Sled Island 2014 Day Four Recap

Sunday 22nd, June 2014 / 15:32
By Cait Lepla, Christine Leonard, Gareth Watkins, Jennie Orton, Max Maxwell and Sara Elizabeth Taylor
Obits at the #1 Legion. Photo: Levi Manchak

Obits at the #1 Legion.
Photo: Levi Manchak

June 21, 2014

The Black Box Gallery – #1 Legion, Downstairs

Though it feels a bit strange to be writing a review of a vending machine, the Black Box Gallery is a unique enough concept that I would be remiss in not at least dedicating a few sentences to it. Curated by Jane Trash and Stephen Harper, and featuring pieces by almost a dozen local artists, The Black Box Gallery dispensed tiny pieces of artwork – ranging from mini zines to buttons to T-shirts – for up to $8, with the goal of providing available art and promoting local artists. I was vended a set of grotesque illustration cards from Ben Jacques, an ACAD graduate who has filmed and directed a video for White Lung. Not sure where the Black Box Gallery is headed next, but I hope Sled Island isn’t the last we’ll see of the unique idea. (SET)

Touché Amoré – #1 Legion, Downstairs

Touché Amoré Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Touché Amoré
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Touché Amoré Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Touché Amoré
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Touché Amoré Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Touché Amoré
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

The lights lowered, and anyone who was in their seats found themselves, like moths to a flame, drawn towards the stage. A guitar played over a long, low note. And as the lead singer launched into the beginning of their opening song, the crowd, practically Stonehenge-ian during the previous act, came alive, throwing their hands into the air and singing along. So began Touché Amoré’s electrifying all-ages set at the #1 Legion Downstairs on Saturday afternoon. Part of what made the performance so enjoyable to watch was that the band themselves clearly became entirely absorbed in their music; vocalist Jeremy Bolm, pacing the stage like a caged animal, seemed at times unable to prevent his hands from keeping the rhythm of the drums, while the guitarists and drummer similarly could often be seen singing along. At the end, following Bolm’s wonderfully heartfelt thank-you to the crowd, the stage diving began, a fitting end to an energetic and incredible performance. (SET)

The Yeah Dads – #1 Legion, Upstairs

This band had a garage rock, slightly surf sound. Something I heard recently from a music professional visiting the city, was their notion that we have a surf rock thing going on here and that it’s funny because we obviously don’t surf. These guys are from Lethbridge.

I thought they would be a group fresh out of the all-ages scene, but I guess it’s more like they’re the dads. They self-identify as psychedelic, and introduced their song “Modafinil” as being about how they do drugs to keep up with the kids. It’s actually prescribed for excessive sleepiness, and was a pretty catchy song, laden with timely “yeahs.” The lights ran through a rainbow spectrum, as the band sang about partying and intoxication/enthusiasm rose. (CLp)

The Younger Lovers – #1 Legion, Downstairs

This band had such a great personality, cracking dirty jokes between songs and poking comfort levels. “I wonder what man I’ll be breaking up with tomorrow,” he says, scanning the crowd, asking about the local gay bar so he can do blow and get Chlamydia. “This is a song about not swallowing, called ‘Sugar in Your Pocket!’” He played a modified Fender Mustang with a carved body and cheetah pickguard, and sang a bit flat, but still put on an awesome show and helped people loosen up, even though it was the Legion. For the final song he switched with the drummer and they were fantastic, one of my faves! (CLp)

Pussy Whipped – AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art

Though Kathleen Hanna was unable to attend this year’s Sled Island, her riot grrl attitude could be felt throughout, including at AVALANCHE! with the exhibit Pussy Whipped. Pussy Whipped contains a variety of works under the umbrella of “contemporary feminism;” as Hanna herself said, “There’s just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world,” and this teeny tiny room manages to represent some very different interpretations of the word. Alongside a crude video reel lampooning rap video aesthetic hangs a medieval-inspired ode to apathy, next to a series of pieces re-appropriating traditional feminine roles (baker and gardener) into modern feminist art. Two series of drawings (sadly the artists are unlabelled) near the door were the standouts for me, offering the most opportunity for contemplation. (SET)

Gary Debussy – Bamboo

Employing the kind of wild timing that makes jazz fans pop wood, Gary Debussy creates a wild progressive instrumental ride. It’s hard rock for madmen geniuses, the kind of music that would play in your head while you drink Chianti and think about string theory after just having eaten liver and fava beans. I, like you, may not even know what that means but that’s the kind of creative thought stirred in the brain by Debussy’s music. It’s outside the box and delectably dark. Intriguing stuff. The kind of set where you can’t just stand there and do your white person head nod dance, you can only stare bewildered and let it tickle your grey matter. (JO)

Gaythiest – Bamboo

Trust Portland to produce a hard rock band fronted by a guy that looks like a 1920s haberdasher. But, like most things Portland produces, Gaythiest delivers. They’re loud, they’re fast, they’re unique, they’re fun. They are three guys that you would never think would hang out together at first glance, proving once again that appearances mean dick ‘cause these guys are very much in sync. The result is a memorable relentless romp that will leave you with fuzzy hearing and a new appreciation for suspenders. (JO)

War Baby – Bamboo

Looking for a place where grunge still lives in an honest way and not just as a flavour of nostalgia? You can look no further than this band. War Baby is thick and sexy, with that precise and confident aggression that gets me so excited. Unlike that typical three-piece vibe of guitar-led track after guitar-led track, War Baby lets every member roll the dice to get things going. I love a track that starts with a bass riff, especially when that bass sounds like Zuul. They really know how to construct a set list too. “Black Swan” is a king snake of a song placed perfectly at a time when you wanna wrap yourself around the audience and not let go. Then “Belly Ache” at the end, which is perfect because it has such a thrilling build-up: by the time that song gets to its big finish, you feel like you are in a speeding Lincoln with no brakes heading for the open mouth of Dead Horse Canyon. You know that feeling, right? Yeah, who doesn’t. It was a great set that I didn’t want to end. (JO)

Bass Drum of Death at Broken City. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Bass Drum of Death at Broken City.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Earthless – Dickens Pub

Spending summer solstice in a temporary satellite of San Diego was a sweat dream come true for Earthless acolytes. Treading that fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning, the effortless instru-metal triumvirate did not disappoint an adoring audience (who would periodically look around at each other with faces that read: “Holy fuck! Can you believe this is actually happening!?”) The final movements of Earthless’ opening ablution clocked in at about the same time stamp that would find most bands announcing their fourth song. Dazzling and tradition defying, they continue to chart new altitudes when it comes to the magnitude of their overarching proto-rock constructions. Guitarist Isaiah Mitchell’s fractaling guitar spirals could only be tethered to terra firma by the gravitas of bassist Mike Eginton and the tribal sanguinity provided by drummer (and former pro skater) Mario Rubalcaba. A breathtaking display of athletic prowess, musical talent and borderless creativity. (CL)

Shooting Guns – Dickens Pub

Shooting Guns Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Shooting Guns
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Shooting Guns Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Shooting Guns
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in a day; fortunately it was the longest of the year last night when Saskatoon’s own Shooting Guns took to the stage to regale the crowd with their mute incantations. Fresh off a flawless live set in the CJSW studios, the quintet treated their prairie peers to a sunset showdown that pitted bass-amp-blowing thunder against bolt-throwing guitar runs. Smooth as a stretch of Saskatchewan blacktop, each song morphed into the next like numbers crawling up the odometer on a tour van. Kudos to steadfast drummer Jim Ginther for weathering a sprained finger to keep the Guns’ meteorological metronome a tickin’. Was that Opie from Sons of Anarchy on guitar? I’m going with “Yes!” Yes, it was… (CL)

The Shrine – Dickens Pub

The sonic storm clouds parted for the sun-worshipping rays of Venice Beach’s native sons. Well conditioned and bullet-proof with logo-bepatched denim, The Shrine paid homage to their California roots with hair, noise and heat. Shredding the curbs of Sunset Strip, the hirsute trio blasted the crowd with a mash-up of Suicidal Tendencies and Van Halen with a bit of Tom Araya-worship thrown in for good measure. And who could blame them? Their obvious enthusiasm and head-turning energy spilled over into the audience pit when the time arrived for a mind warping solstice serenade courtesy of Earthless. (CL)

Araabmuzik – HIFI Club

I got to this show late in the night, but the place was completely packed and everyone was dancing. There seemed like way more guys in the audience, but it was because all the women were climbing onstage! Some people were touting his performance as setting the bar for top of the year, and the crowd went wild when he brought out a remix of Flex Pavilion’s “I Can’t Stop” with lighting-quick turntable techniques, mastered on slightly-retro mixing equipment like a drum pad. I couldn’t believe how he could keep people moving and roaring with astonishment. He was way better live than recorded! (CLp)

BA Johnson – Local 510, Parking Lot

Screaming and shirtless out of Hamilton, Ontario, BA Johnson was arguably one of the most entertaining acts of the evening. Right from his entrance holding sparklers in a Dollarama ode to pyrotechnics, fans were kept in stitches with his hilarious and outrageous antics. Casiotones reigned supreme as the soundtrack to BA’s impressive dance moves and numerous snot rockets. Fans couldn’t help but sing along to epic folk punk songs about childhood bedroom deep fryers and love in the time of zombie apocalypses.  Easily out of the most memorable performances of the whole night. (MM) 

Coach Longlegs – Local 510, Parking Lot

Joining us all the way from the East Coast, Coach Longlegs rocked the big top stage out back of Local 510. The crowd seemed to really enjoy the DIY antics of these friendly Newfoundlanders as they sipped their tall cans of Big Rock’s Saaz pilsners and tried to recuperate from what had already been a long week. We’ll be sad to see them return to their hometown of St. John’s, but don’t be sad; a band this good is bound to be playing at a venue near you soon enough. (MM)

Dirty Spells – Local 510

What happens when you take a three-piece and swap out the guitar with a violin? Magic, apparently. Dirty Spells does that Vancouver thing of taking an idea that in the wrong hands could emerge as frustratingly pretentious and instead makes something staggeringly beautiful. There’s nothing a violin can’t do when it comes to captivation. There were people walking up the stairs next to the stage who actually stopped in their tracks. It’s impressively beautiful music: disarming, actually. So many pleasing elements at play, it’s music where you can let go and enjoy knowing your taste is impeccable. Though the whole band is extremely talented, the star is violinist Emily Bach. Whether she’s bowing or plucking, both done pitch perfectly, she’s the ethereal backbone of this act. If you can watch them play and consent to take your eyes off her, then that’s amazing. Nothing against the other two but when you’ve got a blonde in a yellow jumpsuit playing violin with an arsenal of pedals, you gotta be OK with being second fiddle, so to speak. (JO)

The Lad Mags – Local 510

It’s difficult to describe the sensation that comes over you when seeing The Lad Mags play. It‘s been said that they sound like “what you’d imagine The Shirelles would listen to while getting ready for a hot night on the town, that is if The Shirelles shaved their legs with shards of broken beer bottles.” That pretty much encapsulates what the good patrons of Local 510 were treated to on this particularly gorgeous sunny day. It was a fitting reward for those who were able to drag their massively hung over corpses out of Bed Island. (MM)

Rocket from the Crypt – Olympic Plaza

Rocket From the Crypt Photo: Shane Flug

Rocket From the Crypt
Photo: Shane Flug

Rocket From the Crypt Photo: Levi Manchak

Rocket From the Crypt
Photo: Levi Manchak

Rocket From the Crypt Photo: Shane Flug

Rocket From the Crypt
Photo: Shane Flug

A lot of people have turned out for Rocket From the Crypt and, judging from the sheer number of yellow Saturday wristbands, just for them. The crowd also skews older than most Sled audiences, but that isn’t a bad thing: The band was, as their song says, born in 1969.

They’re also a lot of fun. I can’t imagine many bands on the line-up would be un-self-conscious enough to play something that could accurately be described as ska punk, possibly the only irredeemable genre, but in doing so the dozens of lo-fi indie pop acts at Sled are missing out in the simple fact that horns and guitars actually sound kind of awesome. (GW)

When you first lay eyes on this group of rock and roll heavyweights, they are all in matching mariachi-style shirts. The whole atmosphere is one that is more polished that you become used to with the indie acts that populate events like Sled (though it should be noted that though the presentation isn’t polished, none of these indie acts sounded anything but impressive. It was a good year for music at Sled…but I digress). Rocket from the Crypt has that thing going on where you just know they got this shit. They really just know how to lead a set with zero fuck-ups and with a voice to them that reeks of experience, proving that it’s kinda true how real rock and roll should be created by people born in ‘69. Oh, and if you can have a saxophone, there should absolutely be a saxophone. (JO)

Spiritualized – Olympic Plaza

Spiritualized Photo: Shane Flug

Spiritualized
Photo: Shane Flug

Spiritualized Photo: Levi Manchak

Spiritualized
Photo: Levi Manchak

Spiritualized Photo: Shane Flug

Spiritualized
Photo: Shane Flug

Spiritualized are headliners for a reason. They are consummate rock stars and have been for longer than most of the crowd has been alive, both in their current incarnation and as Spaceman 3.

The key, I feel, is that they make their songs, whether they’re gospel-tinged weepers or garage jams, feel significant. Few bands, even those selling millions of records will ever be able to make an audience feel like the songs they’re hearing need, really need, to exist.

I don’t know how Spiritualized do it, but they did, and they do and will keep on doing so, and it didn’t flood, so… yeah. Sled Island. 2014. Rock and roll! (GW)

White Lung – Olympic Plaza

White Lung. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

White Lung.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

White Lung. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

White Lung.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

The few hundred people who walk through an inch of water to watch White Lung get up close and personal with one of the better front people that Sled has hosted. Mish Way is going to get a lot of Courtney Love comparisons, and they’re warranted, but she’s got more self-control (at least when she’s not berating her guitarist for not tuning up quick enough – dude’s going to turn up dead with a suicide note half in somebody else’s handwriting, mark my words.)
They could use some more texture in their set, maybe some slow songs, but when the sun’s shining and the fast songs are this good, who cares? (GW)

Smokey Summer Solstice / Phantom Figures (Art) – Truck Gallery/U-Haul

It seems like there’s a pattern across this year’s visual arts selections of things that glow. Upstairs, Phantom Figures united four painters, who were working in different media. Nice silver reflective vinyl decals lined the walls as silhouettes of living room furnishings, floating around as if blown by the wind. There was a buoyant pool mat with a paintbrush hanging through the other side. On the back was a $240 receipt for painting supplies, not included in the piece and a digital printout of assorted thumbnails. I didn’t understand. There was also fluorescent light installation illuminating a glass table holding aquarium gems from below. The fourth piece was a black box with two-way mirrors that would reflect interior lights fading into eternity. That one made sense to me because painters are often highly concerned with deepening 2D space, so a painting is like a window into another world beyond.

Downstairs, a large open space was decorated with projections of a beach, sunglasses and the floor was covered in smiley face balloons while a DJ spun. It was totally set up for a dance party, but I don’t think people realized in advance, and instead it was a good place to mill about and catch up on festivities and summer plans, now that it’s officially arrived! (CLp)

Bitterweed Draw at Wine-Ohs. Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

Bitterweed Draw at Wine-Ohs.
Photo: Sebastian Buzzalino

 

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