The Music Festivals are coming! The Sled Island will survive.

Sideview of crowd with Calgary Tower and buildings in background
This image is apparently about Crystal Sujata, though frankly it seems to be more about Sled Island itself. Photo courtesy of Sled Island.

It’s hard to say what the Flood Island of 2013 taught the organizers of Sled Island, but at least this year the river’s not rising at such an alarming rate. But the musicians ARE ARRIVING at an alarming rate! ‘Cause, though the Island officially kicks off on the 24th, true to their form they’ve got events starting before that and continuing on through the weekend.

If you haven’t experienced the musical all-you-can-eat that Sled Island offers, let’s look at ONE venue on this ONE day to give a sense of the variety and content of 2015’s Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.

On this pre-opening day, at the Commonwealth Bar and Stage (731-10 Ave. SW), there’s a buffet of musicians from coast to continental coast: soloists, duos, bands and those undefined in-betweens. The Commonwealth, formerly The Warehouse if you’re that old, has separate up and downstairs stages, with their own bars and even a little dance space if you’re keen. The House Manager mentions that the top floor is for larger acts, while the basement is a bit more intimate. Be heartened by the fact that, of the 8 bands playing the venue Tuesday night (smorgasbord!!), half of them are Calgary’s own! Surprise Surprise! Their size and style, though, clumps 3 of them to the basement stage, “More suited to acoustic performances”, he says as an example.

Starting around 8:30 p.m., on the upstairs stage, Sled is presenting: Shaani Cage (Calgary); Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche (Montreal); Cousins (Halifax); and The Courtneys (Vancouver). With descriptions (in order of appearance) such as: “future soul duo”; “danceable mashup of funk, electronica and krautrock”; “psych, pop and punk”; and “sun-drenched, Flying Nun-influenced pop”. Having met most of the requirements of the Canada Food Guide for a balanced musical diet. There’s Still MORE!

Audience view of young woman with guitar and microphone
“sun-drenched, Flying Nun-influenced pop”: The Courtneys! Photo by Caitlind Brown.

Gracing the smaller, downstairs stage will be Calgary’s Brushsigns, Prepared, and Orthicon, with Portland’s Genders in the 2nd last spot. Sled describes this subterranean crowd as: “lovely, lilting pop jams”; “local hardcore veterans”; and “a deftly honed aesthetic”. These local flavours are broken up by the visiting “psychedelic, surf-infused music” from our American guest.

And for the Sled newcomer, it’s important to notice that all of these bands, like most Sled Island participants, perform several times during the Music Festival, all of which can be ascertained with the excellent Sled Island Schedule page. And that’s not even considering the ‘Arts’ part, or the comedy, film, or Sled Island Wrap-Up Karaoke!.

Bust shot of several peoples' faces on one body.
Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche is a “danceable mashup of funk, electronica and krautrock”, apparently. Image courtesy of Sled Island.

There’s one unfortunate reality, though. There’s no island, unless a creative individual sets one up in the Olympic Plaza pool during the Saturday performances.

Miesha of the Spanks, during our 2013 conversation, mentioned that one advantage Calgary’s music festival had over those eastern behemoths like NXNE, was one’s ability to see most of what will be occurring during the 5 days, with just a bicycle and a strong desire. Given the participation in excess of 250 acts in 30 or more venues, it strikes me that one would have to be living the rock ’n roll lifestyle to hope to achieve such efficiency. Which, of course, Miesha is.

For the rest of you mortals, take comfort in the knowledge that several artist I’ve interviewed have commented on the uniqueness and fairness of the programming, giving performers of all shapes and sizes (and their audience) access to a wide variety of opportunity for new discoveries, new combinations, and, Happy Happy Joy Joy, New music!

Remember also: No (Wo)Man is an Island: it’s a group effort. B-)

Posted by Allen Thai

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.