By Jodi Brak, Liam Prost, Christine Leonard, Paul Mcaleer, Gareth Watkins, Jackie Klapak, Brittany Rudyck, Jamie McNamara
June 22nd, 2017
Gender Poutine, Jock Tears, Mujahedeen, Leather Jacuzzi – Sloth Records
The room was filled with vibrancy even before Leather Jacuzzi made their way to the front of the small sunlit record shop. Just hours before, the affable trio of Gender Poutine brought the crowd together and warmed up the hecklers in the room, while the fiery and all around woke punk pop sounds of Jock Tears got bodies moving.
The smooth crunch ‘n fuzz of Mujahedeen followed close after bringing people in tighter to the makeshift stage. With the place packed and feet tapping, Leather Jacuzzi amused all with their contrasting lethargic attitudes and spartic sounds. Performing numerous I-don’t-care anthems and songs written about the irony of their name, the band presented an Eff You attitude in between humourus and humble banter.
Each two minute burst of guitar mixed with laidback and fire filled vocals created the perfect summer soundtrack to those who like to live life and not take anything too seriously. Decorated in sunglasses and messy hair, the local punk rockers surprised even themselves on stage. Starting songs rapidly and unexpectedly the four shared a fun loving chemistry onstage that the crowd couldn’t take their eyes away from. Every hair flip, bass hit, cymbal crash, and shouted chorus brought a shared joy among the band and the audience alike.
Silver Apples Artist Talk – Studio Bell (Drop-In Zone)
Artist talks are an excellent way to break up the endless sea of bands and explore different facets of this unique festival. The talk with Simeon Coxe of Silver Apples was as eccentric as one would imagine. Wearing his familiar loose fitting purple turtleneck and matching lavender glasses, he spoke about the evolution of the band in the very early days and how it felt when Jimi Hendrix tried to poach his drummer, Danny Taylor. The talk was light hearted with lots of laughs, fascinating stories and the unearthing of seven inches Coxe didn’t realize existed.
Blue Odeur, LAPS, Motherhood – Local 510 (Parking Lot)
A bright sunny day with some unabashed quirk. Montreal-by-way-of Calgary indie outfit Blue Odeur kept things lively in the early day. Immaculately dressed and intricately performed, it was a charming way to start the day.
Blue Odeur were difficult to pin down but absolutely plucky, spirited and whimsical. The perfect amount of quirk complete with quick winks. A definite delight and must see in the future.
LAPS were a buoyant mix of cavernous, adventurous vocals accompanied by peppy drums and improvisational jazz style instrumental moments. Everyone’s heart broke when the guitarist broke a string. But by the magic of Sled Island, the guitarist of Lethbridge’s WINT happened to have a left handed guitar.
Motherhood’s short set contained a well measured amount of screaming. It was a fun and brisk art rock affair from a well-practised band. Confident and smart-sounding, the Fredricton three piece brought a friendly demeanor to their sharply pointed songs.
Corinthian – Studio Bell (Performance Hall)
Having Studio Bell as a performance space for Sled Island was always a tantalizing prospect, but with his set on Thursday, former Artist in Residence Corinthian, showed just how amazing the combination could be. The Calgarian producer and founder of Deep Sea Mining Syndicate made a tabletop hardware setup come to life with cuts from his forthcoming record with pianist Mark Limacher. The new songs felt like textbook Corinthian; ambient swirls and doom-laden drones washed over the nearly-full performance hall with expert precision. It was even more exciting to hear Corinthian dabble with 4/4 kicks and a booming, Berlin-borrowing techno that benefitted from a wonderful soundsystem.
Waxahatchee – Central United Church
Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee didn’t talk to the crowd much, but her delicate songs spoke volumes. With only a month to go until a new, guitar-fueled record, a good chunk of the set was unfamiliar, with perfectly beautiful cuts like “Sparks Fly” teasing a larger arrangement. Heavier tracks like “Silver” were laid bare with only a few open chords and Crutchfield’s amazing voice, perfectly resonant in the curvature of Central United Church.
The set highlights were some deep cuts, most notably the devastating “Grass Stain” from American Weekend and a sparse rendition of “Tangled Envisioning.” It was a set that couldn’t possibly have been long enough, with a few tears on reserve in case she broke out some real heartbreakers, but the crowd did find themselves choking up for “Summer of Love.” It ended perfectly with “La Loose,” which took on a strange earnestness without the happy synths that surround it on the record.
Nosferatu with Shooting Guns Live Score – Globe Cinema
The waning light of day couldn’t deter the creatures of the night from attending the not-to-be-missed film screening and musical performance at the Globe Cinema on Thursday. Shooting Guns of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan did an exemplary job of adding a live soundtrack to the 1922 German horror classic, Nosferatu. Director F.W. Murnau himself would have marveled at the emotive intensity and attention to detail the six-piece (normally seven-piece) band, known for their sprawling stoner rock instrumentals, lavished on his retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula yarn. The psych-rock troupe has already finessed the soundtracks to both Wolfcop movies, so the fact that they were recording the soundtrack for Wolfcop II while rehearsing this mind-blowing live score serves to exemplify their dedication to elevating art for art’s sake. Gongs, flutes, synths and strings supported every nuanced facial expression and creaking ship mast to the point that the audience was tempted to forget they had a live orchestra in front of them. The crowning terror of Max Schreck’s Count Orlok was given grim eminence by goosebump-raising crescendos that conveyed a very authentic sense dread and fear that movie-goers of the ‘20s would have felt, but not had the benefit of hearing. That immense pleasure was reserved for Sled Island attendees, thank you very much! Moving through the 90-minute silent film, with a commendable appreciation of the time and place in which it was created, Shooting Guns breathed new life in to a celluloid corpse and conjured an immortal piece of artwork.
36?, Borscht, Wavves – The Palace Theatre
Are they a boy band with musical substance, or a rock band dripping with weird teenage sex appeal and inherent powers of showmanship? We’ll probably never know, but all that really matters is the local boys in 36? know how to put on one hell of a show, wrapping the crowd around their finger one song at a time until they are just a thrashing mess of dancing bodies. A little bit of psych pop, some four-on-the-floor rock and roll and a dash of post punk make up the eclectic mix of their sound, moving from trippy intros into wall-of-sound choruses. Embellishing it all are piercing, primal guitar solos that ripple through the audience until they just can’t dance anymore. Their show at The Palace Theatre was a packed house, with a clear cross-section of diehard fans in attendance, swooning at every refrain.
Backup dancers, confetti, costumes, painfully honest confessions, flourishes of spoken word: all things seen as Borscht took the stage. A lot of bands have showmanship (show-woman-ship?), but not a lot of them make it a priority. Borscht is an exception. Maybe it’s gaudy on the surface but, really, who cares? It breaks up the monotony of seeing four dudes in black leather and denim take the stage again, and it’s hard not to appreciate the effort put into making the whole show a big routine. Musically, Borscht packs a pretty straightforward beat into their songs. It’s steady, it drives everything forward and creates a framework for the backup vocals, keyboard and guitar to lay down a soundscape that fills out the sound in a big way. They’re a seven piece band, and it’s easy to tell just by listening: backup harmonies and spoken word layer over the main vocals, keyboard melodies add bits of rhythm and lead all over the place and biting lead guitar cuts through it all, seriously adding to the finale. And, on a side note, how many rock bands out there have backup dancers?
The security guard on crowd surfing duty was the unsung hero of the night when Wavves took the Palace Theatre stage. As soon as the four-piece surf punk outfit stepped out to a sample of the carnival-esque “Come to the Valley,” the crowd geared up for a rollercoaster ride heading in a single direction, the most exciting part when stomachs drop and shrieks soar: down.
Opening with “Way Too Much,” Wavves established a supersonic pace courtesy of one of the many singles found on summer playlists around the world. The initial energy seemed impossible to maintain, but the band was just getting started.
Even though frontman Nathan Williams was playfully annoyed the bar turned off the NBA draft in favour of “Canadian” football, he didn’t hold it against the crowd for the first Wavves show in Calgary. The crowd jumped along and sung back choruses at the intoxicatingly magnetic Williams for the first few songs, but it wasn’t until “King of the Beach” from the band’s breakout album that the crowd surfers came out to play. From there, the band worked their way through a collection of standout tracks, pummelling the crowd with one knockout chorus after another and blistering guitar riffs.
Sheenah Ko, Eschatons, Saxsyndrum, Same/Same, Black Thunder, Woodhawk, Chron Goblin – Palomino (Main Floor/Downstairs)
Montreal singer-songwriter Sheenah Ko makes dark, baroque pop in the vein of Zola Jesus, or Austra. At the Palomino she was joined on stage by a dancer who was legitimately mesmerizing, one of the evening’s first superhuman performers.
If ‘listening to the Meat Puppets do a sound-check’ was on our bucket list, then it’s now crossed off with Same/Same. The two-piece spend as much time switching instruments as they do playing them, but the music they make is warm and fuzzy. Roger from the band Buffalo Bud Buster was in the audience. “That’s the second time I’ve seen them and I really dig ‘em,” Roger told BeatRoute. “I think they’re doing something no-one else is doing that’s got a poetry vibe to it but alternative good grooves man. I really dig it.”
Hailing from Vancouver, Eschatons laid down two guitars and a drum-kit and made serious noise. Not pure, harsh, Merzbow noise, but as close as you’re going to get with a traditional rock band setup. Think standing right next to the amp for maximum feedback. Dan, 22, and Moira, 21, told us how much they dug the show: “That was pretty interesting stuff for sure,” Dan says. “The fact that their drummer was just non-stop the whole time I think was probably the coolest thing I’ve seen in a noise band.” Moira agreed, “I think that this band collectively made the whole room grimace more than once.”
Mix a little bit of sludge, a little bit of prog, a little bit of psych, a whole bunch of riff-rock and season with some heavy shit, and you have Black Thunder. Not too concerned with frantic, furious speed riffs, they create a steady headbangers beat, a wall of heavy, distorted guitar and thumping bass that feels so at home in The Palomino. Their music seems to create a dark and brooding atmosphere, chaotic, heavy, intense and clearly heard down the street and around the corner. Maybe they’re not shouting at the crowd to create the biggest circle pit the venue has ever seen, but they are heavy as hell and rocked The Palomino’s main floor with a crushing set.
Downstairs at The Palomino did another 180, throwing the evening’s most confounding band at the audience and getting a surprisingly warm welcome. Saxsyndrum are what would happen if Vangelis had an amphetamine-induced freak out while doing the Blade Runner soundtrack, or they’re the downtempo background music in a jazz bar where a black metal vocalist and opera castrato are in a screaming match. There’s a sax player pulling off drunk-dad at a wedding dance moves, a drummer who also plays synth and what may be the best male vocalist I’ve heard since Jeff Buckley decided to go for a swim. Saxsyndrum were a great choice as a replacement for King Woman.
Tell me one other riff-rock trio that has been rising through the ranks in Calgary’s music scene quite as steadily over the past year…I’ll wait. Woodhawk has been picking up fans and attention at every corner with their intense, fast-paced, ridiculously energetic brand of stoner-friendly rock and roll. They’re a three piece band, but that would be pretty hard to tell just by listening to them. They create a sonic fury and energy that seems impossible from such a small crew, practically breaking the sound barrier with all the intensity they bring to the stage. High-tempo guitar riffs and rhythms fill the space in between absolutely furious solos, and it’s backed up by a loud-and-proud rhythm section that adds so much to the energy of the music. To top it off, it is all narrated by vocals that tell high fantasy tales and apocalyptic ballads, adding an imagery and poetry to their music that goes beyond simple lyricism, creating narrative structure within each song. Playing on the small stage on the main floor of The Palomino, the crowd was literally touching the mic stands, packed together and pressed against the stage in an effort to get closer, to be caught up in the writhing mass of headbanging bodies . It’s hard to leave a Woodhawk show without a big, dumb grin on your face.
Our first question for Chron Goblin was “why was your set only four and a half minutes long?” Or, so it would seem as the downtown smokehouse’s patio doors were thrown open and the usual cellar-dwellers were invited to perform above ground. Unfortunately this wasn’t high enough. So, they tossed up a wall of lysergic visual projections to bring an amped-up ‘Rad Games in your own backyard’ flare to the affair. Was this what Desertfest fans were treated to in the UK last month? Chronic X is coming in hot with new songs, agent orange exploding jungles, BMX riders, neon paintball splatters, sci-fi vivisection and an incendiary towheaded singer. Oh, my. This was not your neighborhood garden variety Chron Goblin show, after all. No, this was Chron Goblin on steroids, or perhaps hyped-up on guitar-rock goofballs, and ready to slap their “Everyday I’m Grinding” bumpersticker across your smiling face. A recuperative energy drink in sonic form, the increasingly-accomplished foursome treated their hometown crowd to an explosive show while revealing the hidden potential of a well-loved venue. My second question for Chron Goblin would be “Why can I still see this show every time I blink?”
Éhagé, Converge – #1 Royal Canadian Legion
“Welcome to Blackfoot Territory” is the somewhat ominous opening that Éhagé uses to start all their sets, but said to the packed upstairs stage at the Legion, it felt communal. The relatively new band tore through a brief, but powerful set of hardcore to a crowd that seemed to embrace the band openly. Frontman Curtis Lefthand showed off a natural ability to stir up a crowd with his guttural howls and stage presence. In many ways, it seemed like the first of many milestones this band is sure to hit in their career.
The Legion was full of anticipation for legendary metalcore group Converge. They began their set with “Dark Horse,” but unfortunately the sharp guitar licks were lost. The sound gradually improved throughout their 50 minute set. Despite some lacklustre vocal moments, the band were a treat to watch in between songs, reminiscing about shaving each other’s heads as kids and laughing easily as they moved through their set. Arguably the best part of the show was their choice to play “Concubine” three times for an encore. Nice to see a heavy band with a sense of humour.
36?, Black Thunder, blue odeur, borscht, calgary bands, Calgary Beat, Calgary music, Central United Church, Chron Goblin, Converge, eschatons, Flying Lotus, Gender Poutine, Globe Cinema, Jock Tears, LAPS, leather jacuzzi, live coverage, live review, Local 510, motherhood, mujahedeen, Music Festival, music photography, nosferatu, Palace Theatre, Palomino, same/same, saxsyndrum, sheenah ko, Shooting Guns, Silver Apples, Sled Island, Sled Island 2017, Sloth Records, Wavves, Waxahatchee, Wint, Woodhawk, YYC