Sled Island 2014 Day Three Recap

Saturday 21st, June 2014 / 14:20
By Cait Lepla, Christine Leonard, Gareth Watkins, Jenna Lee Williams, Jennie Orton, Jibril Yassin, Levi Manchak, Max Maxwell and Sara Elizabeth Taylor
Blitzen Trapper at Olympic Plaza. Photo: Shane Flug

Blitzen Trapper at Olympic Plaza.
Photo: Shane Flug

June 20, 2014

B.A. Johnston – #1 Legion, Downstairs

Satisfying the crowd’s craving for a deep-fried dance party, B.A. Johnston was large and in charge at the Legion on Friday night. Conan the Ti-Cat did not disappoint as he urged the audience into a truffle shuffle frenzy. The Wesley Willis of Hamilton, his juvenile jubilance was the perfect foil for a rainy evening. A diamond in the rough, with sideburns of gold, his table traversing antics showcased his inventive “anything goes” approach to song writing, love of GST rebate cheques and surprisingly nimble physique. 3.5 stars. (CL)

Dan Deacon – #1 Legion, Downstairs

Friday night at the Legion, Dan Deacon barraged the crowd with his brand of schizophrenic techno. Deacon’s show was more of an experience than the typical watch/listen/dance routine. Acting like (and vaguely resembling) a demented grade-school teacher, Deacon led the crowd into forming a tunnel that climbed the stairs and a human pyramid.

If you don’t love going to a show where you’re ordered into doing elaborate choreography with your fellow show goers then you’re probably one of those people who hates high-fives, fireworks and Fridays.  If you can’t have fun at a Dan Deacon show, you need to go back to gig school. (LM)

Mark Mills – #1 Legion, Upstairs

Bringing the jam to the latter portion of the evening, the upper stage at Legion #1 was blessed by a performance by perennial Mom favourite, Mark Mills. Described as a one-man party machine, Mark showed the crowd just what a drum machine and synth can do, blasting his trademark style of damn fantastic eight-bit love pop. Recently, Mark has embarked on a new series of videos lately and blessed the crowd with his shitty ditties about loving and staying together and doing it with true panache, doing our city proud. (MM)

Sled Island Comedy – Big Secret Theatre

Brittany Lyseng, Jeff Toth and Brent Constantine

On Friday, mere hours before the comedy shows were set to kick-off, it was announced that headliner Kyle Kinane was forced to cancel his performance due to issues crossing the border (as host Alan Cho described it, “He’s been placed on the cuddliest terrorist list.”). In his place, two local(ish) comedians that were not originally on the bill – Jeff Toth and Brent Constantine – joined the already-billed Brittany Lyseng to support the remaining headliners. First up was Lyseng from Calgary, who demonstrated that she has clearly mastered the art of self-deprecating humour. Next up was Toth, who overcame a slow start to end on a high note, and then Constantine, who committed to a wonderfully dumb joke (and I say that as a compliment) that had the audience in hysterics. It was a great treat to see these three up-and-comers supporting the main headliners at Big Secret Theatre. (SET) 

Hari Kondabolu

Let’s talk about some topics that are absolutely ripe for comedy, shall we? I’m talking racism, abortion, gender binaries, colonialism – oh sorry, what? You don’t consider those topics a laugh a minute? Clearly you have never seen Hari Kondabolu’s stand-up comedy. Hailing from New York City, Kondabolu, the number one comedy pick of Sled Island curator Kathleen Hanna (for good reason), proved on Friday night that he can deal with these issues and more, and still be riotously hilarious. I suggest that you grab a beer and take in his second show at Big Secret Theatre tonight. (SET) 

Jon Daly

Hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, Jon Daly is known for the characters he has appeared as on shows like Kroll Show, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Parks and Recreation, The Inbetweeners and more. With a resume like that, expectations were high for Jon Daly – and his appearance at the Big Secret Theatre on Friday night proved that he was up to meeting those expectations. Daly is a master at making people laugh, whether with a simple look or a gesture as lazy observational comic Come On Now, or with a bumbling “jelloem” as his classic character Bill Cosby-Bukowski. If you have ever asked yourself the big questions in life, like “Can large-breasted women do the limbo?” or “Who is the most fuckable Huxtable?”, you need to see Jon Daly’s second performance at Big Secret Theatre tonight. (SET)

Animal Faces – Broken City

When this band came on, the whole atmosphere of the space shifted dramatically as they turned off the stage lights and plugged in living room lamps. It created something reminiscent of an outdoor festival pop-up show and referenced that their music might be ideal for sonic journeys while lying around and zoning out. It was a nice visual, but bad for photography (so they might not always get the attention they deserve). The band seemed to really enjoy themselves, with precise, unusual time signatures that gave them a really math metal sound. Vocals were like George Pettit from Alexisonfire, but were pretty distorted and instrument-like. (CLp)

Slates – Broken City

Edmonton-based Slates opened their set with a short recollection of having visited Hamilton and being teased about their Alberta roots. “This song is called ‘Fuck Hamilton,’” he joked, as their first song hit the ground running. They were fairly drunk, but came off as being pretty well rehearsed and very comfortable together onstage. While the lead singer had some other opinionated just-putting-it-out-there moments, the audience wasn’t offended and his confidence was energizing. Everyone’s talents were able to have their space in the spotlight, the drummer was fantastic, and their entertaining performance ended with a pumped finale covering “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with a member of Solids collaborating on vocals. (CLp)

SOLIDS – Broken City

For a two-piece with only guitar and drums, this band had a really full sound. They both handled vocals, harmonizing and keeping the energy high, while the guitarist materialized some bass frequencies through his guitar with a pedal. They definitely seemed to have punk foundations, with a touch of Dinosaur Jr., but I would describe their lyrics and chord progression as communicating an air of “drastic hopefulness.” Some of the effects they used were very interesting, there was one that I’d never heard before that made this ticking, glitchy, cutting-out sound, but it brought in a bit more of an electronic, experimental element and added to their unique sound. (CLp)

Jake Klein-Waller – EPCOR +15

I passed through Olympic Plaza to catch some of the now-free ‘headline’ show. Neko Case had dropped out, and Joel Plaskett Emergency arrived promptly to save the day. People loved it, and danced in pools as a thunderstorm aggrandized the lightshow. I decided to head onward through the EPCOR +15 art shows.

Jake Klein-Waller’s “An Idle Warning” stood out, featuring polished metal flags suspended like rippled fabric from branch poles, casting beautiful reflections across the walls. I got the impression of surrender. It actually represents part of a series of tools created for handling death and the afterlife, with these ones specialized in navigating forests and the sea. (CLp)

Joel Plaskett Emergency – Flames Central

While I was admittedly impressed with The Joel Plaskett Emergency filling in for Neko Case at Olympic Plaza and it was a great set, it did feel somewhat out of place. From the sheets of rain drenching the crowd and reducing the Plaza to a puddle to drunk bros crowd surfing to acoustic songs before getting stuck in the air (surprise, nobody wants to hold your airborne body in the rain!), it was tough for people to sit through. Needless to say, his later set at Flames Central was a more fan-friendly (not to mention warmer) affair. Plaskett and his backing band played great.

“Playing two shows in one day is great. I should do more of it,” Plaskett mentioned at one point. Performing fan-favourites such as “Natural Disaster” as a nod to last year’s flood-filled festivities as well as tracks like “Through & Through & Through” and “Harbour Boys”, it was all a non-stop barrage of excellence from one of Canada’s finest. At one point, he even rolled out a cover of Lorde’s “Royals”. How insane is that? It was a pleasure to see a band having so much fun onstage and having it reciprocated by the loving crowd. Calgary, you done good. (JY)

La Luz – Golden Age Club

Soaring into our fair city like a garage-rock revival albatross, these lovely ladies hailing from grey and gloomy Seattle to give us a message; surfing can be a fun enjoyable pastime. When the three of these lovely ladies ascended to the stage and started talking about how their keyboardist couldn’t be with them, you instantly got the feeling that these girls were down to earth and genuine. Filling the Golden Age Club with ringing surf-revival guitars, they were received warmly and positively by the packed-to-capacity room. It’s fair to say that these ladies certainly found themselves a new fan or two to add to their collection. (MM)

Shannon and the Clams – Golden Age Club

Shannon and the Clams Photo: Levi Manchak

Shannon and the Clams
Photo: Levi Manchak

Thanks to my lack of orientation skills and my dependency on Google Maps, I arrived a little late for Shannon and the Clams. There was a line when I arrived, but I’m thankful I waited those five minutes.  This was my first time at the Golden Age Club. This venue was perfect for this trio from Oakland. I felt as though I was at a dance in the ‘50s but with more glitter and flashing lights. Shannon Shaw and Cody Blanchard took turns singing the lead. Both have distinctive voices, with Blanchard’s reminding me of Wanda Jackson’s raspy vocals. Musical accompaniments were elements of lo-fi surf rock, doo-wop, and plain old rock and roll. The crowd was dancing throughout their set and they even opened up the gates for these dancers onstage. After their set, I was tempted to purchase a record, but my sad memory of Sled Island 2012 when I lost that Baby Dee record I purchased prevented me from buying one. I plan to pick one up from the record shop. (JLW)

Flanked by a gigantic Bingo display board, Shannon and the Clams set at the Burger records showcase had the crowd’s feet bouncing and sliding across the shuffleboard floor of the Golden Age Club. It was a perfect venue for a group whose sound reaches back to old-school doo-wap rock, rendering it into melodic surf-rockabilly. Is it wrong to ask more from a band than for them to take a couple of riffs and push them through a maxed-out vintage reverb? Probably. The amazing voices of both front people as well as the crowd filling the stage and turning it into a full on go-go cage were the best parts of this show.  (LM)

The headliner for the evening, Shannon and the Clams lived up to every ounce of hype that’s been swirling around the city in the preceding weeks. Glitzy, glittery, and certainly one of a kind, these cats put on what could only be described as a high school prom for queers and misfits with ‘60s throwback crooning with an edge. Singing songs about telling your parents that you don’t want to be their cult anymore, they bring the gospel of rock ‘n’ roll and being yourself to the hilt. On behalf of every misfit, faggy kid and fuck-up, we’d like to thank these cats for being them. (MM)

Joel Plaskett Emergency – Olympic Plaza

Jumping onstage in place of Neko Case who had to cancel her set due to travel woes, Joel Plaskett played to a grateful crowd in the pouring rain. Spirits were anything but dampened as a large quotient of folks took off their shoes to dance in the pond that was growing in the drained ice rink as Plaskett’s dulcet tones filled the venue. It was very Canadian: nice music and nice words played by a nice man for nice people who weren’t gonna let their parade get rained out. It was a pretty warm event and a fitting example of why Plaskett is such a hit across the nation: he works hard, he does great work, and if there’s an empty stage in the rain in need of a main event, he’ll be there. Neko who? (JO)

The Blind Shake – Palomino, Downstairs

My biggest Sled surprise thus far, The Blind Shake is a musical landmine disguised as high art. The fury of a grown-up Minor Threat bound within the confines of a black track jacket, these shavepate and duct-tape dilatants make punk rock look respectable. Vicious and visceral, their post-rock expositions kicked the mob into high gear, and fogged up a few eyeglasses, with their undeniable thrashablilty. The girl next to me, and there were quite a few ladies in the audience BTW, just kept whispering “So muscular.” In short, this is a close as most of us will ever come to receiving a lap dance from Jason Statham. (CL)

Frankie McQueen – Palomino

An impromptu Frankie McQueen show at Sled Island? Yes please. An open slot at the Palomino meant this local band got a shot to add themselves to the Sled roster. Vocalist Scotty Charles, who tends bar at the Palomino, took a break from his shift and, still donning his bar towel, jumped on the opportunity with his pals and bandmates. Thank the gods for bands like Frankie McQueen, man. It’s so refreshing to watch a band this tight that digs playing together this much. To be this good and not jaded is a rare thing. Wearing genuine smiles, they slide into each riff as a unit and the result is rock and roll that’s meaty as hell. Swaggering bass that busts the door down, guitar with teeth, drums like an iron backbone and vocals that are equal parts cheeky and fulla guts (the way rock vocals are supposed to be, though no one ever gets that). They busted out a cover of I Got Mine that made me go past wishing the Black Keys still sounded like that and right into wishing they sounded more like Frankie McQueen. You actually can’t not dig Frankie McQueen, they are indubitably rad and you will absolutely love watching them play. (JO)

Public Animal – Palomino, Downstairs

Caitlin Dacey’s hard-edged voice and even harder fingers gave new life to Ian Blurton’s heavy rock break-downs as Public Animal’s raw energy enveloped the stage last night. Keyboards and guitars exchanged blows as the dream-band went three rounds without pausing for more than a shot of Jager from the bar. Delivering a battery of solid numbers that shook the aged foundations of the building, they pounded out textbook examples of how to square off a song without revealing the steely interior to the light of day. (CL)

The Repossessors – Palomino, Upstairs

How to bounce back after getting completely drenched at an outdoor set: get your guts shaken out by unapologetic punk music. The Repossessors took over everyone’s thoughts with their completely relentless hurricane of sound at the Palomino with a lean and mean set that had big hanging balls that slapped you over and over again, not even giving you the opportunity to beg for more… even though you would. It was everything that good grimy punk should be: bratty, loud, mean and well played. Perfect capper for the upstairs lineup sent us all out into the world looking for trouble. (JO)

B-Lines at the Palomino. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

B-Lines at the Palomino.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

B-Lines at the Palomino. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

B-Lines at the Palomino.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Strange Attractor at the Palomino. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Strange Attractor at the Palomino.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

The Blind Shake at the Palomino. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

The Blind Shake at the Palomino.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

The Blind Shake at the Palomino. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

The Blind Shake at the Palomino.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

The Lad Mags at the Palomino. Photo: Shane Flug

The Lad Mags at the Palomino.
Photo: Shane Flug

Anciients – Ship & Anchor

The extra ‘I’ is for ‘melting your face with megalithic riffs dredged from the ocean depths.’ Vancouver’s Anciients play a perfectly balanced mixture of Sabbath, Slayer and Motörhead. They’re all ugly and sweaty, they enjoy being here and playing in front of an audience that wants to bang their heads and nothing else.

Both of the preceding bands had mastered their parts of the metal genre but only Anciients seem to have a perfect command of all of it – thrash, stoner, doom, black, death. The metal faithful respond with thrown horns and screams, as they should because Anciients – heavy, boozy, brilliant – are why we got into metal in the first place. (GW)

Black Wizard – Ship & Anchor

Black Wizard want to party. They say so about five times, then they play loud, fast stoner thrash, all big riffs, solos and beards. These guys look like they just rolled out of their van in a miasma of dope smoke because they have. They drink heavy and play heavy, and are the second band on in the Ship & Anchor tonight who reaffirm why metal is the only genre that matters. Nobody at <insert celebrity pun name>’s show bangs their head or throws the horns. Even foot tapping seems suspect at most of Sled Island, but here there’s a legit mosh pit and Black Wizard is why. (GW)

Witchstone – Ship & Anchor

Black Cobra couldn’t make it. I don’t know why a stoner band got stopped at the border but I’m guessing racial profiling. The audience had to wait an hour for Witchstone, giving us all enough time to get lubed up for the sickest, heaviest band I’ve seen all of Sled Island.

It’s official: all stoner doom bands are going to have to hire a keyboardist if they want to keep up with Witchstone. The layer of noise and bass beneath each song makes everything darker and heavier, and it’s already dark and heavy as all fuck. Hail Satan and hail Witchstone. (GW)

Backhomes at a pool party. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Backhomes at a pool party.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Fury Things at a pool party. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Fury Things at a pool party.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Pine Tarts at a pool party. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Pine Tarts at a pool party.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Windigo at a pool party. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Windigo at a pool party.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

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