Sled Island Diaries: Part 1

Thursday, June 23:

There are likely countless variations, but the recipe for a good roadtrip always remains the same: cramped vehicle, scattered friends and acquaintances, stupidly hilarious jokes and at least one case of beer. Mix with a highway pointed squarely towards a wicked awesome rock festival and you pretty much have a winning formula.

The Sled Island festival, located in Calgary, Alberta, features over 200 artists and bands in more than 25 venues throughout the city. Among the big names, several Saskatchewan artists were sprinkled in the mix, including the CFCR Tubby Dog Showcase, which featured Shooting Guns, Foggy Notions, Feral Children and Friends Electric. Other acts included The Sheepdogs, Shuyler Jansen, Auld Beak, Slow Down Molasses and Library Voices.

In other words, if Calgary was suddenly buried under an avalanche of apocalypse and doom, half of Saskatoon’s indie rock scene would be wiped clean off the map.

Thankfully there was no doom, only very light precipitation.

Slow Down, Molasses
Slow Down, Molasses

The Slow Down Molasses show was at the Gateway for the CBC Radio 3 Showcase. Awesome – Lana Gay, radio host extraordinaire was on hand to make fun of us and turn boys into drooly messes. We turned out a surprisingly competent set – there was a fountain of whisky running pre-show in the van – and the venue treated everyone extremely well. Rococode were surprisingly decent, but what a terrible name. Sorry you didn’t pick a better moniker dudes. Library Voices also got shit bumping hard, which was an excellent precursor to heading downtown for dancing up a ferocious and terrifying storm to GOBBLE GOBBLE’s weirdo-glitch pop. I tell this to everyone anyway, but, seriously, come see this band before they start playing in front 20,000 people. Next we raced over to the Marquee Room for Justin Townes Earle. Bespectacled and be-dweebed, Earle put on such an amazing, awe-inspiring show that I had to sit down on the stage. This would turn out to be a bad idea.

Library Voices
Library Voices

At this point the evening becomes hazy. Someone shakes me off the stage and I realize everyone is gone. Crap. I am far too drunk but not too far-gone to know that it’s time to put a blanket on it. I stumble off into the night and start yo-yoing down several blocks before coming to the awesome conclusion that I am lost in downtown Calgary.

Here’s the thing about smartphones – they are viciously stupid in the hands of drunks, simpletons and ninnies. I start texting randomly in all directions before calling Amber in Saskatoon.

“Hey, a little help?”

“Uhm? Why are you calling ME?”

Oh yeah.

Eventually Drabble texts me the address of the hotel and, like a wandery toddler, I grope and stumble my way to bed.

I vaguely remember dreaming about shots of Jag and silly sexts.

Gobble Gobble
Gobble Gobble

Friday, June 24:

Ryan wanders in late the next noon o’clock with a stupid grin and an autographed poster of a stripper in hand.

“Guess what I did last night?”

Uhm, no.

After a hearty breakfast consisting of beer and veggie burgers – a combination that instantly smothers my precocious hangover but does nothing to cure it – we wander downstairs and catch the Mammoth Cave Records Showcase at Broken City, with The Gooeys, The Ketamines and The Topless Mongos. Every band rules in the most dirty rock and roll sort of way, and I fantasize about my other band, The Eyebats, getting to play with them all. I also get to meet Paul Lawton, a Ketamine and proprietor of Mammoth Cave. He is drunk on life and stoked about everything. Awesome!

Before we leave I learn that the original drummer of The Ketamines is in the hospital due to a stroke. For some reason this makes me inexorably sad despite the fact I have never met him. I silently wish him well and begin weighing my own health against the ridiculous choices that I make.

Shooting Guns
Shooting Guns

Next up, we hit Tubby Dogs for the CFCR Showcase. I am overwhelmed by a massive veggie dog, more beer, more poor decisions, and so many Saskatoon friends. Each band turns in an awesome set, but Shooting Guns in particular blow me away – during their performance I am forced to sit down and clutch my chest. Afterwards I smoke a cigarette that I am convinced will be my last.


We ride bikes down to the Olympic Plaza, a massive outdoor stage in the middle of downtown Calgary, just in time to catch the massive Bison BC. The Buzzcocks are up next and there is a surprising lack of people there. Shena from Vancouver wanders up and we drink silly lemonaid beers and giggle at hipsters whose parents were likely children during the ‘Cocks’ heyday. Ah well. We watch The Sword before Sleep take the stage. The highlight of their amazing set is watching the bros in Bison backstage high-fiving each other and crushing beers to what is no doubt their favourite stonery doom band. I envy them and their view and their access to free liquor.

Several confusing bikerides later, we eventually make our way to The Distillery for The SSRIs and Royal Canoe – I am severely nonplussed at this point and have little patience for anything that is not Electric Six. Not to say that these bands suck – I’m pretty sure I actually did say that to everyone within earshot – but I was fading fast, band-ed out and in need of some cocky dance rock.

Electric Six
Electric Six

Electric Six put me on my ass literally, much to the amusement of the girls standing next to me and the chagrin of the bouncer who must have been wicked jealous of my super awesome dance moves.

The night ends with another hot dog and I can feel my sodium levels spiking as I go to sleep. My limbs lay prostrate at my side but my heart, apparently taken with Electric Six, rumbles on suspiciously in dance.

This can’t be a good thing.

To be continued…

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