Saturday, June 25:
Woke up to gross grey skies and a feeling of a very specific malaise. I feel like a wet sack of crap. The hotel looks completely trashed at this point – empty liquor bottles litter the floor along with t-shirts with the sleeves ripped off and various, half-naked boys. It’s a total rock disaster that’s made far much tamer by the fact that we are, in all likelihood, just sort of slobs.
Weekend warrior-ing notwithstanding, my body seems to have shut down. Telltale bruises line my waist from pushing through the crowd to the front of the stage. My throat is shot from horse-screaming over rock guitars. And my stomach, arms and heart all form a map of self-abuse. Ugh.
One more day of non-stop fun at Sled Island, I tell myself. One more freakishly awesome day.
We head to the Palomino for the Saved By Vinyl BBQ. Tellingly, Calgary is a friendly, beef-eating town – the vegetarians have been herded up and boiled down for the sticky BBQ sauce that covers the ribs, which promptly disappear down several hundred gullets. I feel nauseous, but am temporarily relieved by a specifically raucous set by C’Mon, who mock the crowd for their droopy-eyedness and suspect morning breath. Ian Blurton climbs on a table, solos madly to the delight of dozens of cellphone cameras, and then drops to the floor while picking at the remains of plates left behind. I think I can see corn in his teeth. Camp Radio take the stage next and I opt to sit in the sun and try to reconstitute my humanity while listening from the patio.
The Olympic Plaza now boasts more in attendance due to an indie rock-heavy line-up. The Raveonettes blister through a scorching set despite a missing member. Having just recently seen Mr. Chad VanGaalen at NXNE, I opt instead to catch Deadhorse back at the Palomino. Slow Down Molasses once opened for this six-piece in Calgary a few months back. I thought they were awesome despite being wholly confused to their Zappa-meets-every-folk-band-from-the-70s. Not really something I would normally dig, but I am typically blown away by bands who are completely committed to their sound and look like they are having fun doing it. Plus I remember them being really nice and that helps a lot.
I return to the Olympic Plaza with a heavy heart and some decidedly un-rock and roll feelings. I want to flop down on a bed and watch stupid cartoons. I start to miss my home, but I don’t know where that is anymore. It used to be Montreal, but we sold everything in handshake deals and weepy kisses goodbye. Can’t go back now.
Can’t go back now – Minus the Bear take the stage and I am reminded why I am at Sled Island and not laying prostrate in a filthy-assed hotel room. But despite lofty expectations, I am similarly confused with the post-dad rockers before me, punching out notes in a job-like fashion. Maybe I don’t like Minus the Bear anymore…
Ryan eventually surfaces out of the throngs of people hoarding the prime real estate at the front of the stage. He shows me his photo pass, which allows him access to the pit directly in front of the band.
“Dude, where’s my pass?” I demand.
He points to a tent where we get our press passes. Why didn’t I notice this earlier?
After administering my pass to my shirt, I ask the stage manager what exactly I have access to.
She points backstage. Why didn’t I notice this earlier?
Exactly five minutes later I have a free beer in one hand, free whisky in the other, and am grinning wildly through a mouthful of free cheese. I wave to my friends who have gathered at the front of the stage to catch The Dandy Warhols. Some of them smile knowingly, a few shake their heads and one gives me the finger. I swallow my boozy drinks and head back to the artists’ and VIP area. Some girl throws a drink at Chad VanGaalen’s face, Minus the Bear are toweling off their dad jeans and the Raveonettes slink about uncomfortably in the sun. My heart begins to beat a little faster, resulting in a smile and un-stiffened joints. I’m momentarily back from the dead baby.
The Dandy Warhols sound okay from backstage, but I’ve never seen what all the fuss was about. I would learn later that a lot of people thought they phoned it in. Of Montreal, at this point, are hilariously milling around in bathrobes. It’s hot out, and several other bands make disparaging comments and snicker behind their back.
This is too bad because Of Montreal play an amazing set filled with plenty of whimsical theatre, masked luchadores, mid-set costume changes and balloons. I get to watch the entire thing from backstage, convinced this is the most fun I will ever have.
After piling a few extra beers into my pocket, we stream out onto the streets on now-precarious bikes. A few blocks down we head into Vern’s for the end of the Bare Wires’ set. Up next are Cheeseburger, a band whose album I have listened to endlessly but have yet to see live. The lead singer looks like a young, less-gross but no less-cheesy Ron Jeremy. They rip through their set and I sing along to every song. Ron Cheeseburger puts his arm around me and we sing together into the mic. I am now convinced that this is the most fun I will ever have. There are only 20 or so people in the venue and I have just got to sing with one of my favourite bands. My heart glows fiercely and I am convinced I have finally done the right thing healthwise – a nap in the hotel might have killed me.
After meeting with the band, we rip back down to the Legion to catch Wild Flag, who are about to become my new favourite band. Boasting two ex-members of the late, great Sleater Kinney, Wild Flag tear through song after song of lady rock that cuts the throat and punches the crotch. Ouch, but what an end to the night and the festival.
I vaguely remember succumbing to sleep once again, but wish that I could forget the silent appeal I mouthed that I would still be alive when I woke up.
Sled Island was heaven – I pray I will one day get to reenter.