Jun 28, 2012
by Jay Allen, CFCR Program Director
For me, Sled Island 2012 sort of started out with a bummer. It wasn’t the festival’s fault; it was mine. Playing soccer 10 days before the festival (on a team with Saskatoon’s MoSo Fest Director Rich Taylor, as I already whined about in a post last week), I royally messed up the ligaments in my right knee and was left barely mobile. This improved over the days leading up to the fest and was luckily upgraded to a slow hobble by the time we left for Calgary. I also brought my bicycle, Gus The Glider, on the trip, just in case that would be easier than walking.
When I saw the lineup for this year’s festival, I was met with a range of emotions. On one hand, I didn’t see as many bands on the list that I was initially interested in seeing compared to previous years (though that changed), but I was more excited about one particular band than any other single band from any other year. That band was Archers of Loaf, who were at the forefront of my formative musical discovery years in the mid-to-late 90s. Several years after the Chapel Hill, NC band had called it quits, they reformed this year for a handful of spring & summer dates, including the Primavera Festival in Spain, All Tomorrows Parties in New York and Sled Island in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
I was also really excited for the second installment of CFCR’s Saskatoon band showcase at Sled, this year dubbed “Peace From One Province East,” featuring local Saskatoon bands Castle River, Haunted Souls, Jeans Boots and Foam Lake.
So, on the morning of Thursday, June 21st, I loaded up my 1993 Plymouth Voyager minivan (named Alfie) with my luggage, my bike and my travel partners (CFCR Music Director Arnie Van Lambalgen and Jeanette Stewart of Jeans Boots fame), and hit the road for Calgary. We had already missed the first day of programming, so I was extra eager to get started on my Sled adventure.
After arriving in Calgary and checking into our hotel (the historic Palliser Hotel was once again one of the central hotels of the festival), we went to The Commonwealth, a re-appropriation of an old Calgary dive called The Warehouse, for Japanese noise experimentalists Boris. Boris is a band I’ve appreciated from afar, and apparently there are “Two Borises” when it comes to live shows; the rock band and the ambient, drone-y, noise band. The Commonwealth crowd saw the latter, which, while still really cool, was not exactly what I was looking for to kick off my festival.
Upon leaving The Commonwealth, Arnie, Jeanette and I decided to make our way towards Dicken’s Pub to see Hot Snakes, another defunct band who had recently reformed. We knew it would be busy, so we aimed to arrive an hour early. However, it was busier than we expected and an hour proved to not be enough time. There was a lineup outside the door which, while short, was moving absolutely nowhere. Jeanette and Arnie decided to leave for more promising pastures, but I stuck around in line until the band started playing inside. I left feeling like my Sled luck was going from bad to worse.
I decided to go to the Legion to see Night Beats, who I had seen a few months before at Austin Psych Fest, so I knew they would be putting on a good show. So I hopped on old Gus and flew through Calgary’s downtown core (much to my knee’s shagrin).
Seattle’s Night Beats make grimy, gritty, soulful garage rock with great guitar licks and melodies. It was just what I needed to kick me into gear for the festival. Despite the slow start, I headed back to the hotel feeling like things were looking up.
All photos (c) 2012 Jason Allen.