Sled Island 2014 review: Total redemption fest

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Sled Island taught me that there is no elegant way to eat a hotdog

Where to start. Sled Island fucking ruled this year. Not only was it a badass line-up full of super rad bands but it was a total redemption fest. Last year I drove up on the Thursday night and watched approximately 1.5 bands at the Ship and Anchor before the lights were turned on and it was announced that all of downtown Calgary was being evacuated. I did however get to spend the rest of the night watching The Bitterweed Draw play in a living room by candlelight.

Short list of things Sled Island 2014 taught me:

  • When I was nine-years-old I wasn’t as cool as I could have been
  • Mission of Burma are incredibly nice dudes
  • There is no elegant way to eat a hotdog
  • I can still cry in public despite being an emotional runt and be completely okay with it
  • Umbrellas are a festival staple
  • Calgary city blocks look a lot smaller on maps

Wednesday:

First things first, we went to Tubby Dog. Mostly because I wanted a redemption hotdog from my dog block last year, but also because we heard a band containing mostly teenagers was playing. The Basement Demons, consisting of members ranging from nine to 19 years of age, pretty much played music unlike anything I have ever heard before. They were badass and stampy unlike me when I was nine. It was the nine-year-old’s birthday and the mom was selling their EP on cassette. (When I was nine-years-old I wasn’t as cool as I could have been). We stuck around for Tee-Tahs before heading to the Commonwealth to watch Freak Heat Waves and Disappears who both played captivating bizarro guitar noises that kept me both interested and unable to actually move my feet. Then we ran through the rain to catch the last bit of Quaker Parents and PS I Love You before admitting that maybe we were a tad tired and rained-out and in need of late night pizza.

Freak Heat Waves at Sled Island

Freak Heat Waves at Sled Island

Disappears at Sled Island

Disappears at Sled Island

Thursday:

Sadly still raining, but only in small bursts. We decided to head to the Legion for soundcheck instead of trying to catch any shows. Soundcheck was around 6:30, so instead of being late we headed there at 6:20. The building was empty except for a few people in the lower level setting up. We were told we were playing upstairs and that someone should be along shortly. Sound guy Steve showed up around 7:30 and laughed at us for being keeners and commented that most bands wouldn’t show up until 9. I decided to head out into downtown Calgary to explore. Calgary’s downtown is beautiful and busty, just like a fine mistress should be. But like all fine mistresses she can get angry and drench you with waterworks and words of panicked hatred. “Hey, wanna buy my ass? It smells like dick,” one woman yelled while I sauntered by looking like an out-of-place tourist. I can normally handle a good heckling, usually with some sort of quick retort. This time I was very unsure of how to respond to this. I kept walking.

The Legion had a stacked line-up that night so we decided to just hang out there for the remainder of the evening. Fountain is my new favorite band. Not only are they all super nice people but their songs are catchy as fuck and well-written. I find myself dancing instead of picking apart every little thing. I’ve kinda been too much of a hater lately and this band has sorta knocked it out of me. Brazilian Money, Gretchen and Girl Arm all killed it and I ended up getting drunk on the copious amounts of the supplied Big Rock sponsored king-cans and spent all my money on merch. Mission Of Burma headlined the night and played all their hits and made everyone’s 15-year-old dreams come true. They also shared their ham sandwiches and milk with the rest of us starving bands. (Mission of Burma are incredibly nice dudes FYI). I ended the night by making friends with the 84-year-old woman who volunteered to clean up the green room. We had some tears and ended up hugging while talking about our family members being prisoners of war. She let us take home the leftover milk.

Brazilian Money at Sled Island

Brazilian Money at Sled Island

Friday:

We started the day by heading to the Commonwealth to watch Renny Wilson and Tough Age. Tough Age was one of those pleasant bored-on-the-internet Weird Canada discoveries. I listened to their album through once and fell in love. Incredible live and I don’t think I took my eyes off the bass player once. Then it was time to head over to Tubby Dog again for the Saskatoon showcase featuring The Moas (who sadly we missed), Powder Blue, Caves and Shooting Guns. Being from Saskatoon I kind of felt like it was an obligation to attend. I was expecting it to be a total Saskatoon party, however there were way more strange faces there than familiar ones, all seemingly into the music. Go Saskatoon! Most bands I met that weekend had all really great things to say about our city’s music scene. I decided to get The Sumo, the messiest hot dog on the menu, and then proceeded to eat it outside in front of a crowd of people. (There is no elegant way to eat a hotdog).

With Japanese mayonnaise still on my face we raced over to Golden Age Club for the Burger Records showcase. Sadly there were no burgers. The Golden Age Club was like that gymnasium/curling rink by your grandparent’s farm that you loved to visit as a child. Complete with red curtains and a bingo board tallying “TOTAL BALLS”, I would love to get married here. Dead Ghosts were awesome. They reminded me a lot of Tough Age but with more butt-shaking. I felt like I was at the world’s coolest prom night. I danced like I was 18 and drank more king-cans like I was 16.

We headed to Bamboo to catch Mormon Crosses (they were okay) and Un Blonde. Un Blonde were wildly talented and teetering on the side of almost too bizarrely talented for me. It both inspired me to become better at my instruments while wanting to give up hope on ever being in that much control of the sounds I could produce. Bravo. That shit was cool. Next up was Mindtroll from California who essentially were a modern day B-52’s with weirder instruments and better song subjects. With songs about baby sluts and television surprises instead of hero worship and rock lobsters, If they would have played “Love Shack” they probably would have torn the tin roof off that place. I am still unsure how I feel about them. People started flooding in to watch Montreal’s Each Other. With guitars played as basses through bass amps back to guitars played as guitars through guitar amps and double stacked snares as cymbal stands, this band really put on one hell of a show. It got so crowded and zoo-ish that at one point I had to hold onto the wall to stop the crowd from shoving me into the lead singer’s microphone stand. He definitely took it in the teeth a few times without missing a single sweltering guitar line. Wild.

Tough Age at Sled Island

Tough Age at Sled Island

Dead Ghosts at Sled Island

Dead Ghosts at Sled Island

Each Other at Sled Island

Each Other at Sled Island

Saturday:

The rain had subsided and it was beautiful out but I wasn’t sure if I could trust the weather. So I brought an umbrella everywhere I went. (Umbrellas are a festival staple). Calgary is a weepy city. We went to Tubby Dog (again) for the Weird Canada showcase. Hag Face, like every time I have seen them, really ripped it. Always ripping, and always not giving a fuck. I could see them taking over the world and probably hexing anyone that got in their way or bored them. Soupcans were also really terrorizing. Crosss too. Man, if I could pick a theme for Sled Island this year it would be incredibly tight three-pieces with the perfect fusion of catchy and killer.

And then there was Spiritualized. At one point in my life Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space was a constant album in my life. It had been a few years since I had given it a good listen. And with the chaos leading up to Sled Island I had totally forgotten to. With Olympic Plaza packed and there being random quarter-inch deep puddles everywhere, I stared at my feet and splashed my feet to the bass drum. And like an emotional button on my back, J. Spaceman pushed it and I turned into a blubbering baby. I was crying into the puddles and as I looked around so was everyone else. Collective waterfalls. (I can still cry in public despite being an emotional runt and be completely okay with it).

Feeling like we shed a layer of skin, we headed over to the Palomino to catch the Lad Mags (but sadly missed them again, ARRRR). (Calgary city blocks look a lot smaller on maps) But, we were just in time to watch Tee-Tahs, which were easily one of my favourite bands of the day. They combined all the things I like in a band. Smart, sexy, and fun. Embarrassingly I drooled over them. I think I liked The Nymphets, however by this point I was swigging gin straight and maybe shit the bed on remembering the remaining details of the night. However, I do remember falling in love with Shannon from Shannon and the Clams’ bass playing. Maybe my new hero. I woke up with a sore neck from all the head swinging I was doing. Success. Total redemption fest.

See you next year Sled Island.

Hag Face at Sled Island

Hag Face at Sled Island

Soupcans at Sled Island

Soupcans at Sled Island

Spiritualized at Sled Island

Spiritualized at Sled Island

Spiritualized at Sled Island

Spiritualized at Sled Island

Tee Tahs at Sled Island

Tee Tahs at Sled Island

Shannon and the Clams at Sled Island

Shannon and the Clams at Sled Island

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POFuXjIMXFY&w=750]

– Review contributed by J. Grvs, who plays in Saskatoon’s Phalec Baldwin and drinks blood by day. All images and video via Brianna Whitmore, who also enjoys a pint or two.