Sled Island 2017 Re-Cap
One can’t help but feel like they won the lotto when looking back on the past four music soaked days and nights. There is inevitably too much too see, tough decisions need to be made and it isn’t healthy to live with regrets upon hearing of the amazing shows missed. Simply remember the good times, the musical discoveries and new friends met as the many different Sled paths unfolded. These paths weave in and out with those carved by others to create one large symbiotic organism with only one goal… Good tunes.
This was my first year with a media pass and I planned to make good on this privilege awarded to me by the good folks at Sled Island. I had interviews preplanned throughout the weekend but on day one, I was simply there to enjoy the music. I got into Calgary just in time to walk down to the Central United Church for Faith Healer, Weyes Blood and Low. Faith Healer is the project of Edmonton’s Jessica Jalbert who has has a huge impact on her city's music scene. The church was an amazing setting for this band whom I’ve only ever seen play small bar shows. Jessica joked about her songs being inappropriate for church and played a memorable set that included plenty of new cuts from her forthcoming record. Weyes Blood fit the church venue well as she had the voice of an angel but sadly, like church… she didn’t move me. Luckily, Minnesota’s Low delivered an inspiring performance moving from gentle to overpowering with effortless bravado.
The Legion was my next stop. I caught the end of an entertaining punk set by The Frigs but I was waiting in anticipation for Wares. Wares is the project of Edmonton's Cassia Hardy who has jumped to the top of the pile of acts worth your attention. I've seen Cassia dozens of times but only once before with a full band. As great as her solo sets have become, she is best with a band. She lunges around the stage and shreds with purpose, the aim is to rock and she brings back the classic rock n roll vibe of getting nuts on stage. She's not too cool to rip it up. It was a truly inspiring performance, Cassia has the power to make kids decide to pick up a guitar.
I stuck around for Cloud Nothing's even though I should have gone to Simply Saucer but I have a personal attachment to their attack on memory record. I was getting nervous near the end of the set because I bailed on Simply Saucer just to hear the track "Wasted Days". It ended up being their closing song and was unforgettable. Hopefully you readers went to Simply Saucer because it would probably have been better for anyone that didn't share my emotional attachment to Cloud Nothings.
Down at Sloth Records Vancouver punk band Jock Tears played an energetic set but I was there for Mujahedeen. Out of Portland it was originally a solo project named after frontman Ali Muhareb but has now become now a three piece quirky rock/punk outfit. It was a treat for me and the new format shows a lot of promise.
I went to Broken City next for a couple interviews and to see Walrus deliver a much different set then their album would suggest. More garage and less psych with incredible muscianship as the guitars had solo battles over the rhythm sections churning beat.
I moved on to the Globe Cinema for the Shooting Guns live score of the classic horror film Nosferatu. Although this show created conflicts for me by having to miss Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith... It was worth it! Perhaps a once in a lifetime experience for me, Shooting Guns made the out-dated film terrifying. This Saskatoon band truly has a gift for scoring, they conveyed the emotions perfectly. I booked it from the Globe to the Palomino and caught the Montreal band Saxsyndrum and was mind blown! I've dug this band for awhile from their recordings but those recordings do no justice to the live show. Danceable beats, saxophone bursts and modulated voice with everything getting heavy manipulation to the point where your left in awe of what your hearing. Not to mention, a band that put everything they had into their performance. Finally my night ended with EX EYE. It was a packed house to see Colin Stetson's new weirdo metal band. After a pre-show huddle, the band took the stage and destroyed ear drums. Colin Stetson blared his trademark saxophone skills while drummer Greg Fox played with textbook precision. You had to be there. The Palomino on Day two was insane!
After knocking out four interviews in the morning I finally got to watching music. Local 510 was the spot for me as I discovered Montreal's Ada Lea who packed an emotional punch just with guitar and vocals for most her set. Halfway through she brought up a makeshift band that was put together the night before for a few songs to keep the crowd interested. Then the much talked about Lonely Parade delivered their quirky rock/pop and got me running to the merch table only to need to return again after Halifax's Not You finished their incredible set.
I had to grab my vinyl and run to get to the Church to see much loved Alberta experimental acts Pyramid//Indigo and Valiska open for Mono. This entire show was a dream, except for the ignorant photographers that didn't have the shutter sound turned off on their cameras. Sled needs to implement a strict rule for these self indulged assholes! Japan's Mono finished the set with wave after wave of fast building ethereal sonic cataclysms. They gave us a fast paced set of pounding post rock that crescendoed over and over with little downtime, it was like being pounded by a furious ocean repeatedly without relent until you start questioning your own mortality. How could anyone compare after that set?
I caught Expanda Fuzz and Figure Walking at the Ship early in the day. Expanda Fuzz are a duo out of Ottawa that play fun danceable garage pop with the help of a drum machine, they were great but Figure Walking was the true gem. The well know Winnipeger, Greg Macpherson fronts this new band and believe me, this man knows how to put on a show. He has an uncanny ability to suck you in and make you 100% invested in every note and every word. His lyrics see humans for what we truly are... flawed. Yet he manages to deliver a positive vibe as if to say "we will get better".
Next, I went to see Mitchmatic at Local 510. Mitchmatic is an Edmonton virtuoso who is leaving the city for Montreal. Knowing I would probably be too wiped to see his farewell show on Sunday night in Edmonton, it was a must see. Mitch went from keys to sax to synth to mic. He delivers technical raps over a jazzy backdrop and seeing him with a full band is always a treat. The city of Edmonton already misses him. After his set I caught Mulligrub who have become my favourite Winnipeg band with the release of their debut "Soft Grudge" last year. They put on a great show playing tracks from the aforementioned album and a bunch of tunes I'd never heard. After their set I snuck a few more songs from the second Meatbodies set of the weekend then booked it to the Legion to see Figure Walking again. Yup, they are that good.
Now, Greg Macpherson is an older fella but it was the old as fuck dudes at the Legion that stole the show this evening.There was no way in hell I was curious enough about Flying Lotus to miss Tommy Stinson & Mike Watt. When legends are in your midst, you go and absorb anything you can. Tommy Stinson's Bash & Pop played amazing rock and roll with a few tracks teetering on rockabilly territory but it was Mike Watt whom I'll never forget. Turning 60 this year, he came out on stage looking feeble and way past his prime. He moved slowly, almost shuffled to his end of the stage. He picked up his bass and as if the strap was a time machine, he exploded with energy as it went around his shoulder. He then proceeded to play nearly a full hour or energetic renditions of Minuteman classics. Being too young to know about the Minuteman until they were already considered iconic (I was born a year before D. Boon's death), I felt as if I transported back with Mr. Watt to the 80's. He was charming, charismatic and had the room... perhaps the festival. For all those out there who went to see Flying Lotus, I'm sorry for your loss.
(The night didn't actually end there as Vancouver's Dumb played an incredible set upstairs after Mike Watt's set. They may be the most exciting thing going on in Van City.... But they weren't Mike Watt)
I never stay for day five. I drove home, exhausted but with fond memories of Sled Island 2017.