Sled Island Day 3 – Saturday, June 25
On the third and final day of my Sled Island adventure, I decided it was high time to do some record shopping. Since I relied on others for my ride to Calgary, I was left with public transit as my most affordable option for getting around. For those that don’t know Calgary’s civic planning motto, I think it’s something like “As Far As The Eye Can See,” “A Sprawling Good Time” or maybe simply “Spread ‘Em.” Calgary takes up so much damned space that I remember hearing a statistic comparing its physical size to that of Los Angeles. Not to say that it doesn’t have its pockets of densely populated coolness, but even when looking at the record shop situation, there’s a fair amount of bouncing around town to be done.
So, I trudged on foot to Sloth Records on 17th Avenue SW, where I was pleased to see a copy of Shooting Guns’ debut album Born to Deal in Magic: 1952-1976 on the counter. Behind said counter was a familiar face from our Tubby Dog showcase the day before, a lovely young woman named Megan. She said she had just finished playing the Guns’ album in the store, which immediately reaffirmed why a showcase like the one CFCR put on is so valuable for our local bands.
Not finding anything to purchase at Sloth, I hopped a bus up to The Inner Sleeve, located a good jaunt away from the central part of Calgary south-downtown. I found a couple quick purchases at The Inner Sleeve (and saw another stack of Shooting Guns records being processed for sale) before running out to find Melodiya Records, back on 17th Avenue SW. It was at this point that I started to look at my watch, with a light panic setting in about my chances of crossing downtown in time to catch Raveonettes at the Olympic Plaza main stage site. But as if it was planned that way, as I walked into the shop, I ran into fellow Saskatonian and CFCR host Ben Hettinga, who was making his second or third trip to Melodiya that weekend. Ben was going to hit up Recordland in the city’s Inglewood neighbourhood (remember the comparison to LA?), and he offered me a ride downtown.
Feeling more relaxed, I dug through Melodiya’s stacks, finding a few gems including Retribution Gospel Choir’s hand-numbered, self-titled album.
So, with records in-hand, I got a ride with Ben and his friend downtown, hopping out of the van about a block from Olympic Plaza, where I zoomed in to the “backstage” area, gained a press-pass sticker and arrived in the photographers’ galley mere seconds before the first note of the Raveonettes’ set. Check and mate.
The Danish band was down a member (he was held up at Heathrow in London and was on his way to Calgary as they took the stage), so their set felt a little short and a little thrown-together-last-minute, but they muscled through it like pros and played to a ravenous, sun-soaked crowd.
After the Raveonettes, I headed to the nearby Palomino for the last band of a showcase put on by Calgary label Saved by Radio/Saved by Vinyl. The showcase had featured sets by the likes of C’Mon, Camp Radio, Mark Davis and Rae Spoon, but I just made it in time to catch Calgary’s own band of boisterous psych pop-rocking troubadours, Deadhorse. Their set included songs from their recently released self-titled album on Saved by Vinyl, as well as some new songs and one penned by their bass player and solo artist Ryan Bourne. Seriously, keep your eyes on Deadhorse. Their songs are great and their live show is even better.
From The Palomino, it was time to take a quick break at the hotel before going back to Olympic Plaza for a bit of The Dandy Warhols. Now, I’ve never really gotten into The Dandies, but I have been thinking about that film Dig! lately, so I felt like it made sense to give them another try.
I arrived too late to get into the photog’s galley again (you only get to be in there for the first three songs), but Sled staff allowed me to keep my camera out in the crowd, so I shot some pics over the crowd’s head. Though I can’t say I was particularly won over, I did enjoy their early evening set.
On our first night at Sled, we met a dude named Dave who was in a local Calgary band called Lab Coast. I had played their songs a couple times on the air, so I was interested in dropping in for their show on Saturday night at the Legion. It was the first set of a long evening of music, so attendance was pretty sparse, and that seemed to affect the band. They show a lot of potential, and they have some really great melodies, but their set of lo-fi indie pop at the Legion seemed very tentative, or maybe they were just nervous.
The next set at the Legion had a lot more get up & dance to it. At the controls was Montreal-based three-piece band Uncle Bad Touch, featuring Priestess frontman Mikey Heppner. While you can hear some of that Priestess-style melodic power metal in Mikey’s singing & guitar playing, UBT is packaged with garage-psych paper and a 60s rock n’ roll ribbon.
I left the Legion hoping to catch the end of Saskatoon songster Shuyler Jansen’s set at the Marquee Room, but I also forgot exactly where the Marquee’s parent Uptown Theatre was. Unfortunately, this was the difference maker, and I walked in literally on Shuyler’s last note. Despite my disappointment, I was looking forward to the vintage pop sound of the next act, San Francisco’s Sonny and the Sunsets. I’ve just recently gotten into this Sonny dude, and I can’t help but feel like he’s San Francisco’s answer to Shakey Wilson. OK, maybe it’s the other way around, but either way, Sonny has an affinity for classic (and often pretty beat up) instruments, classic pop sounds and though his songs are somewhat hit-and-miss, there are a lot of nuggets of greatness in his music. His set at the legion wasn’t particularly high energy, but it kept me feeling pretty happy about the general state of music.
I had been hoping to see another San Francisco band after Sonny’s set at Broken City. Thee Oh Sees were slated to go on at 1 AM, but as I walked from the Marquee, I started to feel like I may be too late. My fears were confirmed as I approached the club, with a lineup of people outside. I knew the last band had already finished playing, so I had missed any chance of a mass exodus. I decided to wait for a bit to see what happened, as I was only about 10 or 15 people deep in the line. But the line didn’t move an inch. At about 10 minutes to 1 o’clock, I received a text from my friend Colton that Saskatoon’s darlings of the hour The Sheepdogs had arrived at Tubby Dog for a “secret” appearance after their opening gig with The Sadies that evening, and that Sadies guitarist Travis Good was in tow. I immediately bolted from the line and started b-lining it to Tubby Dog on a pair of blistered feet that felt like they were both wearing 10-pound hot pillows (again, next year I’m bringing my bike).
I got to Tubby Dog to find it pretty packed, but I was able to squeeze my way to the front of the crowd, which was almost literally standing on top of the band as they tried to get set up. Before long, they were ready to go and they started their set to a huge cheer from the crowd. Though it goes without saying, it’s been pretty wild to see the dramatic increase in the notoriety of this band. As they approach the announcement of whether they’re the next furry mugs on the cover of Rolling Stone, their popularity is literally blowing up.
Despite the cramped conditions at Tubby Dog, they played their brand of fringe-vested rock and roll like champs. I was about a foot from singer Ewan Currie’s microphone, and my camera was right in his face (sorry Ewan). Lucky for me I had my super wide-angle lens.
After a few songs, they invited Travis Good to come and play a few songs with them, to the crowd’s delight. They played a few cover songs including Neil Young’s “Down By The River” and The Guess Who’s “Runnin’ Back To Saskatoon,” a somewhat cheesy but very appropriate selection.
The highlight was when Currie and guitarist Leot Hanson both climbing up on the service counter for a dueling guitar solo of epic proportions.
After the show, I was left feeling pretty darned satisfied (musically). Colton and I had heard from our pal AVL that there was to be another “secret” performance, this time by Washington, D.C. psych band Dead Meadow at a Beatroute Magazine wrap party and since I missed them on Friday while setting up our Sask showcase, I was keen to catch them. But as we arrived at the Beatroute office, there was a huge lineup outside and cop cars in the parking lot, so I was pretty sure we weren’t going to get in. It’s just as well, though, as that Sheepdogs set seemed like the perfect way for a Saskatoon boy to cap off the weekend, especially as CFCR aims to up the 306-content at Sled Island. Watch out for more next year, Calgary!
Stay tuned to CFCR.ca for more Sled coverage coming from CFCR hosts Dana Durell and Skot Hamilton!
CFCR Program Director