By Liam Prost, Christine Leonard, Jackie Klapak, Jamie McNamara, Paul McAleer, Brittany Rudyck, Arielle Lessard, Willow Grier
June 23rd, 2017
Foonyap – Palomino (Main Floor)
Foonyap at the Palomino was heavy for an afternoon show. A sobering and emotional performance complete with stylishly looped violin and a vocal performance that could charm the dead back to life. Seeing her at a quieter, darker venue most likely would have resulted in tears. An experience to seek out, to be sure, and a powerful start to Sled Island’s third day.
The Garrys, Man Meat – Tubby Dog
It’s almost impossible not to include a sweaty, packed afternoon at Tubby Dog during the Sled Island experience. When Saskatoon’s The Garrys and Man Meat are tossed into the mix, even more so. It was especially difficult to get into the clammy hot dog shop for The Garrys set, which still sounded amazing from outside. The Maier sisters are great at incorporating the perfect amount of grit into their surf inspired tunes. Making preppy music that isn’t too preppy is one of the bands’ strong points.
Man Meat exploded out the gate with t-shirt giveaways inspired by their favourite meats and other trivia questions. This resulted in a gentle “veganism” chant and a ferocious first song, soaking the crowd in a wall of heavy instrumentals. The rest of the set was angry yet dance-y with crispy, harsh vocals bouncing back and forth between guitarist Nicole Sanderson and bassist Amber Neal. When Chelsea Martin chimed in, it became even more aggressively amazing. Toss in a dance off between Neal and Feminal Fluids’ Samantha Mason and you’ve got yourself a party.
Pyramid//Indigo, Valiska, Mono – Central United Church
Is it possible for a set to be too quiet? Pyramid//Indigo sat on the floor of Central United Church with a keyboard, sampler, and guitar, and slowly amped up their ambient piano-driven experimental music into a hazy guitar-fueled noise. The set was so reserved, even the acoustic sound of the semi-hollow electric guitar was audible from the back of the room, and the occasional phone bleep from socially connected Sledders only added the atmosphere.
It feels a little strange to set up a DJ table where an alter would usually go, but Valiska fed us our daily bread voluminously with synth swells and vibrant drones. With a seated audience, his pained delivery as he looped his voice in circuitous clouds of falsetto became an intricate part of the set. It peaked and valleyed effectively, with enough off-set loops to add a broken quality to what might have leaned into camp.
Mono‘s set was the first time this BeatRoute writer has ever worn earplugs in a church, and that’s after growing up catholic. They came out to a dimly lit church, and powered through almost 70 minutes of high powered guitar-driven post-rock. Most of the band was seated, which was not massively conducive to sightlines. Regardless, they performed with vigour and masterful restraint.
Crescendos unfolded over the course of 7-10 minute tracks, often beginning with a clean guitar melody, and upending itself into a rhythmic breakout. The tracks mostly arced the same way, but it didn’t detract from the beautiful wall of noise. The audience could have fallen asleep admist the warm fuzz and sweaty church fumes.
Steal Shit Do Drugs, Deathsticks – Tubby Dog
A little rain and a whole lotta punk-rock were the perfect condiments for a late-night snack attack at Tubby Dog on Sled Island’s Friday. Things got pretty dog-gone crazy as Seattle’s reckless youth, Steal Shit Do Drugs, unleashed a barrage of fiery numbers that turned up the heat and emptied every seat. Brought to his knees by the intensity of the moment, tortured vocalist Kennedy Carda lived up to the band’s name by crashing through a battery of brusque, but stylish, smash-and-grab numbers; ensnaring the sweat and shower dampened audience’s affections in the process. Intermission called for onion rings the size of bagels and a post-show interrogation of the lead singer which may have involved the purchase of an Elvis T-shirt.
Next up at Tubb’s All-Ages Garage & Grill, the two-piece Deathsticks brought their bad influence to the venue’s arcade glow in quick order. A bash and pop entity of another kind, the outfit’s straight forward approach to blasting out powerful guitar-drum duet dirges was both enthusiastic and confident. A much-appreciated kick in the adrenaline glad, their spunky energy provided the acute hit of peer-pressure needed to push Sledders on into the depths of the evening. And the XL cuppa cola didn’t hurt either! Thanks, Peterborough Padawans, you’ve made us want to go home and think about our lives. Eventually.
Yoo Doo Right – Broken City (Patio)
For a band that takes their name from a notorious long jam of a song, Montreal’s Yoo Doo Right have a remarkably composed live set. Like the Can track that gave the four-piece their name, Yoo Doo Right have found a hazy niche that exists between monotonous krautrock and pulsing post-punk. Live, the group managed to bring tracks from their freshly-released EP2 into a performance with a impressive clarity and cohesion.
Hailu Mergia – King Eddy
Hailu Mergia attracted masses of people at the windows throughout his show. The legend of a man, posed with humour for a loving crowd and did what he does best, jumping from keyboard to accordion and back again.
He dove into a tradition he’s spent a life carving out and keeping alive. Backed by guitar and drums, his powerful songs saw a packed room of people jump to their feet and even sent the next generation, a young baby at the back of the room, to sleep to the fading rhythms of jazz funk.
Mauno, Un Blonde – Broken City
Mauno. What fun. These Halifax indie pals are having a time. Their squeaky-wheel, jangly guitar tunes had enough rhythmic interest to be nerdy, and enough pretty vocal melodies to be charming. The male-female vocal trade-off was effective and fun to watch. Their stage banter was a little janky, but that seems to be par for the course these days.
Un Blonde knows how to use negative space. Sitting on a chair, painstakingly deciding when to play the first note of the song, Un Blonde’s Jean-Sebastien Audet was a joy to watch. He even stood on a chair to play guitar, taking a good amount of time to find himself comfortable before leading a new song. The R&B styling, with heavy improvisation, some excellent keyboard playing and trumpet was one of the most listenable of the evening, although certainly among the most avante garde.
New Fries set up and tore down in a storm. The cacophonic sound, guttural noise, knocks and purposeful repetition got a whole line of dancers instinctually banging along. Reminiscent of No Wave, New Fries combines the best of chaos and sexy confidence. Spadafora walked the stage like a caged lion. Although the show seemed short and people disbanded with lots of remaining vigour, New Fries gave the audience a swift and powerful breakdown to takeaway.
Busdriver, DJ Quik – The Palace Theatre
Bringing his intelligent and experimental brand of art-rap to Calgary, Busdriver took to The Palace stage and showed the audience why he was one of Flying Lotus’ picks for the festival. For a single individual on the massive stage, it may have been overwhelming for some, but Busdriver’s animism and creativity kept the attention of the building Friday night crowd. Some fans remarked it would be the only hip-hop set they would see over the course of Sled, and if so, what a set to pick. The lyrical acrobat danced through his sonic repertoire, at one point shouting out FloLo, who himself was posted up on the main level to get a good look, gracefully shaking hands with and entertaining conversation with those who recognized him. As he ended his set, Busdriver seemed overcome with emotion, as were many who were afforded the privilege of being his set.
During Sled Island there’s always a point in the day when one must decide between taking a quick power nap and simply powering through. Powering through isn’t always the easy path, but just when it seems you’ll fall asleep at the Palace, DJ Quik pops on stage with his crew and totally redeems the day. The entire set was just like being at a house party with all of your best friends. Vibes were high, champagne was gratuitously sprayed into the crowd and it became truly impossible to stand still. A man named Seamus certainly stole everyone’s heart when he executed one of the most nonchalant crowd surfs possibly ever. Maintaining a relaxed, upright position while floating above the crowd, he was able to take a few full sips of his beer before landing. Of course, this feat was noticed by DJ Quik and the gang as they ensured he was on stage with them in a matter of seconds to be a momentary hype man. We took a moment of silence for the late Prodigy and continued to party within the safe confines of 1992 hip hop.
Look Vibrant, Once and Future Band – Ship & Anchor
Montreal’s Look Vibrant played a fantastic set, blurring the lines between pop, noise rock and a handful of other genres to create a cohesive identity. When the band informed the crowd they were going to play extra songs, there were no complaints. The last song, which was largely improvised yet still impressive, lasted for around 20 minutes past their set time. The band then informed the crowd the song was titled something along the lines of “The lead singer of the next band is halfway from the airport.”
After Once and Future Band finished setting up at 1:00 a.m., the prog/psych/allthegoodthings four-piece outfit wasted no time transporting the packed crowd on a journey, one that was infinitely more exciting than the trip from the airport to downtown Calgary. Sled curator Flying Lotus selected the band because they take elements from the past, such as Brian Wilson Pet Sound-era vocal performances and Pink Floyd instrumental sections taking the listener on a cosmic odyssey, but they innovate at every corner.
The band takes all familiar elements and expands on them through genuine creativity, incorporating jazzy bass lines, feverish drums, piercing vocals, or futuristic keys, often all at once. At the Ship & Anchor, each band member stole the show at certain points on each song, which often lasted for longer than seven minutes. The guys from Look Vibrant danced in the crowd, undoubtedly inspired and learning from their older counterparts. One song in their repertoire had the lead vocalist ask, “How does it make you feel?” The answer from the crowd ranged from euphoric to especially grateful that the singer made it from the airport.
Wilt, Wolves in the Throne Room – Dickens Pub
Sled Island’s inhabitants were primed and ready for another dose of heavy metal and that’s exactly what they received when Winnipeg’s Wilt took to the stage at Dickens on Friday night. Bathed in a bilious green light the Manitoban metalheads unleashed a monstrous yet technically excellent set that filled the room with palpable tension. Ball-of-your-feet riffs that rose and fell like acidic tidal waves washed over the crowd setting tympanic membranes and arteries aflutter. Moving monoliths and minds with their melding of fantastical and futuristic mores, Wilt exhibited an extraordinary sense of balance as they navigated through shadowy sonic forests without losing sight of the mountains looming on the horizon.
On the topic of communing with nature, elemental wizards Wolves in the Throne Room brought a little piece of Olympia, Washington to Sled Island. And then set it on fire. You know you’re in for a metal show that’s a slightly out of the ordinary when the performer’s pregame ritual involves 20 minutes of smudging the space with sage and cedar smoke. Mmmmm… you can really taste the earth!
That unfreshening accomplished, the deluxe version of the normally three-wolf pack, slowly eased into their organic doom ablutions. Accompanied by an additional guitarist, Peregrine Somerville (Sadhaka), and keyboardist, Brittany McConnell (Wolf Serpent), Wolves in the Throne Room’s already massive sound effectively expanded three-fold, enveloping the packed house in a cloud of artful aggression. A tapestry of tear-jerkingly beautiful reveries and throat-ripping onslaughts, their long and wandering songs pulled influences from throughout the heavy metal canon and bent them to their collective will. A flurry of flying fur and howling alpha-male vocals, the scope and scale of their reach would undoubtedly leave any would-be usurper no alternative but to turn tail and run.
Uniform – Palomino (Downstairs)
New York’s Uniform completely arrested the crowd at the Palomino. Their set was incredibly distorted with pummeling bass strong enough to massage every member of the audience’s internal organs. The noise duo didn’t verbally interact with the crowd, instead choosing to make severe eye contact coupled with intense crowd penetration. One of the most mesmerizing and deeply satisfying sets of the festival thus far.
Duotang, Shonen Knife – #1 Royal Canadian Legion
Returning in 2014 after a 13 year hiatus, the amiable fuzz rock duo of Duotang instantly drew the crowd to the front of the quickly packed Legion, and performed like they hadn’t ever stopped. Dressed in collared shirts and dress pants the two played the kind of garage rock nostalgic to the late ’90s, but with a modern indie rock punch. Playing songs mostly from their newest album, the two put on a captivating scene track after track, each song proving to be different from the last. With tangy bass riffs, distorted tones, and drum tracks filled with rim clicks, cymbal crashes and heavy snare hits, the diversity between every number had the crowd moving and staying till the end.
In between every song was comedic and humble banter. The two smart-witted band mates made cracks at each other while honouring those sharing the stage with them later that night. Clear that the two of them had been working together since the beginning, laughs were shared onstage and with the crowd. Every lively comeback made at each each other, mixed with the dynamic song structures, created an all around active and eye capturing performance. The easy-to-love duo and captivating sound made unique to them by various loops, riffs and keyboard, brought smiles among the room and an exciting start to a night full of novelty acts.
It seemed impossible to get into the highly anticipated Shonen Knife set at the Legion, but with some patience, there we were, standing before the smiling trio, bouncing together. The last half of their set was as joyful as one would imagine, encouraging sushi sing alongs and helping us forget the fatigue of the day. Since Friday seemed to be about graceful crowd surfing, it seemed completely appropriate to see fellow Sled performer Marlaena Moore casually levitating above the audience with her hands clasped behind her head, at home within the sea of lovable pop-punk.
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