By Skye Anderson, Christine Leonard, Jennie Orton, Paul Rodgers, Gareth Watkins and Jenna Lee Williams
June 24, 2015
Feverfew, Hundred Waters and Son Lux – Central United Church
Last night Central United Church was transformed into an electronic-rock playground for three very diverse bands. The most impressive and captivating performance was by Los Angeles band Hundred Waters, an experimental indie sort of trip-hop group. The band received a standing ovation from the crowd that was completely mesmerized the entire performance. If you remember older Incubus like the song “Aqueous Transmission,” you would begin to understand the sound of Hundred Waters. Simply replace the male vocals with female vocals that are so soothing it’s like they pull you into another dimension. It was fluid, exploratory and absolutely mind-blowing.
Opening band Feverfew was intense. It was fitting that the band was opening concert in a church because their sound was very triumphant and powerful. The stained glass windows were shaking as the bass from the post-punk, freak classical band radiated throughout the building. It was really unique to see the harp illuminated on stage, but even more unique to hear it through a synth once the show started.
Electronic, pop indie band Son Lux concluded the evening with a somewhat freaky, robotic sound. The electric guitar set the band band apart from the other electronic bands of the evening; their solos would have fit at a classic rock concert. Their songs put on the edge of your seat with nearly pure silence until the trio broke into full out madness, completely electrifying the air in the church. What a peculiar show to have in such a venue, but the bands certainly had a divine power over the crowd. (SA)
Akounak Teggdalit Taha Tazoughai (Sled Island Film) – Theatre Junction GRAND
The Ex – #1 Legion
Director Chris Kirkley’s homage to Prince’s Purple Rain, dubbed Akounak Teggdalit Taha Tazoughai, drew a respectable crowd for its Canadian premiere. Screening with the tall and aviator-shaded lead actor, singer, guitarist, Mdou Moctar in the attendance, the film presented a charming and visually gratifying portrayal of a struggling musician trying to get the respect and peace he craves. Set in the sepia-hued labyrinth of Agadez, Niger “Rain the Color of Red with a Little Blue In It” (a literal translation of the Tuareg title), is a familiar tale set in an exotic land. Imagine Jimmy Cliff’s badass reggae classic The Harder They Come revisited, African-nomad style, and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
We then sauntered over the Legion, where The Ex was playing their first Calgary show in 22 years. They last performed at the long defunct Westward Club, and it was a pleasure to see that they are still going strong and drawing in a crowd of dyed in the wool punks and assorted jazz riffraff. A little more salt ‘n’ pepper in the hair a lot less lunging at the audience while wielding Fisher-Price instruments, but the familiar sounds and positive energy were true to the Amsterdam-based collective’s quirky yet forthright modalities. The 36 year-old anarcho-punk mainstay’s most recent recruit Arnold de Boer, who joined up in 2009, is obviously a fine fit for their “beautiful frenzy”; his ever-youthful ginger glow and intermediary intonations providing a much needed middle ground for the band’s angular attacks and flaring expressions. Veteran gunslingers Terrie Hessels and Andy Moor book-ended de Boer’s cross-eyed banter, infusing his words with the amiable tension of their relentless guitar duels. The two task-masters put their backs into it, deflecting notes from one side of the stage to the other in series of pogo-inducing volleys that would make the Williams sisters swoon. Hashing out an electro-twee-pop meets marching-band-on-acid jam, and then forcing it through an industrial extruder (Dutch process, natch!), The Ex doesn’t just pump out the free jazz, they distill and bottle it. (CL)
De La Soul, Humble Giants, Oseko – Flames Central
Seeing De La Soul live is like time travelling to the roots of hip hop. When they took to the stage at Flames Central on June 26th alongside Oseko and Humble Giants, it was obvious that they know how to work the room. Helped in part by the charismatic Humble Giants, who shook things up with their brand of vibe-heavy-but-club-worthy music (which is unfortunately scarcely recorded), De La Soul started things off with a quick freestyle. They clearly spend a lot of time tailoring each performance to the cities they visit. The group wove Calgary and Sled Island references into various verses all throughout the course of the night. They also proved that having a good time is absolutely mandatory. Insisting that everyone, including photographers and staff, drop absolutely everything for at least a song and to wave their hands in the air, the room became a sea of oscillating limbs. One bus boy even lost his bin to Trugoy, who held it hostage onstage for the rest of the show. Many may not have recorded the consequent moment, but it was definitely felt and enjoyed by everyone who had packed the four levels of Flames Central.
From there, the antics didn’t let up. DJ Maseo stole the show by leaping out from behind the turntables to work the crowd, mystically controlling level changes from out on stage, and just generally being a totally loveable ham. Posdnuos jumped directly into the screaming crowd, staying among them for a whole verse, even sharing the mic with eager fans. With lots of chants and sing-alongs throughout the night, the trio transformed what could have been a sleepy Wednesday crowd to feel like a Saturday, just in time for excerpts from their roller jam “Saturday”.
De La Soul did a good job of including a selection of tracks from all across the span of their career, highlighting their album 3 Feet High and Rising especially, even giving shouts to J. Dilla’s influencing style along the way. Unfortunately, the trio did not tease any tracks off their forthcoming album, And The Anonymous Nobody, although they did reference it. But with the powerfully energetic performance they just gave Sled Island, it seems pretty likely that when the new album is released, the supporting tour with be rife with packed houses. (WG)
The Zorgs, Beat Cops, Máscaras, Yonatan Gat – Palomino
Off to the Palomino, where the gauntlet never stops! We were greeted by The Zorgs and their pared down no-bullshit pop-punk, up next we were pleasantly surprised by Beat Cops, who played their freshly dropped album Mean Streets in its entirety. The always stellar chrome plated wail of Priestess’ Mikey Heppner fronted a catchy and loud set full of freaky little riffs riding thick rolling bass lines that probably sold more than a couple copies of the newly minted press. Up next was the terrific tomfoolery of Máscaras, a tight and up-to-no-good three-piece from Portland which fed the crowd meaty doses of pitch perfect psych-rock featuring astoundingly good improvisational work on a well-worn Fender Jaguar and a snappy Rick bass. The star was drummer Papi Fimbres, who delivered slick rapid-fire licks and swaggering commentary from behind the kit. If you missed them, they’d be worth checking out at the #1 Royal Canadian Legion on Friday night; if you can float Papi a suggestion on where to find a river spot in the city to go swimming and get crazy, he is in the market for such info.
The reason for living on Wednesday night, however, came in the form of an arrow-to-the-heart amazing set by Yonatan Gat. It can only be described as an extremely impressive display of improvisational mastery that reaches such a mind-boggling fever pitch of absurdly impeccable timing that everyone in the gradually increasing crowd could only stare with mouths open at the starkly lit fury of music taking place on the dance floor downstairs at the Palomino. It was the kind of live show that you hope to be lucky enough to stumble into at a festival like Sled Island. Without question, add his second show at Broken City on Friday at five p.m. to your plans. It’s another level of musical talent that should be experienced live.
Bonus suggestion: Check out Radioheaded 3 at Big Secret theatre; a performance art realization of Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief. A very well executed homage to one of the best poetic commentary albums of the 21st century. (JO)
Old Man Gloom, Witchstone, Chieftain, Monolith AB – Dickens
Monolith AB start the evening off in, if not style, then substance. They’re talented guys, even if their guitarist hits a lot of bum noted during the intro. Their songs are a little like High on Fire’s, played faster and with a drummer very willing to go into a blast-beat.
This year’s winner of the ‘Standing In Front of Me And Talking Through an Entire Set’ Award goes to two guys with admittedly good sleeve tattoos. The aforementioned humans nearly ruin a set by Chieftain, who are good. Like, not merely acceptable for a local band you’re seeing in a mid-size venue good, but may have to check out a record good. Dual male-female singers is nearly always my jam, though I could go without the acoustic interludes so said vocalists can rest their voices.
Witchstone were next; the vocals are indistinct and harsh. Their take on sludge is bluesier and closer to stoner rock and doom than any previous band, but screamed vocals and passages of pure fury elevate it above the lighter, more contemplative genres. They sound okay here, and maybe that’s as good as it gets from Witchstone.
Old Man Gloom take the stage quickly, without a word to the audience. Collectively, the band’s members have put in time in Converge, Isis, Cave In and Zozobra, so they could be wearing bathrobes and drinking milk from a carton and it’d still seem important. That voice was on Oceanic, those hands played on Jane Doe. They play mostly newer material from The Ape of God albums, with excursions back into their multi-decade discography. Between the songs are what sounds like tectonic plates grinding together, which is probably on the list of things less heavy than Old Man Gloom.
They have a self-assured way about them that isn’t swagger so much as it is mastery of their craft. The younger bands, some of them with members almost half the age of the members of OMG, can’t take note or study their technique. They just have to stay metal for another decade, get very lucky, and maybe they’ll get this good. (GW)
Broken City – Jons, Genders
Wine-Ohs – The Tontos
Republik – Swervedriver
After driving from Edmonton, a cold beverage Broken City’s patio was the location of our Sled Island kick-off.
Victoria’s Jons was already onstage when my friend (who is on crutches) and I arrived. All patio seats taken, but two gentlemen shared a table with us. It was difficult to see the stage from most spots, but it was also nice to sit back and take in their hazy, wavy riffs in the fresh air. Their set was short, and the quartet didn’t take up much set time talking to the crowd.
Up next was Genders, a lovely three-piece from Portland, Oregon. Their singer/guitarist noted that it was their first time playing a rooftop and that yesterday marked their first time playing in Canada. Their sound fit nicely with the Jons’ surf vibe. One track channeled the Shins; meaning by this point we were swaying along.
After their set we decided walked to Wine-Ohs. The Tontos were already playing, but the little basement room was at capacity. The door volunteers felt for my friend on crutches and let us jump the line. The first song was a cover of the infamous GG Allin & The Jabber’s’ “Don’t Talk to Me.” It was a perfect introduction to the band. We eventually left and walked out through the restaurant towards the exit, spotting Rae Spoon at the table near the window.
After a short wait, we were at Flames Central. The entire booth vibrated during Calgary’s Humble Giants’ set, as they pumped the volume up and primed the crowd for De La Soul. If De La Soul was the workout, Swervedriver at Republik was the cool down. They played a tight set, which included a wide array of their material to a tame, yet engaged crowed, even coming back for an encore which included the performance of “Last train to Satansville.” (JLW)
Radioheaded Three – The Big Secret Theatre
The first thing on our Sled Island agenda was was Radioheaded Three at the Big Secret Theatre. This “Listening Party to Watch” was directed by Denise Clarke and supported by the beautiful young artists.
The performance began with a disabled man (Thomas Poulsen of the MoMo Dance Theatre) dressed in flannel pajamas lying atop an elevated bed, with a projector screen with a steady green typeface of lyrics to the album appearing on it. Suddenly three men dressed in the attire of Wall Street bankers, puffing on cigars strolled out, making disapproving jabs directed towards the amused audience. “I bet they all voted for NDP,” one snottily declared.
Then the music began. The dancers emerged from under the bed and beyond the stage, dressed in in white tops, with black smudges around their eyes. Their lively choreography and impassioned performance gave a whole new life to the album many in the crowd, myself included, have listened to so many times.
The performance vivified the album’s themes of social alienation and the struggle to break free from the various weights imposed upon us by the world. One of the most powerful moments happened when the three bankers returned to walk amongst the frozen dancers, examining them like slave-owners at an auction.
The climax of the show came with three fit, boxer type guys came out, bobbing and weaving, which instigated the dancers to begin imitating them. Soon they began circling around the three suits, eventually overwhelming them and knocking them out, liberating the bed-ridden character.
Any fan of Radiohead’s music or of live dance would do well to take this performance in. The performers synergy with the amazing music created an absolutely captivating audio-visual experience. (PR)