Words and photos by Jay Allen, CFCR Program Director
The year 2019 marked the 10th year straight that I have attended the Sled Island Music Festival, and the ninth time that CFCR has put on a Showcase of bands from Saskatoon. Attending this festival is part of my year, and as a former resident of Calgary, it's like a weird, out-of-context homecoming, though the city now is largely unrecognizable from the place I called home from 1998-2002.
Attending Sled Island is very inspiring for me, not only because of the sheer volume of amazing bands & music I get to take in, but I get to interact with colleagues in the campus/community radio world, and exchange ideas and thoughts regarding issues we face in our unique spot in the "media" landscape. Attending the annual National Campus/Community Radio Conference isn't always finanically in the cards for us at CFCR, but visiting Sled Island keeps me connected at least with several stations in western Canada.
But back to the music, for my coverage this year, instead of a show-by-show journal of the festival, I'm going to post a sort of superlatives list below, to include some of the stand-out acts I saw at Sled Island 2019.
Enjoy! Or.. or don't. I don't know, I'm not your boss, you do what you want.
(Special thanks to former CFCR Production Manager Brendan Flaherty for that line from a CFCR on-air promo)
A "Sask-Tastic" CFCR Showcase!
The aforementioned ninth annual CFCR Showcase (this year, dubbed the "Sask-Tastic Voyage") happened once again at the beautiful shrine of the pork tube, Tubby Dog, on the Friday afternoon of Sled Island. I had visited the night before to see Obnox play, and discovered that the entire street in front of Tubby Dog, for blocks in either direction, was full-on torn up (like, a huge, open pit), with very limited access. With that, and the fact that it was pouring rain on Friday morning, the prospects for a good turnout at the Showcase seemed pretty slim. But, between the high quality of the bands that we always have at the Showcase, the dedication of Sled Island's festival-goers, and the fact that the show was FREE, ALL-AGES, and had a dynamite beer & hot dog deal meant that the tiny Tubby Dog was busy and bumpin' for the whole afternoon!
The four Saskatoon bands (well, technically one is from Martensville), 3 Moonjask, Slow Down Molasses, The Sex Geckos, and The Garrys all played amazing sets, but the stand-out "music moment" of the day happened when, dealing with a busted kick drum head, Sex Geckos drummer Owen Bailey decided to improvise and used an over-turned floor tom as a kick drum for the remainder of their high-energy set. It was an inspired move for a young band to make, and I'm sure everyone who witnessed it will be talking about it for years to come.
Slow Down Molasses
The Sex Geckos
"Discovery" Of The Festival: DTSQ
Sled Island calls their festival wristbands "Discovery Passes," and I can't overstate how apt this is. For me, Sled is a festival of discovery. I have stumbled across bands at Sled by chance that have immediately jumped into heavy rotation for me (bands like Zen Mystery Fogg, together PANGEA, and even a young Ty Segall back in 2010!). In 2019, there was a small contingent of bands from Seoul, South Korea, including 90s pop weirdos numnum, and Korea's answer to bands like Wand, Tame Impala & King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, DTSQ (which I believe is short for "Delta Sequence"). DTSQ seamlessly blend a bevy of guitar tones and effects with synthesizers, soaring rock & roll melodies and a solid-as-a-rock rhythm section. I'd be lying if I said it was the most original thing I've ever heard, but dang it if it's not a lot of fun. I had checked out a lot of the bands playing Sled via their website, but somehow the meta-data, key-wording algorithm robot failed and didn't send DTSQ past my eyeballs or ear holes. CFCR Music Director mentioned that he intended to check them out, so I made a note of that. I managed to hear a bit of their set upstairs at The Legion on Friday night, but it was too packed to get a glimpse, so I was happy that they had another set at Broken City on Saturday. I was sure to catch that whole set, and boy am I glad I did. I unfortunately took too long to make up my mind about buying a record before they sold out, but at least I can get it digitally on Bandcamp!
Honourable mention for "Discovery" of the Festival goes to UK jazz/funk/garage trio The Comet Is Coming, who put on a blazing show at The Commonwealth (seriously, it was so hot in there).
The Comet Is Coming
Sled Island's Patented "High School Jay-Approved" Band: Man Or Astro-Man?
Every year, Sled Island seems to bring a band to Calgary that "High School Jay" would have lost his sh*t to see. In the past, these bands have included Rocket From the Crypt, Archers Of Loaf, Guided By Voices, and more. This year, the band was Alabama sonic space cadets Man Or Astro-Man?. One of the band's main members, Robert "Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard" DelBueno was conspicuosly missing, but former guitarist Victor Vector stepped in on bass, and newer member Avona Nova shone as the band's second guitarist. Nostalgia reigned supreme once again at Sled Island!
Man Or Astro-Man?
Honourable mention for "High School Jay-Approved" band goes to The Oblivians, but I didn't listen to them until after high school, so technically it doesn't count.
CFCR has proudly put on our Showcase of bands from Saskatoon at Tubby Dog since 2011. That year, there weren't many more than the four bands we featured (The Friends Electric, The Foggy Notions, Shooting Guns & Feral Children) from Saskatchewan playing the Festival. Fast-forward to 2019, where there are many SK bands to choose from, inlcuding a much larger Regina contingent than in past years. I couldn't catch all my Sask pals' bands, but I did get to see a set by one of my favourite SK bands, Snake River, as well as Regina's The WON'Ts and Saskatoon's Ancient Pig, who were blessed with an enviable slot before Kid Congo Powers & The Pink Monkey Birds and The Oblivians on Friday night at The Legion.
I've got a bunch more pics of great bands that played Sled 2019, so stay tuned for a photo gallery post coming soon! I also had the chance to do a couple of video band interviews, which will be coming out shortly as well.
If you can't tell by now, Sled Island is a pretty amazing Festival with a plethora of not only bands, but film, comedy, and lots more to take in. Do yourself a favour and book time off now for Sled 2020. It's guaranteed to be a doozy.