by Josh Rohs, former host of the Wednesday RCMP & member of Saskatoon band Susan
Sled Island happens at half-Christmas every year. This is no accident. The festival has been bringing some of the best acts in the world as well as the country for the last nine years. This year a band that I play in (Susan) was selected to play the festival. The following is reasonable summary of my experience at one of the best festivals in the world in the year two-thousand-and-fifteen.
CFCR’s resident ad-rocker, Brendan “Don Draper” Flaherty, and I took off for Calgary around noon in my tiny car. I made him listen to Zappa and Beefheart. He made me listen to something he called his ‘Songs of the Summer’ playlist. The drive was both fun and uneventful. Funeventful! Anyway, I took the day off work so I’d be able to maximize my Sled potential. First up: Jons at Broken City. Unfortunately, I dilly-dallied and ended up getting into town late and missed them. Consolation prize: I got to see Dutch legends, The Ex, at the Legion. My friends in the band Conduct from Winnipeg had talked this band up tonnes, so I was a little worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Those expectations? Shattered, destroyed, and decimated. People throw the term “post-punk” at every band who have ever played a tritone on a guitar, but this is the real deal.
Bonus round: Got to see the aforementioned Conduct annihilate for the third time in a week (my band played a set at Spectrum Hair Salon with them last weekend for MoSo). Gotta get Nick to teach me those dance moves.
Thursday was our first of two Sled Island shows. Susan played at the Palomino which is basically a BBQ meat temple. They fed and watered us and were very nice people. Our set kicked off the day at 4pm in the afternoon. All four of us squeezed our sweaty bodies onto the small stage and (mostly) avoided collisions. It was fun and the people at the venue were great. Also, fellow Saskatonians the Avulsions played their fantastic noisey goth pop to the Palomino’s flesh-craving masses. The crowd ate it up. Great sets by Strange Fires, Divepool and Sprïng rounded out a stacked bill.
At night, we headed to Tubby Dog, Calgary’s preeminent proprietor of meat-tube excess (and punk rock) for the Craft Singles showcase. To be frank, da ‘dog is my favourite smaller venue to see shows at in Calgary, complete with classic arcade games(Ms. Pac Man!! Simpsons!!) and a hotdog that sports PB&J as well as everyone’s favourite mouth-mutilating breakfast cereal, Captain Crunch. Anyway, back to the music. This was the most stacked show at the fest. We showed up to catch Jons, whom we missed on Wednesday. They play woozy, guitar-pop songs that perfectly soundtrack the aroma of hotdogs on a summers night. Montreal’s Dories are one of Canada’s most exciting “post-Women” bands (although I kinda don’t think that’s a real thing) and it showed as they tore through a great set. Homebody is the best Canadian guitar-pop band ever to come out of Denver. Also, I’m surprised the place is still standing after mind-numbing sets by Hag Face and Crosss. We capped things off by catching a little bit of an awesome set by Providence, RI’s noiseniks Lightning Bolt.
Alright: Suze does Calgary round two. We played the CFCR (sup?!) showcase back at Tubby Dog. This was CFCR’s 5th annual Sled showcase at Tubby and it was a total rager. I relished in sets by The Avulsions, Acronyms, and The Radiation Flowers and gorged on Sumo Dogs and beer.
Before we played, we popped over to a nearby house show presented by Winnipeg’s Public Tone Records/Big Fun Fest. I was hoping to catch Fountain, but in typical house show fashion, things ran understandably late. While I missed their set, I caught them later that night at Dickens opening for nihilistic Danish punks Iceage(I bet they would hate that description). If you know me, I’ve probably annoyed you with talk of how great Fountain is. If you caught their set in Saskatoon on Tuesday or at Sled, you know that for once in my miserable little life I’m 100% right about something. Feels pretty great! Anyway, go buy Fountain 2 on Bandcamp.
Somewhere in there, we caught a bit of the highly anticipated GY!BE show at Central United. They sounded great and the projections were awesome, but I think i might’ve enjoyed it more if it wasn’t 200°. It felt like we were at a “post-rock”-soundtracked session of (something I just invented called) Hot Yoga for Jesus™. Or maybe, like a weiner on the grill at Tubby Dog, slowly awaiting heat-death to be enjoyed by some species higher up the foodchain. Gross.
We also caught a fantastic set by Halifax’s Quaker Parents. It was bizarre seeing them at Calgary’s television encrusted shrine to hockey, Flames Central, but totally neato. They even played a bit of "Teeshirt," which was a number one hit in the imaginary place where my tiny brain goes when I’m bored. Seriously. Anyways, whatever, that was Friday.
Saturday was the day of the Highly Anticipated Big Rock Show at Olympic Plaza. Before that, however, we stopped in to - you guessed it - Tubby Dog to see a bit of the Weird Canada showcase. After that, we cooled off with a quick dip in the Bow before making our way to the plaza. Calgary locals (if you can call them that anymore) Viet Cong melted everyone’s faces off. Seriously, everyone in the whole dang place looked like the guy from Raiders. A+.
After a good set by a reunited Drive Like Jehu (I was honestly always more of a Hot Snakes guy), the masses gathered for a sermon from the legendary New York act (and one of my favourite bands) Television. Some friends convinced me it’d blow so I tried not to expect too much; Here was a band who probably hit their prime in 1976 playing those songs in the year 2015. Taking that into account, their set ruled. The group treated fans to every track from their seminal debut, Marquee Moon, and encored with “1880 or So” from their self-titled. Tom Verlaine still shreds for 65, and Jimmy Rip did great considering he was filling the shoes of the legendary Richard Lloyd who departed in 2007. Billy Ficca and Fred Smith still hold it down in rhythmland. 1-0 for the post-punk optimists.
SLED ISLAND: BY THE NUMBERS
Shows played: 2
Shows played in meat-centric venues: 2
Sets attended: ~22
Flat Tires: 1
Tubby dogs eaten: ~4
Bad bands I saw: 0
Good times had: ∞