By Skye Anderson, Joel Dryden, Willow Grier, Michael Grondin, Christine Leonard and Jenna Lee Williams
June 26, 2015
Cave Girl, Vapid, Wares, The Mandates, The Tee-Tahs, Guantanamo Baywatch, Blü Shorts, King Tuff – #1 Royal Canadian Legion
The Royal Canadian Legion No. 1 on Friday night was killer. Nothing but lo-fi, old-school rock and roll and punk rock jams fueling the fun.
Surprisingly, the upstairs at the Legion has proven to be a phenomenal venue of this year’s festival. When the fun and crusty bands up there get right into the flesh of a song and everyone bops and dances along, it sometimes feels like the floor of the ancient building is going to fall out.
Flipping the night’s on switch was Vancouver’s Cave Girl, whose endearing “friendship rock” was a delight to see.
Vapid then kicked off downstairs. The band’s lead singer was mesmerizing as she danced and grooved to her band’s bratty punk rock.
Wares had the lights turned off upstairs and nothing but two little lamps illuminated their noisy, gut wrenching mix of poetry and madness.
The Mandates truly make some rich sounding power pop. They’re great on record, but hearing them on a stage, with their full tones, crazy solos and heart pounding basslines is quite the experience.
Everybody had wide smiles when The Tee-Tahs kicked off upstairs. Fuzzy and colourful backpack rock by a bunch of kids who’ll never grow up.
There weren’t any waves at the Legion, but Guantanamo Baywatch were surfing on something. Their beach jams and crazy onstage presence got the whole place moving.
Blü Shorts should have been on a bigger stage. These homegrown heavy hitters destroyed the upstairs with their debaucherously-driving post-punk. Wearing outfits suitable for some kind of alien art-house porno flick while they screamed and thrashed, Blü Shorts are proof of the glory of what Calgary’s music scene has to offer.
Have you heard of King Tuff? Well he’s kind of a big deal, and he proved that fact on the main stage. His roaring rock anthems made everyone inside the packed century old building very happy. King Tuff had filth, fury and some extremely catchy hooks and licks.
Every band played to win, and that’s exactly what they did. (MG)
Brandon Craig, Amy Bugg, Derek Adams, Will Weldon, Mark Little and Bridget Everett (Sled Island Comedy) – Theatre Junction GRAND Studio
M16, Fu Manchu – Palomino
The upstairs Studio space at Theatre Junction GRAND was ablaze with comedic genius and top-notch temperatures Friday night. A packed house turned up to take advantage of the chance to soak in half-dozen stand-up performances in one fell swoop. The showcase progressed from puberty to adulthood as likeable locals Derek Adams and Amy Bugg (how do you not talk about that name?) broke the ice for LA’s Will Weldon (sorry Trek fans) and TO’s beguiling Chris Locke (honourary Calgarian, starting immediately) who were all on the receiving end of a experienced reach-around treatment from host/roommate-type Brandon Craig. Hampered by cruel and conspicuous lack of air circulation or conditioning, the Sled-weary audience rallied for Mark Little, star of Mr. D and put their applause-bruised palms together in appreciation. The collective hot flash came to a head as Sled Island’s other Meat Wave, the evening’s headliner, Bridget Everett, brought the full weight of her XL-rated cabaret swagger to bear on the unwitting souls who found themselves in the splash-zone. Chardonnay was sprayed, “beaver-tail” breasts were bared and lives were changed. If not saved. Hallelujah!
Next up at the Palomino: a capacity crowd primed for “Gnarmageddon” as Vancouver’s M16 unleashed their old school metal manoeuvres with polished proficiency. Everything about this black-clad quintet seems designed to whisk you back to a bygone era of bullet-belts and badass banger hair. They may weigh-in at 120 lbs. soaking wet, but these New Westminster thrashers know how and when to bring the hammer down.
Basements: Summer’s best and final retreat. Hardly a cool down, the smoke show of the evening was undoubtedly Fu Manchu’s full throttle surf rock set below ground. Back for a second round of fast breaks and slow hardcore grooves, the stoner rock veterans (who still hit the waves every day when at home in California) scratched that itch, and smacked many a fly, as they delivered their much-anticipated unabridged “King of the Road” set. Hot doggin’ through every deep-six drop-in and desert plateau on their beloved road-trip album, including the never before toured “No Dice,” they were at leisure to call for requests like “Mongoose” and “Evil Eye” from the bromance riptide before them. Notably shrugging off a repeat shout-out for “Anodizer”; they engaged the swarm with genuine enthusiasm. (CL)
Band Dialogue IV (Special Event) – Tomkins Park
Tomkins Park was host to one of the most unique offerings of the Sled Island 2015 festival. Directed by Seth Olinsky, Band Dialogue IV brought together 12 different bands including Dead Soft, Big Brave, 36?, Outlaws of Ravenhurst, Windigo, and more for a large-scale imagining. With the groups of bands divided in half and positioned on either side of 16th Avenue, Olinsky transferred focus between sides, creating radiating waves of sound that travelled beautifully throughout the narrow space. After only two hours of rehearsal with the rough song structure, bands mostly worked to follow the feeling and intention of the piece, which was a sprawling post-rock creation. While most of the bands present used a traditional guitar-bass guitar-drums set up, cello, theremin, and saxophone also made appearances, adding to the multi-textured vibe of the performance. Overall, the performance perfectly sums up much of what makes Sled Island so special – a collaboration between strange, passionate people creating bizarre and beautiful art. (WG)
Morewine, Little League – Local 510
Body Polish DJs – Broken City
The best way to find a show on the schedule was to head in the general direction then put away Google maps and simply follow the music. Local 510 was a great way to start the day off, with bands playing both inside and out. The long, rustic patio led to the parking lot where Edmonton band Morewine owned the stage. Adding their psych rock flare, the music flawlessly coincided with the summer vibes. The four-piece group had a lively, kinetic performance that was a similar style to West coast-surfer bands.
Following act Little League was also from Edmonton. The folky two-piece’s drummer and vocalist was a breath of fresh air; her vocals soothing. Soon, all eyes were fixated on stage.
The weather was scorching, so we continued on to Broken City. People were laughing and dancing, the atmosphere was undeniably positive and the soundtrack of the Body Polish DJs, electronic music specializing in new wave and disco, was well suited. Their tunes could be heard from blocks away, a musical invitation for people to join the party. (SA)
Michael Feuerstack – Wine-Ohs
At Wine-Ohs, Montreal’s Michael Feuerstack took the stage, bringing with him his folk-indie-pop quartet to the stage. Feuerstack’s voice is a little Isaac Brock (of Modest Mouse), perhaps some Michael Stipe, and his reflective and good-natured songs were about the biggest style-shift one could take after GY!BE. But after the total mental wipeout that comes after seeing a show like Godspeed, Feuerstack’s songs did just the trick. Feuerstack and his bandmates looked to be having fun – especially when, mid-set, the synth player pulled out a surprise French horn and added that to the mix. When Feuerstack got on the mic and announced he had one last song, one audience member shouted, “More French horn!” That was the mood at Wine-Ohs – playful and relaxed, a bit of a comedown as a week of amazing shows began to wind down. (JD)
Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche, Yonatan Gat – Broken City
B I G | B R A V E, Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Central United Church
The day of music began at Broken City where Montreal’s Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche was onstage. Part of their set was taken in, a variety of styles were heard, and the track in which the trio chanted in unison grabbed the attention of everyone in the room. This band impressed those of us who had not heard them before.
Montonix played a show in Edmonton in 2010 that blew this writer away; so seeing the side project of member Yonatan Gat at Broken City was a must. Gat, his beat-up looking guitar and his band didn’t take the stage, they took the floor in a blacked out room with three coloured lamps pointing at the band. You wouldn’t have known it was 5 p.m. on one of the hottest days of the year. A circle style audience formed around the band, so all of the expressions (including the many smiles) of audience members could be viewed during the performance. Their set was feedback infused, ranged in pace from slow to super fast and contained snippets from many genres from surf rock to Spanish sounding guitar. Much of their show was instrumental, with the talent especially shining through in solo performances.
The line began forming at Central United Church quite early. Once doors opened, the crowd packed in filling the church. Carla Bozulich and her band (consisting of Nadia Moss on keys and B I G | B R A V E’s drummer) took the stage on the right. Bozulich’s incredible voice acted as another instrument- especially with her performance of “Artificial Lamb,” which was just her and her guitar. She had to stop singing and explained she was losing her voice. She then performed the song half a key up, very strongly, despite the raspyness that was trying to get in her way. Later in the set, Bozulich explained she was going to play “an old traditional spiritual song so old that the writer are unknown. The song is so important because a lot of people from Godspeed helped me with my music when I was changing what I was doing a lot.”
Godspeed You! Black Emperor then took centre stage with the opening track “Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!'” from their new album Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress. As the church was filled with music from floor to the ceiling, shivers could be felt on the skin in a smoking hot room. Live visuals of cityscapes, nature, people and other items were projected above the band throughout their set which featured several songs of the performance the prior evening, re-organized and peppered with surprises. Guitar undulated while moving trains cascaded past the screen; the violin ebbed and flowed.
The best was saved for last, courtesy of the unsettling and thunderous surprise ending rendition of “East Hastings,” which did not make an appearance yesterday. The infamous track set the mood in the uncomfortable opening of Danny Boyle’s excellent zombie film 28 Days Later and in the reverberating church it was nothing short of magnificent. Although there were no microphones on-stage, the illusion of distorted vocals could almost be heard coming from the wall of music. Music was the mode of communication here. (JLW)#1 Royal Canadian Legion, AB, Alberta, Amy Bugg, Avec Le Soleil Sortant de sa Bouche, B I G | B R A V E, Band Dialogue, Blü Shorts, Body Polish DJs, Brandon Craig, Bridget Everett, Broken City, Cave Girl, Central United Church, Derek Adams, Fu Manchu, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Guantanamo Baywatch, King Tuff, Little League, Local 510, M16, Mark Little, Michael Feuerstack, Morewine, Palomino, Seth Olinsky, Sled Island, Sled Island 2015, Sled Island Comedy, The Mandates, The Tee-Tahs, Theatre Junction GRAND, Tomkins Park, Vapid, Wares, Will Weldon, Wine-Ohs, Yonatan Gat