Program Director’s Report
Sled Island Festival Day 4
Saturday, July 3, 2010
It’s been a busy summer here at CFCR, so I’ve been a bit delayed with the fourth and final part to my recount of the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival in Calgary. In my head, I thought ‘I didn’t see too much on Saturday, did I?,’ but oh my, was I ever wrong. As I perused my tattered Sled Island schedule, I quickly remembered that there was much good music taken in on that last day of the festival. The day started at Broken City on what formerly was referred to in Calgary as Electric Avenue (11th Ave SW).
I’ve been fascinated with cassettes of late. There are bands and labels releasing (sometimes exclusively) cassette tapes as their musical medium of choice. Calgary band Grown-Ups has been releasing material cassettes on Calgary’s Bart Records (they should be called Bart Cassettes), so I was interested to check out their live show. I arrived at Broken City a bit late, around 1:30pm, but I managed to catch the last bit of Grown-Ups set. The trio play great, gritty lo-fi punk rock, all with a sense of humour that keeps them from taking it all too seriously. A similar ethos seems to exude from The Nymphets, who followed Grown-Ups with a set of power pop/punk. They wear their influences on their sleeves, from early punk and British pop, melded into a jittery, melodic mash of fun music.
After catching Grown-Ups and the Nymphets (and after having purchased a Grown-Ups “Garchie” (a combination of Garfield and Archie) t-shirt), I hustled on over to Tubby Dog once again to take another showcase programmed by music blogs Weird (Wyrd) Canada and Texture Magazine. This time, Weird Canadian Aaron Levin’s Edmonton band Jazz kicked off the afternoon’s festivities with a set of noisy, bombastic jangle-punk.
I don’t know if Tubby Dog was in some sort of battery-sucking vacuum, but my camera battery died again (if you read my journal from Day 2, you’ll know what I’m talking about), so I had to miss the set by Sans AIDS. It was a tough decision, but after Aaron Levin came to the mic and announced that they had added Edmonton duo The Famines to the end of the day’s bill, I was pretty sure I’d need a fully-charged battery, so I sought a charger (next time, I will not forget my charge AND second battery, I swear).
Returning to Tubby’s, I thought I was just in time to catch all-girl punk trio Puberty’s set. Unfortunately for the band (and the restless crowd), Puberty was cursed with technical difficulties, with microphones either not working, or feeding back furiously. Eventually, things got sorted out and Puberty banged out an energetic set of simple punk tunes.
This is where things started to get a bit strange. After Puberty finished their set, Edmonton’s Gobble Gobble started to bring out their gear, and it was no guitar-bass-drums type of set-up. There were all sorts of effects pedals, looping & sampling devices, hockey helmets, Christmas lights and some random objects to make noise with. Gobble Gobble is the brain-child of Cecil Frena, but employs a trio of crazed male noise fairies in front of him, essentially to simply cause havoc. Words are wonderful and all that, but I think the pictures tell the story.
Next up was the last-minute, surprise addition of The Famines, a duo featuring Raymond Biesinger on guitar and vocals and Garrett Kruger on drums. Unfortunately-slash-fortunately, the crowd had thinned out considerably, giving me much more freedom for photographing. Biesinger announced that this was to be one of the last Famines shows in a while. Apparently he’s moving off to Montreal and is going to fly his drummer out when they want to tour. Logistically, it makes much more sense to tour eastern Canada/US, but it still stings to lose another great prairie band to Ontario/Quebec. At least they’re still making music.
Once the mid-afternoon lineup was finished at Tubby Dog, I took a bit of a breather before heading over to The Legion to catch Vancouver’s Peace. I’ve been really into this band since I heard their sole release Slow Children, which was one of my favourite Canadian albums of 2009. So, I was really excited to see them live, but this was no ordinary show for the quartet. On the way to the festival from BC, the band’s vehicle veered into oncoming traffic on the highway and was involved in a pretty serious accident. Their vehicle was totaled, their drummer’s hand was broken, and they were all appropriately shook up. But, for whatever reason, they decided that the show must go on, and they ended up at The Legion for a set as part of Toronto post-punkers Fucked Up’s Saturday showcase. The band seemed noticeably off, though I’d never seen them play before. The crowd (especially the Vancouver contingent) was particularly raucous and appreciative of their set of amazing Velvet Underground-meets-80s New Wave-meets-The Strokes (in a good way) music.
At this point, I wanted to see GZA from the Wu Tang Clan perform downstairs, so I went down into the packed lower level to wait. And wait I did. I caught a little bit of No Age’s set to pass the time, but was too far removed to get any sort of feeling for it. Then, after GZA’s set was 25 minutes late with no real sign getting started, I ran into my pal Tyson McShane (you can read his recount of Canada Day at Sled Island here) and we decided to ditch on the sweatiness that was The Legion and head over to The Marquee for a nightcap (a festivalcap, in fact) with legendary Halifax post-rock/shoegaze/indie band North of America.
North of America put on a great set in front of a moderately sized, but enthused crowd at the venue, located upstairs at The Uptown Theatre. Unfortunately, I missed earlier sets by bands like Stalwart Sons and Saskatoon’s Black Magic Pyramid.
Like with any festival, it’s a hazard of the trade that you’re going to miss bands. I wish I would have caught Les Savy Fav, GZA & !!!; and wish that Built to Spill played a club show, but was pretty damned excited about all the bands I did see, especially the ones I had never seen before. That’s what a festival like Sled Island is all about: discovery. I’m already looking forward to next year.