By Willow Grier, Michael Grondin, Sarah Kitteringham, Jennie Orton, Paul Rodgers and Gareth Watkins
June 27, 2015
Mark Mills – Broken City
Ex Hex, King Tuff, Viet Cong – Olympic Plaza
Jung People, Avec Le Soileil Sortant De Sa Bouche – #1 Royal Canadian Legion
Sled Island Saturday is always a marathon. With 15 hours of shows and events, you’d better have a gallon of coffee, water and sunscreen with you to make it through, because you wouldn’t want to miss a thing! While many chose our (self plug) famous BeatRoute Hangover Breakfast at Local 510 to ease into the day, other late risers got their start on the Broken City patio, where a sprightly Mark Mills shook listeners awake with his rambunctious, sassy delivery of a Casio dance party containing lots of “Dad Advice,” and table dancing.
From there, Olympic Plaza seemed to be the place to be, with generally just a lot of good rock music. Ex Hex took the stage with an energetic and easy-to-get-behind sound that eased listeners into the groove of the main stage vibe.
King Tuff seemed to be the band that would sound the best on the challenging Olympic Plaza stage, and brought a large helping of swagger to match the filthy, stoner rock-influenced guitars.
From there, it almost seemed as though the evening had hit a plateau. Viet Cong played an alright set, with a few standout tracks, but it seemed to fall short of the band’s glowing reputation amongst their native city.
To escape the sun, and to refresh the ears, a crowd took refuge in the #1 Legion-Upstairs Here, Jung People began a breathtakingly hypnotic set, nestled amongst all manner of eccentricity (pheasants, cacti, skeletons, scarves, bells, etc.) at the intimate stage. While warmly lit and cozy, the room could barely contain the band, who quickly built a captivated audience. The highlight of the set was their performance of Releasing Fears of the Colour Blue, with the aching, deeply moving upright bass accented by haunting, tremulous violin. The tidal rise-and-fall nature of the song evoked a deep response from the audience, who hung on every note. Beautifully punctuating the performance was the incorporation of white balloons, bubbles, and sparklers, which were given to the audience to accent specific songs. I have not met a single person who didn’t love the sight of bubbles, and the simple, yet effective visuals added to the wondrous nature of the performance. Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche followed, proving why they were one of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s guest curated picks. Using vocals as an instrument, the band incorporated rhythmic chants and chilling screams to add another level to their bass heavy dance-rooted tunes. The room became packed with eager patrons who could not help but to bob along to the infectious beats. Overall, Jung People were the band who left lingering thoughts and emotions with listeners, giving the main stage a run for its money. They may have had the best performance of the night. (WG)
Drive Like Jehu, Television – Olympic Plaza
Sled veterans Drive Like Jehu were the second-last act to hit the stage, in a highly anticipated performance that brought the Rocket From the Crypt and Hot Snakes-faithfuls up in droves. Their emotive post hardcore was enthusiastically received, although would have been well suited to a sticky basement similar to performances of their band’s past. No matter: They delivered.
Finally, iconic art-rock/post-punk legends Television took the stage. In fine form, the band played their classic Marquee Moon (1977) in its entirety, along with “1880 or So” from their self-titled third album (1991). Despite not releasing new music in decades, Television’s influence is far reaching. Unlike numerous projects who should have hung up their coats, Television literally did. Subsequently, they perform the classics that defined a genre minus a series of follow-up albums that would have more than likely tarnished their impressive legacy. (SK)
36? – Ship & Anchor
High Wasted – Nite Owl
Burro – Palomino
There was too much talent spread out amongst all the venues on Saturday to park at just one of them. So in no particular order, here are the most impressive highlights of a very exciting day of music:
The intoxicating showmanship of 36? frontman Taylor Cochrane. As the band brought their art-rock party to the small stage at the Ship & Anchor, Cochrane mesmerized with his acrobatics, dramatics, and guitar torture. With charisma and genuine aptitude to spare, Cochrane and 36? are perfect examples of the world-class talent this city boasts as well as the steadfast fans, evident when the whole bar knew the words to “The Man at the Door.”
The bitchy brilliance of High Wasted. The Vancouver band took the stage at the Nite Owl Library, fronted by Graves in her animal print catsuit and unimpressed scowl. This band exemplifies the Vancouver cool factor run amok, and does so while delivering a surprisingly meaty growling feast of punk rock.
The hurricane that is Burro. Strap in and ride the snake with these guys if you dare. The sprawling psyche rock noise, which will wait out your will power like the winning gunman at high, breaks down your defences to smithereens. Whitney Ota’s unique style of guitar abuse is the veritable force amongst the unstoppable bass and truly exhausting drums. As he abuses it with forks and tire irons, it screeches in defence. Ultimately it is left laying on the stage, screaming in pain or ecstasy while the 99 per cent male audience is whipped into an ape-like frenzy, reduced to animals by the overwhelming yet stunningly entertaining noise. A truly talented local treasure. (JO)
BRASS, Empty Heads, Slates, Pissed Jeans – Dickens
Vancouverites BRASS are punk in the way that got you into punk in high school without sacrificing what will make you like them now. They’re high-energy enough to get the crowd moving, moshing and at one point crowd-surfing. However, to everyone’s dismay the singers offer of fellatio in exchange for beer goes unanswered. Rock and roll is truly dead.
Empty Heads drop the energy in the room back to neighbourhood bake-sale levels. All members of other Calgary bands, the four Heads play alternative rock as it was in the post-grunge era, a little Jawbreaker and somewhat Sunny Day Real Estate, but mostly Our Lady Peace without the hooks but with more palatable vocals. There’s just something not alive about their songs even though all of the elements of good music are presents, like they exist deep in a musical uncanny valley.
Slates start amping up the energy again ahead of the headliners. They do Hüsker Dü almost as well as Hüsker Dü do Hüsker Dü, emotional hardcore that isn’t emo. Yeah, it’s not going to break any ground or hearts, coming thirty-something years after Zen Arcade, but it’s competent enough that you’d want to check them out on record.
And Pissed Jeans come on 30 minutes after midnight. Lower middle-class white dudes have found their poet laureate in singer Matt Korvette, and now he walks amongst his people, the IT assistants and oil and gas accountants.
Musically they are the nastier, uglier parts of punk rock crystallised. Whereas Hüsker Dü made a case for melody and beauty being in punk rock, the bands that inspire Pissed Jeans decided that even the limited mass-appeal of the early punks was a denial of the genre’s confrontational roots. It’s not that they’re unlistenable, in fact some of their riffs are decidedly poppy, it’s more in the delivery: Korvette prowls the stage with his shirt off, glistening with sweat and pulling ludicrous dance moves in an attempt to mock, well, everything. Their bassist stands like a deer in headlights as if to reject the idea of ‘energetic’ hardcore bands throwing themselves across the stage because that’s just what you do.
Korvette ends the show by screaming ‘No Merchandise! We’re not selling ourselves to you! This is art!’ There’s sarcasm there of course, just as his serpentine movements and exaggerated stage theatrics for the past hour have been inherently sarcastic. There’s some truth there: it is art, they’re really not selling themselves, and they really don’t have any merchandise to sell. (GW)
Jaga Jazzist, lushhush, Untrained Animals – Republik
It was a spectacle, a feast for the senses. Jaga Jazzist, the orchestral eight-piece experimental jazz outfit from Norway, delivered an intense and calculated performance at the Republik on Saturday.
The sight of the stage upon entering the club was astonishing, because it was completely full of impressive instruments and gear. A ton of horns, bells, guitars, samplers and synthesizers awaited as the night began.
Calgary’s Untrained Animals showcased his experimental electronic music, and it was a mind-trekking exploration pushing the boundaries of sonic possibility with just a controller and a laptop and manipulated projections of strange images of animals.
lushhush then had the floor, playing his delicate but abrasive beats. Blending heavily modulated samples, such as a distorted Miley Cyrus in one song, with glitchy drums and earth shattering low-end. He was precise in his movements, and eight people climbed onstage and maneuvered their maze of instruments as the lights went out. Jaga Jazzist exploded into action, surrounded by columns of flickering light.
Each member of the band was responsible for at least two instruments, and others many more. The front man, Lars Horntveth, played a slider, two guitars, synth, clarinet and saxophone.
Building from single notes into vast, full sounding cinematic jazz epics with absolute precision and control, Jaga Jazzist were a highlight on the stranger, more unique side of Sled Island. (MG)
Beach Season, Jessy Lanza – Hifi Club
Jazz Cartier, Keys and Krates – Nite Owl
The Coathangers – Broken City
Saturday evening, downtown Calgary was absolutely buzzing. Sled Island’s bike parking lined on 11th Avenue was jam packed with the rides of the hundreds of avid festival attendees.
Bouncing between the Hifi Club and the Nite Owl was a stellar option for taking in mass amounts of high quality bass music. The Hifi featured a blissed out soundtrack of electronic, soulful R&B courtesy of local act Beach Season and Hyberdub’s Jessy Lanza.
A couple doors down at the Nite Owl, following an engaging hip-hop set from Toronto’s Jazz Cartier, Keys and Krates took the stage. The Toronto trio is incredibly unique and talented, blending the big bass, trap and hip hop, laced with seemingly endless other sub-genres of electronic music, all preformed live. As their name suggests, the backbone of their live sound is derive from deft use of keyboards, turntables and live sampling, backed up with a drummer on an electronic kit. Keys and Krates are as fun to watch as they are impressive to listen to. Fans of hip hop, live music and electronic music can find something they enjoy in their sound and live performance.
If electronic music doesn’t float your boat, you didn’t have to go far to hear something alternative. The Coathangers, a punk trio from Atlanta played their second Sled set, this time at Broken City. Incredibly danceable, tunes that were made even more entertaining by the three ladies of the band. They each take turns on all of the instruments, with every switch off giving the band a new energy.
The magic of Sled Island certainly is not limited to the music or other artistic performances themselves. Just the electric vibe that hangs in the air as you cruise around the city is absolutely contagious. After five days of dancing, you might feel a little worn out; stiff knees/ankles, perhaps a cumulative hangover, but once you get out there it’s impossible not to be taken by the spirit of the festival. Whether you’re heading out with a group of friends on a mission to find the best beats to dance to, or you decide to go for a solo quest, and take in as much as possible, you are going to have a good time. New artists to experience, new friends to meet, and new venues to explore. It is simply inspiring, and is a testament to the strength and beauty of our city’s music and arts community. (PR)
View the complete photo album of Sled Island 2015 on our Facebook page.#1 Royal Canadian Legion, 36?, AB, Alberta, Avec Le Soileil Sortant De Sa Bouche, Beach Season, Broken City, Burro, Drive Like Jehu, Ex Hex, HIFI Club, High Wasted, Jaga Jazzist, Jazz Cartier, Jessy Lanza, Jung People, Keys and Krates, King Tuff, lushhush, Mark Mills, Nite Owl, Olympic Plaza, Palomino, Republik, Ship & Anchor, Sled Island, Sled Island 2015, Television, The Coathangers, Untrained Animal, Viet Cong