By Jodi Brak, Michael Grondin, Christine Leonard, Jamie McNamara, Liam Prost, Paul Rodgers and Jenna Lee Williams
June 23, 2016
Shitlord Fuckerman, Milk Toast – #1 Legion
If you had described Shitlord Fuckerman to us before we saw them, we wouldn’t have believed you. Harsh 8-bit beats, janky dance moves, dryly-hilarious banter, and a Richard Nixon mask. Shitlord spent a good chunk of the set convulsing on the floor. The set ended with an Oingo Boingo cover. We don’t hesitate to say it was the strangest thing we’ve seen at Sled Island so far this year.
The set kicked off with an announcement that this might be Milk Toast’s last set ever, but they didn’t play their hearts out accordingly. Rather, they looked a little bored. Their raw jangle rock aesthetic was pleasant to the ears, but needlessly detached. They asked the audience why they were listening to them instead of Julia Holter, a self-deprecating joke that came as close to landing as the challenger. (LP)
Dada Plan – Broken City
Vancouver’s Dada Plan had an interesting set up: bongo drums, saxophone, an effect pedal buffet board. Their jazz infused sound was relaxing but at the same time had the crowd dancing. Broken city felt like an underwater electronic island party. Vocal effects ranged from robotic, to auto-tune to spacey reverb. (JLW)
People of the North, Frigs, Chastity, PROTOMARTYR – Broken City Patio
The beer-soaked music mongrels of Sled Island reconvened on the Broken City patio late Thursday afternoon for some intense experimentation and power driven explorations of sound.
Through light sprinklings of rain and a dark, dark sky, People of the North, the side project of Brooklyn’s Oneida, pushed forward, delving deep into their noisy, meditative drone soundscapes.
The audience was eager, patient and they listened with care and attention amid the approaching storm, which, thankfully, never came.
Toronto’s Frigs demonstrated what passion truly looks like. Fierce vocals were carried by a dark and filthy psychedelic post-punk sound.
Chastity also delivered a heart-throbbing punk rock performance, followed by the punk behemoths PROTOMARTYR before a large crowd on what can be looked at as one of the coolest spaces to see a live band. Thanks Broken City. (MG)
The evening of music began in a line to get up to the Broken City patio for Detroit’s 4-piece sensation PROTOMARTYR. Planning ahead for this one would have been good, but luckily only 20 minutes of the set was spent waiting in line. The patio was packed from wall to wall, and PROTOMARTYR played to a crowd that was fully engaged in their angular sound, low octave vocals and personal lyrics. The first song of their set that was caught was “Ain’t So Simple.” Off their 2014 release Under Official Right. They also performed crowd favourite “Dope Cloud” off their latest release The Agent Intellect. They closed their set with “Why Does It Shake.” It was a great treat to see this band in such an intimate setting. (JLW)
Orthicon, Tigerwing, TT The Artist, Junglepussy, Cakes Da Killa – Commonwealth
Downstairs at Commonwealth were some intimate and emotionally driven performances by locals Orthicon, whose raw passion melds with his smooth trip-hop beats, and Tigerwing with her resonant production and alien approach to sound. (MG)
It was a top-notch evening of hip hop at Commonwealth.
TT The Artist graced the stage in an oversized denim jacket with DIY neon green and pink paint and art. She started playing her set with a relatively sparse dance floor, but it was packed a few songs in. The beats sent your body vibrating from all that bass. She constantly involved the crowd in her set, telling everyone: “Hands up! Pump it! Let’s get hype!” For the performance of her track “My Goodies” she chanted “My goodies, my goodies, taste like cookies, like cookies!” and then she had the entire crowd chant: “Who’s got the cookies from the cookie shop?!” Some favourite lyrics included: “Don’t want no car, don’t want no cash, don’t want no date, I just want my pussy ate!” The crowd ate up her strong set.
Junglepussy’s performance was chock full of sensuality, and swagger. She began by addressing the crowd by asking: “Do you know what F stands for?” The crowd chucked, and she then asked “does F stand for fried chicken?!” Her entire set was on point and engaging. Near the end of her set she performed “Pop For You” and at one point in her set noted that although she is from New York City she wanted to be Canadian so “someone marry me!” I don’t think it would have been difficult to find a spouse in this crowd who definitely loved her to bits. She closed her set with an important message “you only get one body, you have to love it unconditionally.”
After doing a quick shot of Jameson’s Cakes Da Killa was already onstage with the superb DJ Wild Cat. His entire set with sassy to the max. During musical interludes, him and DJ Wild Cat would look at each other and sexy dance. Cakes played a high energy set, and every few songs he would place a towel on his head to wipe off the sweat, but he would leave it on top of his head and sway his towel “hair” around like a woman in a Pantene Pro V commercial. He played some of his new shit along with old favourites. Near the end of his set, he said he was going to part the sea like Moses, and divided the crowd in half, giving many of us the front row to his runway. The crowd’s energy was at top levels and Cakes was feeding off it. (JLW)
Born in Flamez, HEALTH – Dickens
It’s quite surprising that Dickens isn’t booking more acts that play weird electronic music. The pub is home to a certain dingy, but lovable atmosphere that is perfect for housing an off-kilter rave. Victoria act Old Girl is testament to the vibe that can be created in the Dickens underground space. Their dark, reverb-heavy Ableton workouts filled every nook and cranny of the bar with dread and doom. Peaches pick Born In Flamez (BIF) was up next and the Berlin artist with transhumanist notions didn’t disappoint. Hidden behind a menacing facemask and projected visuals, BIF played a tight live set that wandered everywhere from Berlin techno to rave revivalism in stunning fashion. (JM)
Blü Shorts, The Avulsions, Shearing Pinx, Burro, Empty Heads, Crosss, The Zorgs – Palomino
It was an occasion for short shorts and azure lips, and anything but hypothermic. Thursday evening at The Palomino Smokehouse. The vitriolic thrum and strum of Blü Shorts kick-started attendees with staggered progressions and concentrated bursts of cobalt energy. Driven into the psych-rock wilderness like devil-dogs pursued by a big orange fender on a bender, their hiccup-ping coyote yelps and proto-jazz-punk drumming (worthy of Sled 2015 guests The Ex) wrung a collective sigh of “OMG!” from the devoted upon completion.
The Avulsions of Saskatoon, SK lived up to their deadly reputation by answering the age-old question regarding for whom the bell tolls. Cloaking the above-grade revelries in a gothic veil, the trio radiated ancient dirges reminiscent of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, with lyrics furnished in the form of sobering epithets. The atmospheric barrage of dark drama and unquiet insistence had a roomful of willing converts lingering long in The Avulsions ominous shadow.
Heavy on the bangs, Vancouver, BC’s Shearing Pinx launched a sensory attack with a zig-zagging ethos that might have benefitted poor Rickon Stark. Shedding any stage-shyness around the 20-minute mark, their ear-popping plunges and hairpin turns signaled that each song was going to be a race to an abrupt finish. A garage band that’s just ballsy enough to drag Dad’s favourite lounger into their “carriage house,” Shearing Pinx’s brazen charms anesthetized the basement dancefloor into tangoing with danger incarnate.
*Thanks to The Palomino staff for always slinging pints of ice water with their customary smiles. And kudos to CJSW for those handy earplug vending machines, a real lifesaver!
Continuing the underground rodeo, the cryptic rumination of Calgary’s Burro amped-up the psychic interference fields; filling every inch of available airspace with the rising tide of their cosmic swell. Eyes were closed and minds blown open as Burro leaned into the solar winds, seamlessly dovetailing one marauding motion into the next.
A shaggy, but firm, nod of approval to Empty Heads, who extended an unexpected pleasure that brought the audience schooling to the surface; aka upstairs at The Palomino Smokehouse. The modest hulk of a lead-singer’s voice was perfectly attuned to the rolling guitars, yet demanded to be drown in a crushing surf of pyroclastic Mudhoney.
Downstairs, the long slide into Dante’s inferno continued. There was no escaping the fearful symmetry of Montreal’s Crosss, who’s anemia-inducing demon-metal commanded full attention. Sinister drills and echoing vocals had the crowd locked in Crosss’s be-hooded thrall as the doomy distillations rained down like a Sabbath-esque summer thunderstorm straight-outta Witch Mountain.
While reposed at the LRT train platform directly across from the venue, the petulant punk-rawk of The Zorgs could be heard battering the bricks and mortar of Stephen’s Avenue. The fun-lovin’ Winnipegger’s sardonic war-cry blasted into a night sky illuminated by a rainbow-bathed Calgary Tower. “How many fucks do I give?” Well, apparently one. I have to be at work on Friday morning. (CL)
OAKK, Sinistarr, CHUURCH, T. Williams, Humans, Chris Lorenzo – Sled Island Block Party
Settling into its new Inglewood home quite nicely, and rigged with enough PK speakers to send bass waves cascading throughout the surrounding area, the Sled Island Block Party was once again a roaring success, and a helluva good time.
Warming things up was Calgary prodigy OAKK who played laid back hip-hop and down-tempo beats, setting a perfect afternoon atmosphere as the crowd at the Inglewood block party began to gather beneath looming storm clouds and intermittent sunshine. He closed off his set with the Outkast classic “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” before handing the decks over to Detroit ex-pat Sinistarr.
Sinistarr’s deft talent as a producer has seen his tracks grace some of the top labels in drum and bass, including Hospital and Metalheadz. His set was centred around cutting-edge jungle and footwork, with draw dropping percussion skittering over mammoth bass rhythms.
Smalltown Pete played some classic hip hop for a brief interlude before introducing the local duo that has been the subject of much intrigue in recent months.
CHUURCH hit the stage with ferocity lifting the veil of mystique that has shrouded them as they made their Calgary debut performance. They had an immense presence to them – an incredibly animated duo on stage, the pair fed off one another’s energy as they played a stunning selection of house tunes. Dark, brooding bass lines seamlessly mixed one after another. Believe the hype, these guys are a force to be reckoned with. “Sled Island: where you at!?”
T. Williams kept the 4/4 vibes going, with fresh selections of deep and tech house, shifting the vibe to a brighter, less ominous atmosphere than the act they followed.
JUNO nominees Humans upped the energy levels as the crowd really began swell. Another duo with a charged stage presence that the audience could tangibly channel, they dropped dozens of thumping tunes, drawing more and more people towards the stage.
Last, but by no means least was Birmingham’s Chris Lorenzo. One of the most prolific producers in the world of house music, with his hands in numerous projects, he was an incredible addition to the festival. His set was monumental. Tune after tune after tune; originals, exclusives, classics, VIPs — the man is an absolute beast behind the decks. People just couldn’t dance hard enough. A young man in a wheelchair was held aloft by the crowd. A girl took her shirt off. It was certifiably bananas. Lorenzo dropped many classic and entertaining tunes with a modern boost: “Gangster’s Paradise,” “Me Myself and I,” and a hilarious sing-along ensued when he played Afroman’s “Colt 45.” He then launched into a Netsky’s remix of “Everyday,” a huge half-step drum and bass tune from a few years back, and then finally, at the request of this writer, he played the nastiest jump-up track he had in his arsenal as his encore.
This will go no doubt down as one of the most preposterously fun nights of the summer for all in attendance. The weather held out, friends were everywhere, and fans of all ages got a chance to take in a world-class festival lineup. And as an added bonus, it was all for free! (PR)
Aleem Khan – Theatre Junction GRAND
Calgary’s Aleem Khan played a beautifully orchestral live performance at Theatre Junction GRAND. Ditching his gritty guitar driven sound, Aleem has enlisted the help of dynamic jazz musicians and has taken a whole new turn. (MG)
Here Come the Videofreex (Sled Island Film) – Theatre Junction GRAND
Thursday at Sled Island featured some more film screenings at Theatre Junction GRAND, including an excellent documentary about a band of rebellious filmmakers from the United States who would be among the first to use portable video cameras to document the cultural revolution going on in 1970s America.
Here Come the Videofreex is a film pieced together from interviews with the Videofreex and footage from their recordings. It offers a front-row view of the counterculture and the people within it, featuring uncut and uncensored footage from amidst demonstrations, protests and historical events in the civil rights movement that put viewers closer to the events than any footage that was ever aired on mainstream television. The film also demonstrates the Videofreex’ maverick sense of humour, featuring clips of them goofing off to lighten the mood between serious interviews with counterculture leaders and protestors.
In 1967 Sony revolutionized the world of video production when they introduced the worlds first portable video camera, the Portapak. Among the first to fully embrace the unique opportunities that mobile video production had to offer was David Cort and his merry gang of counter-culture journalists who came to be known as the Videofreex.
Cort acquired several cameras, monitors and other video making equipment from the supermarket he worked at, who launched an ill-fated advertising campaign and sold the cameras to Cort for dirt cheap.
Immediately, David Cort assembled a band of rogue filmmakers and journalists including Nancy Cain, Chuck Kennedy and Ann Woodward. They made it their mission to cover the things that mainstream media at the time was completely ignoring: the counterculture, the civil rights movements and the free-love movement.
While CBS and NBC news anchors sat behind their safe, comfortable desks in high-rise office buildings, speaking from afar about the chaos in the streets, the Videofreex were front and centre in the counterculture. They had their boots on the ground, deep in the crowd at Woodstock interviewing hippies, marching side-by-side with protesters during the women’s rights movement, the May Day protests, Black Panther rallies and anywhere history was being made.
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of their story was their brief association with CBS, the largest broadcaster in America during the 1970s. After meeting a CBS reporter at Woodstock, David Cort and the Videofreex showed off some of their tapes from the festival, and CBS agreed to send them out to capture what was really happening in their country.
However, they didn’t realize they had given a team of mavericks a blank cheque and a free ride to go and record exactly what CBS didn’t want to broadcast: that Americans were fed up with their country, their leaders and the war in Vietnam. Who knows what Don West, assistant to the CBS president, was expecting when he hired the Videofreex, but he certainly didn’t think they would return with recordings of counterculture leaders advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government.
Needless to say, CBS immediately removed the Videofreex from their organization. They asked the Freex to capture what was really happening in America, and that reality scared them. CBS confiscated their tapes, prompting the Videofreex to break into the CBS headquarters to steal back their equipment and continue documenting America’s counterculture in their own maverick style. (JB)
HSY, Chastity Belt – Tubby Dog
Toronto’s HSY is loud. Very loud. So where do you shove them? Tubby Dog of course, where soda flows from the taps and peanut butter and captain crunch are typical toppings. The energy and experimentation was high, guitars were picked up and dropped, tables and chairs were climbed on. Mostly, there was a lot of yelling, and it felt alright.
Chastity Belt lamented the distractions during their set. Arcade machines blinking, hot dogs a’slingin, a strange 3D rendering of dinosaurs being fused with geometric shapes projected behind them. Audiences packed in tight for this, one of the bigger all ages shows of the weekend where young folks can get their fix of sprightly guitar melodies, silly sunglasses, and verb-drenched vocals. It’s encouraging for the state of the world that even the young guns of Calgary are excited to see some classic Seattle feminist guitar pop. Everyone in the crowd was onboard, when the chorus of “Cool Slut” rang out with the lyric “It’s OK to be slutty.” They played a full 45 minutes, during which time folks barely cycled through, despite the bad sightlines in the back. We capped the night off with a Captain’s Dog, and biked home to scour Amazon for where to get those sunglasses. (LP)
View our full Sled Island live photo album on our Facebook page.#1 Royal Canadian Legion, AB, Alberta, Aleem Khan, Blü Shorts, Born in Flamez, Broken City, Burro, Cakes da Killa, Chastity, Chastity Belt, Chris Lorenzo, Chuurch, Commonwealth, Crosss, Dada Plan, Dickens, Empty Heads, Frigs, HEALTH, Here Come the Videofreex, HSY, Humans, Junglepussy, Milk Toast, OAKK, Old Form, Orthicon, Palomino, People of the North, Protomartyr, Shearing Pinx, shitlord fuckerman, Sinistarr, Sled Island 2016, Sled Island 2016 Day Two, Sled Island Block Party, Sled Island Film, Smalltown DJs, Smalltown Pete, T. Williams, The Avulsions, The Zorgs, Theatre Junction GRAND, Tigerwing, TT The Artist, Tubby Dog