Ominocity contributor witnesses Andrew W.K. carnage at Sled Island
Editor’s Note – The following is Part 2 of our Sled Island Diaries. This particular passage was contributed by Dana “The Hulk “Durell. Thanks pal! Be sure to check out Part 1 contributed by A. Soulz.
Sometimes you need to pile into some cars with ten or twenty of your friends and drive to Calgary to drink way too much beer and be sketchy in classy hotels.
Sled Island technically starts on Tuesday, but that’s a locals-only perk if you’re trying to lead a life at least resembling a responsible adult with obligations and a job. Not to mention most of us were still exhausted from Saskatoon’s MoSofest the weekend prior.
Early on I realized that I would need to come to terms with missing things – this was a vacation, I didn’t want to be stressed out about having to be somewhere at a specific time more than I needed to be. There were hot tubs for drinking wine in and steam rooms for curing hangovers. There was deliciously unhealthy food to eat (bacon wrapped boar sausages!) and hotel beers to drink. I had a few circles on my schedule (Thurston Moore, Ladyhawk, Tim Heidecker, The Hold Steady) but I was not in a “If I miss these particular things my weekend will be RUINED” frame of mind.
One of the nice thing about music festivals like Sled is that there’s always something going on (even if that thing isn’t always music.)
Day 1 – Thursday, June 21
While we didn’t arrive early enough to be served hot dogs by Canadian legend B.A. Johnston, we were in time to see Saskatoon friends Haunted Souls kill it to a crowd of people who had. The Area is an interesting venue; the building itself is 120 years old and is surrounded by agricultural plots, a firepit, and a pizza stove. B.A. Johnston thanked Sled Island for putting him in the “death shed” – the crowd knew every word to his songs.
Hot dog-less and road-weary, we biked downtown and met some more friends for supper. This is another thing about Sled Island – there are friends everywhere! Every year more people from Saskatoon show up, increasing your odds of seeing a familiar face.
The Evaporators were another bicycle ride across town. I quickly befriended someone at the show by becoming the second person to dance at it. Andrew W.K. showed up halfway through the show and played keyboard with them to the delight of everyone and their Instagram feeds. Nardwuar ended the show with a rad stunt where he played his keyboard while crowdsurfing after dedicating the show to Michael Jackson.
The ever amazing Sadies closed out the night at the Legion #1. I never tire of seeing them, but I was tired that night so I went to bed a little early. This is one of the things two festivals in a row will get you.
Day 2 – Friday, June 22
The CFCR / Planet S Showcase at Tubby Dog the next day wasn’t to be missed – $5 for a Tubby Dog and a beer is a great deal. Some of Saskatoon’s finest were there, too, a perfect distraction to allow you to eat the mess that is a Tubby Dog in peace. Foam Lake, Jeans Boots, Haunted Souls, and Castle River were at bat for our fine city, and it warms my heart to know that Saskatoon could have had that place going with great music all damn day if we needed to, if not all weekend.
A secret show is code for “Ask around a bit to find out who’s playing”
Since a secret show is code for “Ask around a bit to find out who’s playing” and some mild sleuthing let us know that Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet were playing that afternoon at Broken City as a part of the Mammoth Cave Records showcase. Too many hotel beers later we got there to find a line that only moved as fast as we could convince people ahead of us to bail talking loudly about how hopeless getting in was. “Did you hear about the $5 hot dog and beer deal at Tubby Dog?” (This worked surprisingly well, to a point. We eventually gave up ourselves, though, so we can’t take too much credit there.)
YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN are weird rock band from Montreal that I’d heard a lot about and were playing at the impressively regal Theatre Junction that night. The two singers came out and encircled the stage in a dragon costume before joining the rest of the band in a blistering, precise performance. Thurston Moore followed them with a funny, energetic set full of masterful guitar riffs and surprisingly playful jabs at his band or his audience or himself when he forgot the chords to a song or which guitar he was even supposed to be playing. Both were a weekend highlights for sure.
Another band that I spent all weekend hearing about was Boris. The answer to “What shows are you going to tonight?” was Boris about ¾ of time, although not everyone was always able to explain why. I lucked my way into their Distillery show (apparently if I had showed up ten minutes earlier I would have found a line down the block) and caught what I thought was the entire show but what I guess was only the last forty minutes of an hour and a half long set. I’m told these guys are metal gods in Japan and it’s easy to see why.
Day 3 – Saturday, June 23
After a free breakfast courtesy of Saved by Vinyl at the Palamino, featuring Jon McKiel and Foam Lake, we biked across the city to catch unofficial sets by Mosofest pals Parish of Little Clifton and Teen Daze at the Market Collective. It was a weird scene; the music was turned down as loud as possible to enable the market vendors to talk to their customers, meaning Oh No! Yoko hadn’t been allowed to play earlier in the afternoon. The guys played terrific sets, including Teen Daze doing some singing for the only time on their tour.
Two of the greasiest slices of pizza in my life later we headed back into downtown Calgary. Word from some friends was that the comedy venue was again incredibly busy and we had absolutely no hope of getting in. Not getting to see people like Todd Barry, Tim Heidecker, and Neil Hamburger do their thing was a bit of a bummer, but it was nothing some hotel beers and Stephen Malkmus and the Hold Steady couldn’t fix. Playing to a likely disappointing and wet crowd in Olympic Plaza, both bands were appreciative and put on great shows. The Hold Steady played their hearts out, as usual. Craig Finn must have marriage proposals up to his proudly chromed dome by now.
Has it come across that wristbands really are worth it at festivals like this?
If there was ever an “Oh shit go GO” moment, it was after the Hold Steady finished and everyone realized simultaneously that there would be no encore due to pesky noise bylaws. That and Ladyhawk was about to go on in the basement of the Palamino. We got there just in time to slip in with our wristbands, and it’s worth noting that this is the only reason we got in – the show was full enough that paying at the door wasn’t an option.
The basement was a sweaty mess after the Teen Daze dance party and continued to be through Ladyhawk’s heart-wrenching set. They promised us they’d have a new album out soon and if they deliver something half as good as what they played that night it will be amazing. As Rich Taylor later pointed out, “That Ladyhawk show was life changing.”
Andrew W.K.’s party house, the final show of the festival, was happening across the street at Calgary’s Legion #1. We’d left the Palamino with an elaborately pointless plan for getting in since we just walked in the front door with our wristbands. Has it come across that wristbands really are worth it at festivals like this? Andrew W.K.’s wife Cherie Lily was on stage doing a dance act by this point, “by popular demand.” This was misleading at first glance, since most of the crowd seemed restless to party with a man in a white shirt.
Restless they were – by the time he did take the stage everyone completely lost it. By the end of the first song twenty people were on stage, by the end of the third they’d doubled that. By the fourth I decided the only way to make the most of the situation was to join the mosh pit and then get to the stage, where people started crowd surfing down to the people packed in front of them. At some point a festival organizer appeared onstage to plead with the crowd to party slightly less hard, since people were being cut up and the show was in danger of being shut down, but this wasn’t the kind of thing you can stop with words.
No one I talked to could confirm what happened with any certainty, but the general consensus seemed to be that some people didn’t quite make the trip from stage crowd surfing to floor crowd surfing and may have been seriously injured (this is at least a twelve to fifteen foot drop.). The lights came on immediately and the show was over. Dummies chanted “Bullshit!” for a few seconds, wanting the carnage to continue for some reason.
It was totally out of control and an unfortunate way for a great weekend to end. Luckily mine didn’t technically end until the next morning, with a steam and a hot tub with friends, the way weekends are meant to end.