Sled Diaries Vol 2. - Jeff MacCallum
Well… there it is… another Sled Island in the books. As usual, I ran myself ragged while doing double duty as music fan and music media partner. Before the shows even began on Wednesday night, Montreal band LAPS stopped by the Dirt City Devils Airbnb for a chat. That lovely Airbnb would become a space I’d steal from my pals a few times over the course of the festival. LAPS are the nicest folks, originally from Fredricton but now sifting to the top of the Montreal music scene with their unique blend of prog, math, garage and pop. After our lovely chat (which will appear on our “Inside The Artists Studio” podcast in the near future), I headed down to the church for Amy Nelson whose classic/outlaw country stylings blew me away. Before scurrying over to Dickens to set up for the Cups N Cakes Showcase of Screaming Females, I made sure to catch a few songs from Jom Comyn as he was playing with a huge band that included two full kits. Sadly, duty called and I was off to Dickens. Starting the night off was Sections which is Calgarian Darrell Hartsook’s new project. They were a great discovery, as was the following band called Intimacy whose powerful punk performance had everybody stirring (especially when we all learned it was their very first live show!). Calgary punk act Paradise ripped through a tight set of great jams but the anticipation was starting to take over the crowd who where all there for Screaming Females. Sean did a great job of covering the Females in Volume 1 of our Sled Island Diaries, so I’ll let his words do the talking. After the show, I drove home… sober… responsible… ready to get wild on Thursday.
Thursday morning started at Sloth to catch Saskatoon teenagers, The Sex Geckos. This two piece was downgraded to a solo act for this show but it didn’t matter. We all bore witness to an act that will stay on our radar for years to come. I quickly bolted to the Dirt City Devils pad for an interview with Blair and Skyler from The Faps. These were so much fun, I was glad we squeezed this chat in last minute as I’d keep running into Blair the rest of the weekend. Next up, Dopey’s Robe channeled Thee Oh Sees on a cloudy (but not rainy) patio session at Broken City and then I bolted to Palomino for dinner with Diamontown. Comprised of members of Eric’s Trip and Dog Day, this Dartmouth band blends folk with dream pop and were a treat that ended up being tastier than my supper. My night ended at the Legion where I watch Slow Down Molasses return from the grave with a blazing show before Jo Passed played an impressive solo set which was followed by Heavydive’s louder than life assault of the senses. After Heavydive I ducked upstairs to get blown away by a Toronto punk band called Life In Vacuum as they tore through a set that would fit in perfectly in the DC punk scene. They were way tighter than one would expect for this brand of vicious punk and they would remain one of my favourite discoveries this year. Fly Pan Am took to the stage next at the Legion and they sounded like they never went on a fourteen year hiatus. Wild electronic glitches carved out a backdrop for their avant-garde take on the post-rock genre. With the announcement of a new album in September, their appearance stirred even more excitement and a buzz that carried to the end of the night as members of the band were mobbed by Canadian music fans reminiscing on tours that took place more than fifteen years ago and stealing group photos. I never caught much of Rip Room but they had a fun 80’s kind of punk vibe, reminiscent of The B52’s or Devo. They would however become fast friends with the Dirt City Devils crew and we’d share drinks many times throughout the weekend. Finally, The Messthetics melted minds as the opportunity to see Joe Lally and Brendan Canty (the rhythm section of Fugazi) on stage was too enticing to pull me away. As great as Lally and Canty were, it was their guitarist Anthony Pirog who stole the show with mind numbing chops that were still reverberating through my head the next morning… or was that the booze?
Friday… rough… must I...?… ugh!
Ghost Woman. YES. Better than advertised
Interview with Dumb. funny kids. stuck in elevator.
Polly Dactic. dark. synth. pop. delightful
LAPS. a top Sled show.
Touching God. fear. noise. more fear. not helping hangover.
Blessed. so tight... how? oh right… 10 shows a day I think they play.
Dirt City Devils pad… relax… breath… more Advil. Followed by more alcohol, followed by a renowned sense of well being! Here we are, alive and well and ready to enjoy Housepanther at the Palace Theatre. Housepanther is the guitar pop project of Bailee Woods and not only did her charm win over the audience as she gushed over sharing the stage with Bully and Hop Along, so too did her incredible music. (Also, what a great cover of “No Scrubs” by TLC). Next, I was unimpressed by Bully and the sound at the Palace so I trotted over to the Legion in time to see Ancient Pig who had been recommended to me by our team member Jeshaiah David. Ancient Pig were incredible as they blasted through a set of garage rock tunes with a hard edge. Every song had me captivated so I ended up missing the start of Lemongrab’s set upstairs. Our team member Kent Phillips had been raving about this band but I continually shrugged them off. I walked away from that set with my foot in my mouth as they brought an energy that was both fun and raw. As great as they were, I had to check out early to get a good spot for one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend, Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkeybirds. As a former member of The Cramps, The Gun Club and The Bad Seeds, it’s safe to say that when he started making solo music in 2009, people noticed. As great as his recordings are, they are nothing compared to his live show. With hilarious opening segments to songs, he’d bounce in front of the microphone as the dance fuelled rock n roll billowed from the speakers. His band was tight and he was charismatically strange… a perfect frontman. Next up was Oblivians… the Godfathers of garage rock. They were amazing but the damage was done… they had been outshone by the brightest star of night… Kid Congo Powers.
I wake to find my body must be getting used to the nightly abuse it’s been taking. Or maybe it’s the fact that the sun is shinning. Either way… I feel good as I head out to meet Chris Sleightholm Of Snake River for a chat. I’ve been a big fan of his band for years and it’s nice to meet and discuss the psychedelic sounds he creates and then learn about the narrative he has built that arcs throughout his records. The good vibes keep rolling after the interview when I get to see J Blissette rip apart the stage with his eight-piece band. I’d been looking forward to this day since the schedule was announced. Saturday afternoon at Broken City was fantastic! Milk followed up on the patio and the country fused garage-rock was a perfect laid back vibe that led into Lab Coast’s top notch alt-pop stylings, before Portland’s Mujahedeen’s thick bass grooves blew everyone away. Frontman Ali Muhareb’s lyrics are thoughtful, sarcastic and thoroughly on point. He’s sees the world in a way that makes you lean in close. They were a favourite and were followed by the biggest buzz act on the streets of Calgary. DTSQ from South Korea earned this title for good reason, their psych-garage sounds were Earth shattering and their musicianship was first class. If you missed them… where the fuck were you?... they played three times! They were followed by the band I’d been eagerly anticipating. Fredericton’s Motherhood brought their twang infused psych-punk to the Broken City patio and lifted me to joyous heights. A scheduled interview Sean had with Motherhood had me leading him and the band to the Dirt City Devils pad once more. This sadly meant I had to miss The Pinc Lincolns whom I’d been hoping to see but it was fun to hang out with new friends over drinks, over looking, and over-hearing Squirrel Flower in Central Memorial Park. After saying goodbye, my evening took me to Commonwealth where I caught Holy Drone Travellers and had my mind expanded by their experimental set before one of my most anticipated of 2019 took the stage. The Comet Is Coming blend avant-garde and jazz into dance music and had the whole crowd in an uproar. I however felt an emotional connection that I haven’t felt from music in a long time. Shabaka Hutchings’ saxophone blasts hit me deep. Note after note tore through me and ripped out massive amounts of stress and anxiety that had piled up. All my energy had to go into holding back tears of joy as an emotional purge shattered my inner psyche. It’s safe to say that this was the best moment of my Sled Island 2019. As they continued to play I quickly realized I has to go to support a friend. I bolted out of Commonwealth with a renewed sense of self and boogied over to Palace Theatre to watch Sister Ray. Sister Ray is the project of Cups N Cakes team member Ella Coyes. We are so proud of her personal accomplishments and before I knew her personally, I was a huge fan of her music. Watching her on stage, opening for Julian Baker was special. She played beautifully and her mind-boggling vocals soared over the massive venue loud enough to grab the attention of the many folks in attendance who had no idea who she was. Her first recorded work is brutally honest and sad, and luckily for me she didn’t play much from it. But… She ended her set with the final song from that album which is a song I avoid due to the fact that it makes me cry 50% of the times I hear it. Well shit Ella! I just came out of this emotional purge at Comet Is Coming… I didn’t need this. She left the stage to massive applause and I left the venue wiping a tear from my cheek. A quick hop on the C-Train got me to Dickens where I watched BB slay the stage in their matching dresses. Next, Edmonton’s Physical Copies brought their fun disco punk stylings to the stage. Frontman, Willie Dieminzzz commanded the audience’s attention with comedic banter and high energy stage presence. One can only hope we get a record from the loved Edmonton band one day. Finally, I made my way to the front rail between sets to set up shop beside Professor Dave to watch Man Or Astroman. Cosmic surf sounds bellowed from the speakers during this high energy set that many in attendance had planned their entire weekends around. They rocketed through fan favourites and ended by playing Jenga with the drum kit while Avona Nova passed her guitar through the audience. It was fierce, it was fun and it was the perfect note to go out on.
Thanks Sled, see you next year.
The Comet Is Coming
Man Or Astroman
Fly Pan Am
Kid Congo Powers
Life In Vacuum
The Sex Geckos
- Jeff MacCallum