Sled Island 2016 Day One Recap

Thursday 23rd, June 2016 / 15:22
By Jodi Brak, Michael Grondin, Christine Leonard, Arielle Lessard, Liam Prost and Jenna Lee Williams
Angel Olsen at Central United Church. Photo: Levi Manchak

Angel Olsen at Central United Church.
Photo: Levi Manchak

June 22, 2016

CALGARY –

HexRay, N3K, Blü Shorts, Technical Kidman, Physical Copies, Mitchmatic, ESG – #1 Legion

HexRay at #1 Legion. Photo: Shane Flug

HexRay at #1 Legion.
Photo: Shane Flug

Once the all-ages crowd at John Dutton Theatre (see below) had turned into pumpkins, we sauntered over to the #1 Legion to lay eyes on HexRay. The sprawling beerhall was transformed into Calgary’s biggest bedroom as the dreamy denim-and-flannel trio projected their awkward poetics and petulant drum rolls at a steady, unhurried pace. Apple-pie sweet vocal harmonies and intimate country-folk interludes progressing towards an eight-minute long boogie-fied ballad that evoked visions of undulating amber waves of grain and malt liquor. (CL)

N3K at #1 Legion. Photo: Levi Manchak

N3K at #1 Legion.
Photo: Levi Manchak

N3K packed the dance floor to the top. Those arriving after the start attempted to catch a glimpse of the stage from the bar. The band’s sound can be described as music you would hear in a video game, infused with jazz, on a time signature you might find in a different dimension. (JLW)

Blü Shorts at #1 Legion. Photo: Arielle Lessard

Blü Shorts at #1 Legion.
Photo: Arielle Lessard

Blü Shorts rocked a witch’s screech to spellbind an excited crowd, encouraging them to throw their heads and climb some chairs. Ditch your shirt or grab some tape, something interesting is about to go down. (AL)

The band that closed-out the Republik following the final day pig roast of Sled 2015, fabu-drone outfit Technical Kidman of Montreal always provides a breath of fresh air. Heavy on the bass, the dueling ultrasonic synths soon has the crowd enthralled. Clashing with convention, the threesome poured forth an electrifying audio smoke-show fit to give you a serious case of the vapours. Pulling angular, if not dispassionate, creations from a cold and unforgiving gridlock of electronic, ambient, dance, and noize, Technical Kidman ensnared the masses with an opaque opiate hum of cycling heartbeats and twisted tom-toms. (CL)

Physical Copies at #1 Legion. Photo: Levi Manchak

Physical Copies at #1 Legion.
Photo: Levi Manchak

Edmontonian weird-boys, Physical Copies, proved themselves to be genuine replicas of some of the most original artists in the annals of modern music. A twonky, garage-raised, Devo sleeper-cell, with a penchant for laser blasts and neon pulses, Physical Copies is what happens when members of Shout Out Out Out Out sit too close to the screen (in a house where the television’s always on). Add the melodic accompaniment, and on-point jazzercising, of to-die-for guest vocalist Marlaena Moore and you have the makings of an all-star ‘80s club that can go straight on till breakfast. (CL)

Mitchmatic at #1 Legion. Photo: Arielle Lessard

Mitchmatic at #1 Legion.
Photo: Arielle Lessard

Mitchmatic threw out their smooth tunes with unexpected hops and flourishes. Sweet sax and keyboard, along with some heavy plunging bass made for a punchy delivery. (AL)

ESG at #1 Legion. Photo: Michael Grondin

ESG at #1 Legion.
Photo: Michael Grondin

ESG performed to an enthusiastic crowd that was continuously shaking on the dancing floor late into the night for a Wednesday evening/Thursday morning. The legendary group added layers of percussion over drums and bass including bongos, rhythm sticks, tambourine. At one point in time one of the band members was jumping around the stage in an alien mask and exclaimed “thank you for the wonderful audience participation!” (JLW)

Sunglaciers, Kiso Island, Glad Rags, Prenup, Wares, Empty Heads – Broken City

Let’s give a shout out to CJSW. They have been killing it with live, on-air Sled Island performances, showcasing Sled acts all week. True support. Give them a listen, it’s worth it.

Kiso Island at Broken City Patio. Photo: Michael Grondin

Kiso Island at Broken City Patio.
Photo: Michael Grondin

Broken City was slapped with a series of dumb noise complaints earlier this year, which has prohibited their ability to throw parties on their killer patio. They have to save their rooftop shows up for a limited number per year. And Sled is the right ‘effing time to use ‘em up.

Sunglaciers, Kiso Island, Glad Rags and Prenup added a nice mix of flowery shoe-gaze, pop-punk and anti-patriarchal punk-rock power to set the evening off up there. Everybody was banging heads and smiling to the killer jams.

Wares at Broken City. Photo: Michael Grondin

Wares at Broken City.
Photo: Michael Grondin

Meanwhile, downstairs at Broken City was the emotionally charged and heart melting singer-songwriting of Wares, followed by the immensely dynamic punk rock from locals Empty Heads. (MG)

Astral Swans, Marlaena Moore, Angel Olsen – Central United Church

Astral Swans at Central United Church. Photo: Arielle Lessard

Astral Swans at Central United Church.
Photo: Arielle Lessard

Astral Swans delighted an audience unprepared to face a dreamy mortal coil. Matt Swann is a man you can find in many nooks and depths of Calgary. The addition of some electric violin to his traditionally solo or 3-piece act was an acoustically resounding idea, especially in Central United Church. He recounted existentially challenging stories about cannibalistic seagulls, and made sure to play a song for his mom… “We’ll pretend it’s not about casual sex.” (AL)

Marlaena Moore at Central United Church. Photo: Levi Manchak

Marlaena Moore at Central United Church.
Photo: Levi Manchak

A white suit, a guitar with a natural finish, her characteristic Rogue-style white streaks. Marlaena Moore was born for the stage, despite her admitted nervousness. She started and ended solo, which ended up being the best parts of the set. The band was nice for punctuation, but we were there for Marlaena herself. BeatRoute loves her (obviously), have you picked up her tape yet? (LP)

Angel Olsen at Central United Church. Photo: Levi Manchak

Angel Olsen at Central United Church.
Photo: Levi Manchak

Angel Olsen attests that it’s strange to rock out in a church, but we never felt weird about it. As the church reached capacity before the set, the already sweltering space became even sweatier. Olsen blitzed through her set with poise, taking few breaks for banter. After the release of her new “Intern” video a few weeks ago, we anticipated a healthy dose of new material, but were left with a Burn Your Fire heavy set to which we were not disappointed. Olsen’s high register yodel rang through the church, particularly on the quieter tracks like the highlights “Windows” and “Acrobat.” Olsen asked how the cops are in Calgary before busting into a more ethereal rendition of “Miranda,” with its opening line repeating the rights for which the song is named. Church audiences certainly exercise their “right to remain silent” more than most.

Even if this is a typical Angel Olsen set, for her first time in Calgary, this was the best introduction we could ask for. A sonorous set that felt like a bookend, despite the night to come. (LP)

Sitstill, Fountain, Burnt Shrines, Oneida, Protomartyr – Commonwealth

Oneida at Commonwealth. Photo: Michael Grondin

Oneida at Commonwealth.
Photo: Michael Grondin

After Broken City, it was two blocks down to Commonwealth for a heavy two-floor bill.

Sitstill blew faces off with their electro-fusion madness, which was followed by the immensely charismatic jangle-pop of Victoria’s Fountain (check this band out, ‘cuz whoah).

Protomartyr at Commonwealth. Photo: Michael Grondin

Protomartyr at Commonwealth.
Photo: Michael Grondin

The acts set to play the main stage at Commonwealth were some heavy hitters. Burnt Shrines need to play more shows, because their full sounding, shoe-gaze is a force to be reckoned with.

Oneida pulverized minds. That’s all that can be said, really, and to have Protomartyr, the visceral and calculated punk-rockers from Detroit follow was a true pleasure.

A-Bomb, Chron Goblin – John Dutton Theatre (Central Library)

A-Bomb at John Dutton Theatre. Photo: Shane Flug

A-Bomb at John Dutton Theatre.
Photo: Shane Flug

John Dutton’s legacy remains YYC’s best-kept secret, at least when it comes to gaining after-hours entry to his namesake Theatre; housed within the Central Library. Please note for future shows that this venue is best accessed via the +15 stairwell located on the west side of the Library. An early-evening, all-ages friendly gig providing the perfect way for newcomers to ease into the whole Sled experience. Ramping up the affirmative action, too high for school runaways, A-Bomb used their outdoor voices to deliver a fittingly gritty, but impactful set to an adoring audience.

Chron Goblin at John Dutton Theatre. Photo: Shane Flug

Chron Goblin at John Dutton Theatre.
Photo: Shane Flug

Next up, veterans Chron Goblin, freshly returned from a tour through Europe, took to the stage. The band’s guitarist Darty declared that A-Bomb “just shreds,” before elucidating that Chron Goblin’s core audience is largely comprised of “45 year-old guys with tattoos.” Proving that age ain’t nothing but a number, Chron Goblin’s second all-ages show ever struck a chord with young upstarts who threw out requests for oldies like “Come Undone,” while attempting to stage-dive to ribald cuts from the band’s latest album, Backwater. The movie theatre-like interior of the Dutton added a surreal touch to watching the strapping rock quartet; but certainly the next best aspect of partying down in the library was being in the mossssshhhhh pit. (CL)

Fenster – Palomino

Fenster at the Palomino. Photo: Arielle Lessard

Fenster at the Palomino.
Photo: Arielle Lessard

Fenster played to a very happy room with magical chimes, skilled psych driven guitar, long hair, and good times in the Palomino basement. (AL)

Ancient Snake, Friesen / Waters Duo, Jooklo Zappa – Wine-Ohs

Wednesday night at Wine-Ohs featured a trio of experimental groups creating ambient noise-rock laced with saxophone riffs, horns and loads of percussion. Throw in a little bit of jazz influence for good measure, and you’ve got yourself a pretty unique set of performances that really suited the underground jazz bar feel Wine-Ohs has going on.

Ancient Snake at Wine-Ohs. Photo: Jodi Brak

Ancient Snake at Wine-Ohs.
Photo: Jodi Brak

Ancient Snake started the night off with a lengthy wall-of-sound type performance that included sampled sounds recorded on a cassette tape, which was an excellent touch. The build-up of their sound was great, starting very subtly and slowly adding tons of other sound.

Friesen / Waters Duo at Wine-Ohs. Photo: Jodi Brak

Friesen / Waters Duo at Wine-Ohs.
Photo: Jodi Brak

Next up was the guitar and saxophone of the Friesen / Waters Duo, who put in some nice touches while playing their set. At one point the guitarist stuck a drumstick between the frets and strings and started hammering away, creating a unique effect.

JOOKLO ZAPPA at Wine-Ohs. Photo: Jodi Brak

JOOKLO ZAPPA at Wine-Ohs.
Photo: Jodi Brak

Closing the night off was JOOKLO ZAPPA, a three piece experimental jazz group. Their sound changed quite a bit from song to song, but the one consistent theme was a heavy emphasis on percussion. Drums, cymbals, chimes, cowbells and odd percussion instruments I can’t even name all mingled together amidst some pretty intense horn playing to create layers of sound with distinct melodies. The two horn players traded off solo sections, letting the music sort of wash back and forth across the bar as one began a solo and the other ended. It was a unique set, full of mid-song instrument swaps and the whole band getting in on heavy percussion sections that had the bass rumbling across the Wine-Ohs floor. (JB)

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