By Brittany Rudyck, Gareth Watkins, Christine Leonard, Jodi Brak, Jackie Klapak, Arielle Lessard, Jamie McNamara, Liam Prost, Keeghan Rouleau
June 24th, 2017
Rock ‘n’ Roller Derby – Max Bell Arena
Punk rock and roller derby is the power couple that is long overdue. The daring sport built on grit and spunk pairs perfectly with the genre that’s created from the same ingredients. And while it wasn’t the perfect blend of Whip It meets The Ramones, the organization that brings us Punk Rock Axe Throwing and Bowling laid down a solid foundation for a promising style of event. Just off the main Sled route the blended sounds of Heart Beach, Dead Fibers, Mad Ones, and Black Thunder roused the crowd to delight and pleasant surprise. The indie rock sounds of Heart Beach moved through the stadium longingly, with catchy choruses, and grounded bass blending harmoniously with the melancholic guitar that echoed throughout. Just after was the growl and distortion of Dead Fibers. Their constantly changing tempos and various vocal transformations created the avant-garde psych-punk sound signature to them, and wowed the crowd with every differing song and scream. Following were the infectious sounds of Mad Ones. Classic rock and roll charisma and dual guitar power driving them, the trio played their hearts out to everyone in front of the stage and in the arena seats surrounding them. Closing off the afternoon was Black Thunder who got the kids in the crowd head banging, showcasing a truly an all ages event. Families with kids as little as five years old enjoyed the afternoon. Every race and band bound the varied audience together in a way only the power of rock and roll can.
Melted Mirror, IGLOOGHOST, I M U R – Sled Island Block Party
Another year, another party sprawling across Inglewood. Hundreds of people flocked to the outdoor event which thankfully was held on the sunniest day of the festival. The dull thumping of up-tempo dance beats could be heard from blocks away as sounds of the party drifted across the Inglewood bridge, providing a teaser of the good times that awaited partygoers just a few blocks away.
The dancefloor was moving all afternoon as DJ’s kept the music going between sets from Jimmy Edgar, Ardalan, Seven Davis Jr, IGLOOGHOST, I M U R, Lou Phelps, Physical Copies, Sitstill and Melted Mirror. The whole thing was curated by the Hifi Club, with many of the acts going on to perform at Hifi later in the evening. The Big Rock beer gardens kept thirsty folks in good spirits, and there was a steady stream of people checking out the good times throughout the afternoon. All things considered, a pretty solid way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the sun.
Summering, Mitchmatic – Local 510 (Parking Lot)
Alberta ex-pats, Summering played their annual sweaty show at Local 510 Saturday afternoon to a packed audience. The indie rock darlings had inklings of alt-country sounds in their quieter moments, as vocalist/guitarist Paul Stewart sweetly cooed at the crowd. Bassist Ryan Bekolay let the cat out of the bag before their set that it had been about 10 months since their last show, which wasn’t obvious in their performance. Sleepy, casual and easy going. A nice ease into Saturday.
Edmonton’s Mitchmatic played a breezy set in the parking lot complete with his endearing blend of shy stage banter and incredibly confident verses held together by flamboyant keys. Slick saxophone with quirky bells and whistles, Mitch performed one of his last Alberta sets before moving out east to Montreal, to the dismay of his Albertan fan-base.
Tierra Whack, A.Y.E. & The Extraordinary Gentleman – Broken City
Flying Lotus pick Tierra Whack is an undeniable force of nature. She talks too fast, and has the stage presence of a magnate. Her take-no-shit disposition, pure heart and intense perk is a hot flavour. Combined with her unadulterated fire for the stage, she lit up a small crowd at 8:30pm before she headed to the Palace to be thrown on stage with FlyLo to rev and wrap up the night.
A.Y.E. & The Extraordinary Gentleman played a silken, inspiring set that paid homage to the difficulties faced by vulnerable populations. Always hopeful, his lyrics focused on encouragement and self-fulfilment. A man of many talents, Hutson weaved in some keyboards to accompany his band during the intimate, mindful show.
Sled Island Comedy – Nite Owl (Library)
Opener and MC Carina Morton had the palpable task of warming up the Sled Island audience for an onslaught of dirty jokes, hitting with a particularly crass bit about caloric value of semen going down (no pun intended).
Second act Bobby Warrener decides to have some fun with the audience with a series of R-rated tales of autocorrect substituting ‘pizza’ for ‘pussy’ and getting so high he spent forty-five minutes in the passenger seat of his own car before calling Uber to complain.
Nour Hadidi hit us with a stand-up staple, of her parents’ reaction to her career choice (spoiler: they don’t approve). Her bit on Trump’s Muslim ban aimed for laughs instead of enlightenment, and worked all the better for it
Marty Topps, who strided onstage in a leotard that left very little to the imagination, serenaded us with three keytar-funk songs about having sex with dolphins.
Tranna Wintour is a caustic ball of spite in impractical heels and we loved her. Like Nour Hadidi, she balances woke-ness with humour, peppering it with venomous commentary on straight men and various celebrities, leading to one of the night’s most shocking revelations: Wintour sat behind Sarah Jessica Parker at a Broadway show and the Sex In The City star took one stick of a Kit-Kat bar and put the rest back in her purse for later. Who does that?
Headliner Levi MacDougall is a Calgarian who has won multiple Canadian Comedy Awards and who now writes for Conan O’Brien. His act isn’t exactly a stream of jokes so much as individual dispatches from another world, in which the reason that you ‘always’ see swiss cheese floating in rivers is that Navy SEALs are hiding beneath it, using the holes to breathe. On the page it sounds like nonsense, but with MacDougall’s deadpan delivery behind them his riffs and digressions are sublime.
Glaux, Smokes, Tyvek – Nite Owl (Library)
Three quarters of opening band Glaux (pronounced like ‘Glow’) used to be in Dream Whip, and they are enthusiastically continuing their ex-band’s lo-fi guitar pop. This was on of their first performances, so things could use a little fine tuning, but the ingredients are all present and they’ve got charm to spare, so look out for them in the future.
With each new song, Montreal’s Smokes break out of whatever pigeon hole you stuffed them in during the last one. You could tell us that their opening number was post-metal and we would have believed you, but then the next song sounded like fellow Montreal anglophones Ought, then The Horrors from their second album onwards. Perhaps on record the micro-genre hopping would wear out its welcome, but live, buoyed by the band’s own quirky energy, it really works.
Tyvek have been around since the members of the previous two bands were in middle school, yet frontman and lynchpin Kevin Boyers still has the energy to pogo until his head almost hit the Nite Owl Library’s ceiling. Dozens of musicians have filled out his band over the years, but those playing on Saturday of Sled Island played like they’d been jamming together since they were kids. They perform garage-punk the way it’s meant to: loud and fast. But there’s nothing by-the-numbers about it, like Levi MacDougall earlier in the evening, it’s the execution that makes all the difference. If they weren’t such tight musicians, if the songwriting wasn’t so spot-on, if they had bought less energy to a sparsely-attended midnight show, then none of this would have worked, but they’re great musicians who write great songs and play the hell out of them, so it works.
FOONYAP, ANAMAI, Thor & Friends – Studio Bell (Performance Hall)
The National Music Centre gave weary Sledders a soft place to land on Saturday night as Calgary’s last empress, FOONYAP, held court in the impressive Studio Bell Performance Hall with its rich wood paneling, royal blue upholstery and unmistakable new car smell. Do you hear that? It’s the world’s tiniest violin and FOONYAP is playing it just for you! Holding the audience’s rapt attention, the meticulous soloist accompanied herself on violin and mando-guitar, layering tones and tempos using loops and samples she cleverly recorded on the spot. Vocals that echoed traditional Chinese opera and then shifted to coquettish French poetry lent a quavering beauty to an esoteric and minimalist pre-swan song.
The second act of the evening was the Torontonian two-piece ANAMAI. Made up of Anna Mayberry (HSY) and David Psutka (Egyptrixx), ANAMAI kept the lights down low as their rumble and reverb filled shoegaze soundscapes rolled across the floor like so much mist and fog. The wetness of the room’s acoustics, as FOONYAP put it, effectively captured and amplified the nautical qualities of duo’s lovelorn laments. Captain Mayberry’s guitar took on the role of bass as Psutka’s watery rhythms rode her wake through unexpected melodies and nonlinear lyrical structures that followed their own starry charts.
Proof that Sled Island really is the Lady Byng trophy winner of festivals, Saturday’s nicest concert, Thor & Friends, attracted some of Sled’s heaviest hitters to attend. A mixed-bag of pass holders and pack samplers arrived throughout the night in anticipation of Thor Harris’ return to the Island. Known for his percussive contributions to Swans and Ben Frost, the multi-instrumentalist welcomed some eight “friends” to join him for a polyphonic spree. Settling gratefully into the theatre’s padded seats, the crowd, who’d aged a decade since Tuesday, enjoyed a pleasantly light and airy marimba and xylophone set that was entirely on point for the interpretive museum’s environment.
Furry shoulder-to-shoulder, a fedora-topped Thor encouraged his band members to join him in an exercise in visual, if not musical diversity. At times Thor switched to clarinet as the rag-tag ensemble functioned through a series of similar-sounding plinko symphonies, which benefitted mightily from the addition of strings by FOONYAP and stand-up bassist Aaron. There was also a stunning interpretive dancer in a reductive hospital gown, for those who required a kinetic translation. The rest of the ensemble included a French horn player and two unamplified individuals, who’s contributions were entirely lost in the subterfuge of bow swings and Korged-up key strikes. Backed by a bucolic video montage of fields and forests, birds and bees, Thor & Friends worked up a happy-go-plucky nine-person hum that rose through the NMC’s nine interlocking towers like a warm summer breeze.
Common Holly, Land of Talk – King Eddy
Common Holly showed the audiences of the King Eddy an incredible artistic talent, and a deep personal side as well. Singing songs that speak to unnamed acquaintances, she kept the gatherers attention through every word. The perfect mix of folk-like guitar and heavier garage sounding drums was easy listening enough to not overwhelm the crowd, yet interesting enough not to lose her incredible charm.
Slowly filling up as the three openers played, the King Eddy was growing in anticipation. By the time Land of Talk made their way to the stage, the fans were animated in expectancy for what they knew was coming. Playing some classic songs of theirs, and some newer hits, Elizabeth Powell and her posse took complete advantage of this excitement, utterly letting loose on stage. Playing instrumental tangents mid song, moving and dancing as wildly as the instruments they played, and even controlling the lighting to match the mood they expressed, the band took outright control of the vibe in the small venue. The support and excitement of the fans was so uproariously inspiring, that even after their still reverberating rock ballad finale, to the sound of wondrous applause, Land of Talk fought back the fatigue that comes from a midnight performance to play an epic encore.
Having earned a loyal fan base, Land of Talk deserved the full house they received, and understanding the responsibility that brings, they put on a dynamic performance that will be remembered until they undoubtedly will one-up themselves, and blow us all out of the water yet again.
Hood Joplin, IGLOOGHOST, Flying Lotus – The Palace Theatre
When it was originally announced that this year’s guest curator at Sled Island would be Flying Lotus, it seemed like an all too perfect fit. The Brainfeeder boss excels at the kind of left-field electronic music that often flourishes at Sled Island, but still, when it came time for FlyLo to play himself, I don’t think anyone imagined it being just as good as it was. The night began with what is probably the biggest show to date for Edmonton footwork maven Hood Joplin. Fresh off the release of her debut album, HoodJop played a jubilant set of juke and footwork music that has been making Edmonton a hub for forward-thinking producers as of late. It’s a testament to HoodJop, that what started out as a sparse dancefloor ended with a crowded mass of smiles and dancefloor flexing.
Up after was Flying Lotus’ own protege in young Brainfeeder rookie IGLOOGHOST. The producer from Dorset, UK brought his own take on the Brainfeeder style, dropping clanging Drum and Bass tracks that meshed flawlessly with the abrasive, subwoofer assault that was yet to come.
When FlyLo took the stage to a packed Palace Theatre, it seemed like a game-changing moment for Sled Island itself. Protected by a thin mesh screen, and surrounded by a kaleidoscopic visual projections, the producer stunned from beginning to end, running through a wide array of songs off of his last album You’re Dead!, before delivering a masterclass in how to make an electronic music performance engaging. The producer dropped edits of pop-rap like Travis Scott’s “Antidote,” before ultimately picking up the mic himself and performing a song as Captain Murphy, his weirdo-rap pseudonym.
To describe the visuals as stunning does them a huge disservice as they artfully took us through mystical fractals, thought provoking and sometimes slightly disturbing images. The stage design afforded so much freedom throughout the set, as the legendary artist floated out from behind the light canvas screen to spit verses, give Patron to the crowd and beam his radiant smile at each enchanted onlooker.
Only then did he slip back behind the canvas to be illuminated by his undeniably talented visual crew. We were led through cuts from 2010’s Cosmogramma, the villain’s theme from Final Fantasy Seven, Aphex Twin mixes and many other delights. We were even treated a taste of his notoriously ‘disgusting’ film, which is to be released July 21st. It certainly looked intriguing. FlyLo’s growing affinity for the audience was very apparent, as he spread love for Sled Island and us “weirdos” in the crowd, who cheered so hard for him you could kind of tell he was blushing, even from his set up behind the canvas.
As the night progressed, FlyLo used his time to shine a light on some of the acts he brought with him to Sled Island, including Philadelphia rapper Tierra Whack who performed a track as FlyLo passed out tequila shots to anyone who was willing to take them. If choosing Flying Lotus as guest curator for Sled Island 2017 was a gamble by festival organizers, Saturday night was proof that winning the jackpot isn’t an unobtainable fantasy.
Daughters – Dickens Pub
Post FlyLo, seeing Daughters at Dickens was a true night and day experience. Having heard about the aggressive noise bands’ lewd on stage antics, sometimes it’s still hard to be prepared to witness someone drool all over themselves for the sake of a performance. Is it different when it’s blood? Probably not. The set was unexpectedly bro-y, but had moments of brilliance in well constructed and out of place guitar parts which begged the question, “how do they write this stuff?” The drummer’s footwork was undoubtedly impressive. That double kick felt like quick jabs to the gut which balanced singer Alexis S.F. Marshall’s often hollow and apathetic vocals. The best part of this set was checking out the merch booth, where we found a bag of strawberries, a banana with several things carved into it and a blurry note written on a napkin which read, “Abandoned for the time being. Will be back. Do not fuck with this shit, I swear to God. I can rip a man apart. You don’t know me.” After witnessing the wickedness captured within their set, there were no doubts as to the validity of this claim.
(BR)A.Y.E. & The Extraodinary Gentleman, ANAMAI, ardalan, arts and culture, Black Thunder, bobby warrener, Broken City, Calgary, carina morton, comedy, common holly, Daughters, dead fibers, Dickens Pub, Dream Whip, Flying Lotus, flylo, FOONYAP, Glaux, Heart Beach, Hood Joplin, I M U R, IGLOOGHOST, Inglewood, jimmy edgar, King Eddy, Land of Talk, Levi MacDougall, live music, Local 510, lou phelps, mad ones, major minor, marty topps, max bell arena, Melted Mirror, Mitchmatic, Music Festival, National Music Centre, Nite Owl, nmc, Nour hadidi, Physical Copies, rock 'n' roller derby, seld island comedy, SEVEN DAVIS JR, Sitstill, Sled Island, Sled Island 2017, smokes, Studio Bell, Summering, Thor & Friends, TIERRA WHACK, tranna wintour, Tyvek, YYC