by Jay Allen, CFCR Program Director
Walking home in the rain at the end of Wednesday night's festivities seemed normal enough. I had heard a couple people talking about water levels in surrounding rivers rising, but didn't really think much of it at the time.
It wasn't until CFCR Music Director Arnie and I arrived at CJSW on Thursday afternoon for an interview to talk about our 3rd annual showcase of Saskatoon bands at Sled Island that it started to clue in that something was amiss. After a nice chat with on-air host Kai about the showcase, he fired up a track by Saskatoon's Powder Blue called "Go On Forever." But mid-way through the song, the broadcast was interrupted by an emergency broadcast, warning people of the rising Bow and Elbow rivers, which intersect near Calgary's downtown core. The weather was mixed, with clouds and rain showers passing through the city, but nothing flood-worthy, we were sure. But it wasn't the rain in Calgary we had to be worried about. Heavy rain showers in the mountains to the west were brewing up something serious.
But as far as we were concerned, everything was moving forward as scheduled, so we enjoyed the interview at CJSW and a subsequent live on-air session by Saskatoon sludge-merchants Shooting Guns. The Guns were in town just for the radio session before heading up the #2 to Edmonton, before driving back down the #2 for their File Under: Music showcase on Friday.
After a great time at CJSW, we headed back towards downtown. Crossing the Bow River, I noticed the water levels and speed of the river seemed to be increasing, but it didn't strike me that it was really that bad. Boy was I wrong.
Arnie and I headed into the southern part of Calgary, crossing the Elbow River along the way, and it became much more evident that something was very possibly about to happen. The river was visibly encroaching on its banks in places, and as we came back towards downtown, the number of emergency vehicles buzzing around was impossible to miss.
Twitter had started buzzing as well, with some of the Sled Island shows getting moved from one venue to another as areas of the city were being evacuated and blocked off. For the time being, our hotel was not in a mandatory evacuation zone, so we figured we should go see some live music. First, we headed to The Commonwealth for Montreal's The Besnard Lakes, who put on a set of their patented ethereal drone pop, with a healthy dose of fog machine.
After The Besnard Lakes, I wanted to check out a couple of bands playing upstairs at downtown BBQ house & venue The Palomino. The main venue of this place is downstairs, but they regularly hold shows upstairs during Sled, though the layout of the upstairs is not overly conducive to having shows.
The first band I wanted to see was a newer band from Edmonton called The Lad Mags. They play garage-y, girl-group-y, reverb-y jams, and they play them well.
The Lad Mags
Following The Lad Mags was Winnipeg post-punk-noir trio This Hisses, featuring former Saskatonian JP Perron on Drums. Witnessing JP's drumming style is worth the price of admission on its own, not to mention the deft guitar playing of Patrick Short and powerful vocals and bass work for Julia Ryckman.
At this point, I had a decision to make. On Sled's Thursday night, 90s indie heroes Superchunk were playing at downtown venue Flames Central (the show had to be moved from the recently evacuated Republik), while back at The Commonwealth, punk rock supergroup Off! (featuring members of Black Flag/Circle Jerks, Burning Brides and Rocket From The Crypt/Hot Snakes/Earthless) would be playing what promised to be a sold-out show. I was at odds. In one side of my brain was the kid who discovered Black Flag & Rocket From The Crypt; and in the other, the slightly older kid who was obsessed with 90s "indie" or "college" rock in its heyday. Having seen Superchunk back in the late 90s, I tentatively opted for Off! and hopped on my bike and got back to The Commonwealth.
After about 10 minutes (and after getting a free t-shirt from Vans & The Commonwealth), the 90s indie rock nerd in me somehow overpowered and out-maneuvered the punk rock kid and I made a b-line for the doors. Superchunk it was. I'm sure Off! was amazing, but it was the best decision I ever made.
I went back to the hotel content with my decision and excited for the next day's Sled festivities, including CFCR's showcase at Tubby Dog. But unfortunately, ol' Mom Nature had other ideas.
All photos (c) 2013 Jay Allen