By Michael Grondin, Christine Leonard, Arielle Lessard, Levi Manchak, Jamie McNamara, Liam Prost, Paul Rodgers, Aurora Sol and Jenna Lee Williams
June 24, 2016
The Synthetiques, Power-Buddies, Switches, Dream Whip, Pale Lips, Betrayers, The Sonics – #1 Legion
Friday night at the Legion showcased rock and roll sound from all its various forms.
The Synthetiques had a tasteful mélange of sweet and gritty on the top floor, bouncing between French and English in the smoothest of vocal tones.
Edmonton’s Power Buddies shred. Duelling electric guitars solo atop the blasting beats and key lines. This trio is super fun to watch.
The Legion was beginning to fill up. Again from Edmonton, Switches were starting upstairs, whose bombastic punkrock jams hit you straight in the heart.
Local four-piece Dream Whip’s swooning garage rock washes over like a warm wave, which set the scene for Montreal’s Pale Lips’ path of punkrock destruction.
Betrayers put a lot of emphasis into their look as well as their sound. From the matching shimmering blue psychedelic shirts, incense and general choice of instruments they play, they deliver rock and roll the way it was in the beginning.
The Legion was truly packed, and the bands, beers and buds were hot and sweaty and vibrating with excitement for The Sonics. These protopunk veterans did not hold back. A band that got its start in the ’60s were still able to get a raucous pit going, effortlessly blasting their way through song after song of gritty and full garage-rock anthems. (MG)
Chieftain, Anion, Witchstone, Advances – Bamboo
Calgary’s resident axe-swingers Chieftain brought the PIB (people in black) out of the woodwork and in from the rain on Friday afternoon. The sky’s stormy glow was simulating a fittingly nocturnal mood for a showcase presented by ‘Stoner Rock Guy’ at the Bamboo.
Those lucky enough to cut off work early were eager to soak up their massive metal surges as Chieftain grabbed on to heap-big riffs and proceeded to gnaw them like a dog with a bone. Their devastating performance definitely established an uber-heavy tone and decibel level for a session that leaned more towards black hash blade-hoots than blueberry rolling papers.
Their avuncular wet coast relations, Vancouver, BC’s Anion revived a rather sodden crowd with their Panzer tan subtlety and careening onslaughts. The lead-singer worked the annoyingly-congested boxcar of a floor amidst hard scrambles and lush, nigh-organic volleys, facing into the roaring tempest of his own making.
Calgarian chrysalis, Witchstone put on an impressive display of skills and artistic sensibility; who can blame them for strutting the fact that they’ve undergone more growth in a six-month period than most bands in their field-of-vision. Interweaving an amalgam of genres into their customary acid-metal architecture, Witchstone teased out melodic and riff-propelled elements with creepy tentacles of bilious acrimony. The finishing blow, a track from their latest album, plainly translated as: “You don’t know me. But you will!” (CL)
Advances want to shimmy their slow-beat heavy, R&B emotional language into your heart and hips. Their singer, after a quick dance break, dropped right back into some soul tendering promises in “Tear Drop,” a song that would make anyone want to call up a gooey flame late at night. (AL)
Duchess Says – Broken City Patio
There are few people short of Beyonce who could convince a whole bar full of slovenly music fans to lie down on the beer-soaked floor. Duchess Says commanded the audience better than any act we’ve ever seen at Broken City. Due to rain the set was rescheduled for the main bar space, and we couldn’t even imagine how the patio could have contained them. The music was frenetic and fun, but the real appeal was front-woman Annie-Claude Deschênes, who danced and seized her way through the set. We wish we could show you all of our photos of her making strange faces. (LP)
Tortoise – Central United Church
A steady downpour of rain, grey skies and cool temperatures are all daunting factors when thinking about hopping back on a bike and heading into the downtown core. Fortunately, there were many toasty, inviting hubs in which to shelter oneself from the rain last night as Sled Island and it’s sundry supporters boldly forged on into the weekend’s programming.
Central United Church was one such place of sanctuary last night. Fans hurried in from the rain and into it’s warm, glowing interior eager to ensure they get a spot from which to take in the sounds of Tortoise.
Whether taking a solo quest, hopping around venue to venue, or if this genre originating group of musicians was at the top of your must see list for this year’s Sled, the vibe inside Central United on this dreary Friday night was an epicentre of musical bliss for all those present.
The all-instrumental post-rock band filled the high ceilings of the room with serene tones and captivating percussion, locking listeners in with spellbinding grooves and dreamy melodies.
Many smiling faces and nodding heads filled the pews and crowded exteriors of the lofty space while the band demonstrated their signature knack for rewiring genre conventions and showcased their multi-instrumental abilities. At times incorporating two synths at once, or utilizing multiple struck idiophonic instruments or having two drums squaring off at once in impressive synchronization.
Fans left that tranquil location and headed back out into the misty weather, hopefully carrying with them the peaceful and warming experience they had just taken in. (PR)
Mint Records Showcase: TV Ugly, Tough Age, Heaven for Real, Supermoon, Faith Healer, Jay Arner, Fountain – Commonwealth
It was hard to imagine a better place to be than Commonwealth on Friday afternoon. The venue was home to Vancouver label Mint Records’ free Sled Island day party that was nothing less than a total success.
The afternoon started with TV Ugly and Tough Age who both played fun sets that had the crowd dancing and laughing along.
Next up were Heaven for Real and Supermoon who both exude classic Mint Records style with every strum. The bands continued the familial vibe that had taken hold inside of Commonwealth.
After snacks were served to the attendees (quinoa!), Edmontonian act Faith Healer played a quick but pleasing set of songs from their debut Psychic Trouble.
Vancouver’s Jay Arner continued the party, playing an almost exclusively new set full of songs off his recently released album Jay II.
Finally it was time for the evening to end, but not before Victoria heroes Fountain brought down the house. They played a rapturous set that was a treat to watch, ending the afternoon on a high note. The showcase might have been free, but it was one of the most impeccably scheduled and booked events of Sled 2016 so far. (JM)
Psychic TV – Dickens
Few have lived a life as loudly as Genesis P-Orridge and far fewer have lived as deeply in service to conceptual art. Psychic TV, conceived by the iconoclastic P-Orridge, drew a multi-generational crowd to Dickens Pub on Friday night. Psychic TV dosed their set with psychedelic post-punk kraut-rock, spinning the genres and blending crowd together into an elated delirium. An encore followed their set, no less intense, but explained in advance as being short due to P-Orridge’s recent pneumonia. The strong set was a testament to a battle hardened veteran’s ability to keep art alive, despite a world working against it. (LM)
Maxjullian, L.A. Foster, Kaytranada – Flames Central
Friday night at Flames Central was arguably the biggest night for electronic music at Sled Island 2016. The venue kicked off with Calgary via Prince George rapper Maxjullian, who enlisted the help of local mainstays Beach Season and A.Y.E to assist with opening duties.
Montreal’s L.A. Foster continued the evening, playing to a growing group of fans that danced and cheered along to the duo’s synth-pop stylings.
Finally, after the sold out Flames Central filled to capacity, Kaytranada took to the stage. The Montreal producer was met with nothing but adoration from the large crowd that danced relentlessly all night. Singles off of Kaytranada’s debut album 99.9% were mixed into his fairly straightforward DJ set early and often. His mixing was clean and confident, if not a little safe given his newfound stardom. (JM)
War Baby, Numenorean, Shooting Guns, SubRosa – Palomino
If you could tear your eyes off of War Baby long enough to gaze at the guitarist’s pedal board, you could get a sense of what kind of depth you are in for. These noise rockers are incredible musicians, plugging complex rhythms into punk and noise rock. A healthy dose of chorus effects helped the guitar cut through every corner of the Palomino. (LP)
Have you ever fantasized about being a member of the Fellowship of the Ring? Numenorean has your bindle packed! Honouring the Old Gods with their smooth yet many-textured soundscapes, each song entails an epic journey through perilous peaks and horrific chasms. Their impressive lupine shrieks and lumbering plotlines left the mesmerized and admiring audience in a cold sweat.
Hauling axel from Saskatoon, SK, the summer’s favourite road trip soundtrack band, Shooting Guns screeched into town in a puff of smoke and minus one keyboardist, Toby, who got “hung-up in Chicago.” Losing the high-end of their string-heavy ensemble resulted in a flatter-than-usual sound for the already plateau-sighted highwaymen. Their intuitive biorhythms still scratched that stoner rock itch, pulling off a straight-forward and easily accessible set that ranged from low-fi CB-jamming frequencies to feistier headnodders. It should be interesting to see what they sound like at the Upstairs at the #1 Legion on Saturday night, once their accompanists and his magic-fingers get to town!
Rounding out the rain-dampened evening’s entertainment, a much-anticipated performance by Utah’s graceful doomsters SubRosa warmed the room like a blazing hearth. The sizeable and visually stunning orchestra amicably squeezed onto the stage with just enough elbow room remaining for their potent twin violinists to unleash a Pandora’s Box of gothic symphonics. Remember those friends who had to go straight to music lessons after school? Well, rejoice in the knowledge that SubRosa’s evocative neo-classical take on heavy metal is but one possible outcome of gaining a formal musical education that their parents didn’t anticipate! (CL)
TT The Artist, HYENAZ, Planningtorock – Theatre Junction GRAND
Theatre Junction GRAND last night was a unique plethora of musical treats. Empowering party rap, ethereal darkwave synthpop accompanied by a beautiful gender-bending visual show, and otherworldly electronic backed by dreamy vocals.
While in previous years, Theatre Junction has just hosted comedy shows during Sled Island, The GRAND smoothly transformed into a phenomenal music venue for the 10th incarnation of the festival. The large, dark room has impressive acoustics and lighting, making it a dynamic and beautiful concert space.
TT The Artist kicked off the evening by taking her audience through a journey of storytelling through rhyme, backed by driving, bouncy beats that are nearly impossible not to move to. Her presence and excitement on the stage was enough to get the entire room dancing. (AS)
The nature of Sled Island inevitably means scheduling conflicts. Tortoise was on the list of bands to see, but the decision was made to check out some of Peaches’ picks at Theatre Junction GRAND, and boy was it a good decision. The avant-garde performance of HYENAZ, who hail from Berlin and are Mad Kate (Kathryn Fischer) and TUSK (Adrienne Teicher) woke anyone up who may have been sleepy from the the late nights and festivities that come with Sled Island. This was a full on performance. Electronic beats boomed as a dance battle ensured and the audience was in awe of their DIY costumes that also served as props and symbolic objects as the performance progressed. Their headpieces glowed, tapestries flowed, and their makeup put them on another planet. Both Mad Kate and TUSK were strong vocally, and their actions and the visuals projected behind them were thoughtfully executed. Throughout their performance both stripped down to glittery loincloths and the show was then brought to the audience. They ping ponged in and out through the crowd and shared a spiritual moment or two with a few audience members. This was an unforgettable performance.
Electronic musician Planningtorock, who is from the U.K. originally but has been a resident of Berlin for the last 15 years, put on a stand up performance. She was reminiscent of Kate Bush, based on some of her dance moves and the fact that she was dressed in a jumpsuit. Her vocals were gorgeous and her power came from the nasal passage. Another wonderful element of Sled Island is seeing artists who have played the festival among the crowd; Mad Kate of HYENAZ was watching her performance intently nearby. Her performance of “Human Drama” captivated the audience and posed the question: “Is gender just a lie?” She dedicated her performance of “Going Wrong” to the terrible state of politics and referenced Britain leaving the EU. The visuals projected included Planningtorock with facial prosthetics lip-syncing the track, and her singing lined up with the visuals perfectly. She explained that showing same sex public displays of affection is currently illegal in 83 countries before performing “Public Love.” Her entire set, vocals, beats, visuals and dance moved were strong and fit together like the perfect puzzle. (JLW)
Shotgun Jimmie – Wine-Ohs
There is no artist like Shotgun Jimmie. Jimmie’s magnetic presence and lighthearted songwriting is endlessly watchable on a stage of any size. He’s an excellent frontman, and he keeps great company with a band comprised of members of great Canadian acts like Cannon Bros. There is a lot of excellent lo-fi guitar pop at Sled Island, but no one else quite like Shotgun Jimmie. (LP)
View our full Sled Island live photo album on our Facebook page.#1 Legion, AB, Alberta, Anion, Bamboo, Betrayers, Broken City, Chieftain, Commonwealth, Dickens, Dream Whip, Duchess Says, Faith Healer, Flames Central, Fountain, Heaven for Real, Hyenaz, Jay Arner, Kaytranada, L.A. Foster, Maxjullian, Mint Records, Numenorean, Pale Lips, Palomino, Planningtorock, Power Buddies, Psychic TV, Shooting Guns, Shotgun Jimmie, Sled Island, Sled Island 2016, Sled Island 2016 Day Three, SubRosa, Supermoon, Switches, The Sonics, The Synthetiques, Theatre Junction GRAND, Tortoise, Tough Age, TT The Artist, TV Ugly, War Baby, Wine-Ohs, Witchstone