene put on a strikingly beautiful show in the upstairs of Legion #1, a venue favourite amongst Calgarians. These perpetually sleepy-looking ladies turned out some seriously lo-fi garage pop songs that could melt your heart. Lovely and thoughtful lyrics supported by dreamy vocals, you can’t help but imagine their music as the soundtrack to a lazy Sunday afternoon spent rolling around in the sheets with that someone special. All in all, an excellent early lead to the night. (MM)
NEEDS – Bamboo
Vancouver-based NEEDS is a hard rock five-piece with a charismatic hyper weirdness. It seemed the audience might not have known them well, but they’ve visited before and are rightly carving out more of a fan base each time.
En masse, they reach high peaks, and shred steeply into valleys. Songs often have intros or outros, where the space is filled by frontman Sean Orr’s theatricality. He violently throws whatever he’s holding at the floor as the music ‘drops.’ Charging across the stage, he tosses himself to the ground, and rolling his shoulders into the audience.
NEEDS’ dynamism gets people engaged and wins them over. (CLp)
Screaming Females – Bamboo
Formed in 2005, you could swear this band was from the ‘90s. They have a grunge sound, which naturally strikes us well as an instant classic. Comprised of three members, the only female is vocalist/guitarist Marissa Patermoster, who has been named the “77th greatest guitarist of all time” by Spin magazine, and man, she really brings it!
Naturally, she becomes pretty emphasized and totally owns it, with no makeup, wearing all black, hair in her face, and laser-focused on precise timing and solo-laden songs that pour it all out. You’ve gotta see them play again at the #1 Legion at midnight on the 20th (technically, 21st), and I’ve gotta get their new CD! (CLp)
Chelsea Wolfe – Commonwealth Bar and Stage
Ms. Wolfe is a consummate songwriter, a prodigious vocalist and should be studied by every band I’ve seen at Sled so far as an example of how to be not just be a musician, but a rock star.
But Calgary, you don’t deserve her. Seriously, how many if you paid upwards of $200 to talk through this set? I’m going to estimate about half of the audience was paying handsomely for background music to their inane bullshit. Special mention goes to the guy in the NPR T-shirt for his compelling discourse on how “fuckable” Chelsea is.
Guys, take the conversations outside next time or there won’t be a next time, ‘kay? (GW)
Powder Blue – Commonwealth Bar and Stage
I started my Thursday evening by catching Saskatoon’s Powder Blue at Commonwealth. This quartet hammered out some solid shoe gaze psych rock to a decently-attended room. Their keyboardist and drummer made a switch during the set and their energy levels were on the rise. As they got comfortable on the stage, their set started out with little movement and ended with more bang. I’ve caught this outfit before in Edmonton and they always play a solid set. (JLW)
Jom Comyn – Ironwood Stage & Grill
The steady flow of talent continued at the Ironwood with the appearance of Edmonton’s resident bearded baritone bard accompanied by one sister auburn hair surprise. A lumber-jacketed rallying call to all of Mother Nature’s children, Comyn’s neighbourly continence and rambling folk rock inroads proved to be melodious foothills unto themselves. Traversing a languid lyrical landscape like a seasoned hitchhiker, Comyn’s deceptively organic electric guitar forays approached the rugged Rockies while dragging the rolling Prairies in their wake. (CL)
Jom Comyn’s voice is like velvet. Even his speaking voice was pleasing to hear. It was the kind of voice you could pipe through a crashing 737 and it would soothe everyone into not being afraid of the fiery death that is moments away. The music bled introspection effortlessly, smooth but forceful swells of folk rich with attention to detail. Tom Murray’s absolutely gorgeous fire-engine red Rickenbacker bass thumped a reassuring bass line throughout, like the heartbeat in the chest of the man you love as you lay your head on his chest at the end of a particularly delicious make-out session. Even the banter had an easy charm: when referring to the fan that was blowing guitarist Jessica Jalbert’s hair dramatically, Comyn quipped “it’s like being in a Meat Loaf video.” Well-crafted sound, guileless delivery, quality direction, inspiring vibe. More like this please. (JO)
No River – Ironwood Stage & Grill
Vying for the job of the Ironwood’s official house band, No River was right at home treading the stage-boards in front of a capacity crowd Thursday evening. A bucolic tip of the Stetson to resilient Inglewood, these not-so-lone rangers of the purple sage never strayed far from their twang-rock roots when sharing their midnight confessions and daylight epiphanies. Breaking Amish while breaking hearts, No River’s hay-scented Wurlitzer warmth had the audience twirling on their finger and carving their initials in the nearest tree-trunk. (CL)
An earnest foursome of guys who promised Louisiana flavoured boot stompers and who more or less delivered. It sounded a bit more like Silver Bullet Band kind of stuff. The keys were stellar and they brought the at-times rambling strumming to a more interesting place, but it was the vocals that didn’t quite do here. At times unpolished, the vocals deterred from the easy-going vibe they were going for. They were a likeable lot though, and easy to root for: the kind of band who is just really digging what they are putting out there. They would make a great house band and could probably endear themselves to a crowd by popping off more covers. All in all they were inoffensive and easily digested. They’re like the Eagles if the Eagles were good guys who liked what they do and not soulless cash-grabbing douches. (JO)
Devonian Gardens – Local 510 Parking Lot
The cynic in me sees this band setting up and recognizes all the uniform tropes for a band billed as San Fransisco psych: Zappa, Cass, Garcia, Joplin, they’re all there. Flanking a bright blue harp. But when they start playing, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s homage or not: the music is infectious. They are up there doing their thing all covered in glitter and it sounds really good. Snakey psych strumming that sounds like that mythical fuzzy stuff always playing at the record store that makes you buy vinyl you’ll take home and never listen to. It’s real magic carpet ride stuff. When the lost psych element of one of their tunes dives into a surging highway rock pulse with three-part harmonies, you know this is exactly what you’d wanna listen to while expanding consciousness: take me away but let me feel the asphalt. (JO)
Lucid 44 – Local 510
If you happened to find yourself at Local 510 on the second afternoon of Sled Island, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had wandered instead into a tavern on the edge of a lonely desert. All the signs were there: the far-off wailing of coyotes, a gruff-voiced man hunched over a guitar, the rumble of a building storm in the distance. But that wasn’t a coyote wailing; it was the howl of a guitar, and the rumble originated not from a storm, but from the seductive thump of the bass. And the gruff-voiced man? That’s Markus Overland, the frontman for Calgary’s Lucid 44. Often described as Calgary’s most underrated genius, Overland had certainly converted any doubters in the crowd by the final song, in which the four-piece switched from seemingly untamed cacophony to perfectly synchronized chanting at the drop of a dime. (SET)
Killer Mike – Republik
I made a run for it from Dickens just in time to catch Killer Mike at Republik. I had come from seeing. L.A’s Black Sabbath-inspired The Shrine at Dickens Pub. I made it just in time to catch Killer Mike and DJ Trackstar hit the stage. I was worried a line would have stopped me, but the just under capacity Republik allowed me to slither in. The energy levels at this classic hip hop show was the most I have experienced thus far this weekend. The majority of the crowd was dancing, chanting things such as “Fuck Ronald Reagan” under Killer Mike’s lead, and throwing their hands up in the air. I had an urge to share my experience on Facebook: “Killer Mike is out of control!” A friend responded that she had not been to a show as good since the last time she saw Killer Mike perform. I must say that this show was killer. (JLW)
Old Man Markley – The Ship & Anchor
This band took over the Ship last night. Their merch table featured an embarrassment of riches in the option category and almost every person I encountered had made the trip to the Ship just to see Markley. And with good reason: they are a force of outlaw bluegrass madness. The energy that swells off the stage when they go hard is worth the trip. They are so good in fact that I feel I can afford to turn the review into the story of how while watching their set, I was forced off my stool by Jason Lee who then took my seat like it was totally reasonable behaviour and proceeded to dismiss my asking why he was in town like it was me who was the unwanted intruder and generally act unimpressed with every free drink the Ship staff gave him. Then when I, bewildered, took the seat next to him to continue my viewing experience, he sat spread-legged like he was packing an anaconda in his pants that didn’t allow him the option of making room for anyone else in a four-foot radius. It should be noted that I wrote all this on a piece of paper while sitting right next to him. I’ll wager he assumed I was drafting up a diary entry about how it had just turned into the best day of my life. That shit happened. If the atmosphere created by Old Man Markley hadn’t been so generously full of palpable greatness, this would’ve been a disappointing way to meet a Mallrats hero. But now it’s just a tale of a cool actor in a bad mood with a great band drowning out the bummer of it all. (JO)
The Wicks – The Ship & Anchor
The stage of the Ship & Anchor was awash in blue light for the Wicks’ show on Thursday night, and I can’t think of a better visual representation of this band. The Montreal-based five-piece, sans the violin that makes an appearance in their recorded music, subdued the crowd with their sad bastard folk rock, with vocals whined by the lead singer overtop of Western-inspired piano, guitars and drums. Though a solid performance without any missteps, the Wicks lacked a certain spark that would energize the crowd and make it a truly unforgettable one. (SET)
Roman Polanski’s Baby – Tubby Dog
If there was a Surgeon General’s Warning for a Roman Polanski’s Baby show – and by God, there probably should be – it would read like this: “Contains high levels of we-don’t-give-a-fuck snotty punk attitude and angry riot grrl vocals. Side effects include ringing in the ears, uncontrollable body convulsions and, in rare cases, dropped beers. Should not be taken by anyone who experiences a fear of having a lead singer get into your face and scream. If a mosh pit is formed, discontinue immediately – or get the fuck in there. If you find yourself developing feelings of restlessness, take a second dose Friday at 3:30 p.m. at the Local 510 parking lot, or Saturday at 11:30 p.m. at the #1 Legion Upstairs.” (SET)#1 Royal Canadian Legion, AB, Alberta, Bamboo, Chelsea Wolfe, Commonwealth, Devonian Gardens, GIRL ARM, Gretchen, Ironwood Stage & Grill, Jom Comyn, Killer Mike, Local 510, Lucid 44, Modern Aquatics, NEEDS, No River, Old Man Markley, Phalec Baldwin, Powder Blue, Republik, Roman Polanski’s Baby, Screaming Females, Sled Island, Sled Island 2014, Sled Island 2014 Day Two, The Ship & Anchor, The Wicks, Tubby Dog