by Josie Dabo, host of the RCMP, Thursdays, 4-5pm
Wednesday June 22
I woke up on Wednesday morning – my first day of real freedom, at the ass-crack of dawn. Well it was only 7:30, but that feels like the middle of the night when you barely graduated high school a day prior and your sleep schedule had been 5:30 am to 10 am for the past week because of school work neglect. This was my first time traveling by myself, let alone to a music festival so I did my best to prepare the night before. Or so I thought. I hopped out of bed, didn’t bother to brush my teeth or oil my twists, and packed up the car.
I drive a lovely Mitsubishi station wagon named Todd that makes this noise that sounds like he’s begging for death every time he is started- if he even decides to start. The thing is, people see my car and they say, oh wow, good for you, a nice family-sized car, you are lucky to have something so reliable at your age. No, not good for me, Todd is the most problematic man in my life and that is saying a lot. The drive was pretty uneventful, Todd did great. We fueled up in Alsask, gained a new understanding for Brian Eno and figured out that A Moon Shaped Pool is not for us. It seemed to go pretty quick, it felt like three-and-a-half hours, rather than the six-and-a-half that it was.
I got into town, and headed downtown to meet (CFCR Music Director) Arnie at the Palliser to grab my pass. He gave me a great Sled Island record bag, a festival guide and this weird little green thing that I am unsure the use of to this day (if you shake it hard enough, it sounds like an instrument [there is probably some really cool use for it that would make my whole life a breeze]). (Editor’s note: This green instrument thing actually contains earplugs, but since Josie didn't use them, she probably couldn’t hear me if I told her that.)
After grabbing the pass and narrowly escaping death during the drive downtown, I went back to my place, made some ramen (my main food source for the next five days) and took a much-needed nap. I got up, got my shit together about an hour later and called a cab. I was trying to get to the Palomino Downstairs to catch the Fenster show. They are an indie pop band all the way from Germany. I had talked with them beforehand and had requested an interview, so I figured I best catch the show.
The lovely cab driver ended up dropping me off right in front of the Central United Church, and I know this because the Angel Olsen and Astral Swans concert had just gotten out. I guess the pavement was uneven, my ankle caved and I went down like Lewinsky on Clinton. I took a moment to assure the forty people on the sidewalk that I was fine and then it dawned on me that I had no clue where I was. I tried to use the map from the Sled book, but I am useless when it comes to maps, so I asked around. I have to say, most people that I have talked to about Calgary like to emphasize how rude the civilians are. Personally, I thought they were remarkably friendly. I made it to the Palomino by about a quarter after ten. Fenster went on at ten, so I had time to grab a beer and catch the better part of the show.
The show was great, they sound like jungle psych from the 80s, and are a little campy, but they know it. Sometimes when you see a band play, you can tell that they love music, and other times you can tell that they really love to play music with each other. Well, the latter was the case with Fenster. The performance was energetic, fun and interesting to watch. I learned that when playing on home turf with their own instruments, they like to rotate and try to get on every instrument during a show. I got a chance to sit down and do a very informal interview with them afterwards, while they ate. The band is actually in the process of producing a short science fiction film, and then scoring it. Well, they actually did the score first and are creating this movie around it to fit the soundtrack. Apparently, this project was started as a joke and then they just ended up investing too much time into it to leave it at that. They told me it was all shot on a VHS recorder. The movie is called Emocean and so is the soundtrack. You can find the soundtrack here. (*Track 5, “Les Fleurs” is notable)
Fenster were such lovely people and I was lucky to be able to sit down with them. I ran to the bar, threw down a couple notes, crushed a tall can and I was off to the Legion. Physical Copies was playing at 11:30 and ESG at 12:30. Physical Copies was good, but ESG was the stuff of dreams. The audience participation was astounding; it seemed as if the ladies were even a little surprised. I have wanted to see them play since I was probably 13 (which was really only five years ago). If I am not mistaken, this was the first time they had been in Canada in eight years, and for me to catch this show was amazing.
Thursday June 23
On Thursday afternoon, I caught up with a friend’s grandparents and took it easy all day. I was looking forward to Dada Plan that evening at Broken City. When I got there, around twenty minutes early for the show, it was about half empty. So I proceeded to grab a great seat, right in front of the stage and prepared for the spectacular about to unfold. This show was weird for me. It was Dada Plan, so I thought yeah, people will be swaying and smiling and having a good time. But holy shit, I have never seen that many stoic faces in such a concentrated area before, it was a little unnerving. Is that the cool thing to do -- to look like you just lost your best friend? I don’t know, I pulled out the air drums and had a great time.
Dada Plan finished and I headed outside to take five minutes off of my life. Whilst doing so, I met a couple fellow Saskatoonians, which was nice. Then back inside for Lab Coast, it was a great show; nice, light, poppy. People seemed to lighten up a bit and the previously hostile environment lightened up and became mild and somewhat friendly. Then I headed to the Palomino to catch Crosss.
I got there early and ended up seeing Burro from Calgary, and really liking it. It was like instrumental psych noise music. The performance was captivating in that the band really seemed to feed off of each other’s energy. Burro’s sound is instrumental, and kind of rough, but still very palatable. Even without the guidance of lyrics, they were still able to put on an amazing show. I asked to talk to the guys post-show, and they agreed. It was a great interview.
I didn’t end up seeing Cross, but I did catch Duchess Says and that was a bit of a game changer for me. I would describe my music tastes as indie pop, psych and freak folk, so seeing Duchess Says was a little different. I would definitely say that there is a ceiling on indie pop so I wanted to venture out a little bit. The music was great, but the show that they put on was unlike anything I have really seen before. It was a little over-the-top, but very immersing. I’m not of-age in Saskatoon yet, so I don’t get to see many interesting shows in town. By the end of it, she (singer Annie-Claude Deschênes) was up on the bar, pouring shots into people’s mouths and beer on her head. She even grabbed my five head and started shaking it. I couldn’t really tell if she was fucked up on something, or if that was just her. And if it was just her, was it genuine? Whatever it was, she had my attention.
During the show I met Kelso. She would be my festival counterpart until Sunday.
Friday June 24
Friday was rainy and I spent $60 on cabs.
I woke up irresponsibly late, around 1:30pm. The CFCR showcase was happening at the Tubby Dog that day at 2:00 so I had to get my buns down to 17th Ave stat. I had been looking forward to seeing Respectfulchild all festival, but she went on first at 2, and I narrowly missed it. I got a hot dog and a beer (for the low, low price of $5) right in time for Waitress to start and I caught that show. After Waitress played, The Switching Yard went on and they were great. A few more beers after that, Adolyne played. I had been told by the lovely humans from the Avulsions that Adolyne was a band to add to the Sled list. It was the first really heavy show I had ever been to and they were right, that show was great.
The night before, I met a lovely lady named Amber to whom I mentioned that I had never been to the Calgary tower. Her and her friends invited me to hang out in the artists lounge. So, I headed to meet them (Cab bill update- $32.70, tips included). Once I got there, I flashed my artist lounge wristband with steeze and walked right in. It was nice, I mean the drinks were still four dollars, but it was nice. There, we hung out with Djewel from The Ex Boyfriends and talked about life. The ladies wanted to see War Baby upstairs at the Palomino, so I followed along.
When I got there, I needed a little bit of a break, so I headed downstairs, where nothing was going on and found some really great people. I met a man making tape sculptures and he asked me to join. I learned the surprisingly difficult art and hung around with them for a while. As it turned out, he was a tour buddy with Even Gods Can Die; a band from San Jose. It got out that I was doing correspondence for the station, an interview was mentioned and then it was set. A post show interview was to happen.
I ran outside to have a cigarette and there I found some CFCR pals. Somehow I ended up at Legion (bourbon samples, you know?), I saw Power Buddies and half of Dream Whip’s set. I remembered that I had somewhere to be, so I made my way back to the Palomino to talk with Even Gods Can Die.
I hailed a cab and my cab driver and I embarked on a journey to find a liquor store. He had no idea where he was going, but 20 minutes and $15 in cab fare later, we found one. Aside from fucking me over financially, he was an absolutely lovely person, incredibly fancy too. I got home and had a one person party (cab bill update- $62.50). Here is John and I in the cab. (yes, I have permission to use this photo)
Saturday June 25
Now, if we are being honest here, Saturday was a little bit of a mess for me. I was pretty broke, so my plan was to drive everywhere and drink nowhere. But you meet people and plans change.
Genders was another band that I had requested an interview with beforehand. They were playing at the Local 510 parking lot at 3:30. Getting there was a challenge, I ended up driving the wrong way on a one way street again and somehow ended up at the university, but I made it. I found parking just in the nick of time to make the show. I got acquainted with the band before they went on, and got a good spot. Genders is an indie pop band from Portland, Oregon who play together like a bunch of angels. Light, bouncy guitar riffs, exciting drums and many catchy vocals make up their fun, summery tunes. I have to say, that show was one of my favourites. The crowd was loving it and the atmosphere was great. After the show, Maggie and Steven were able to step away from their extremely complimentary fans for a few minutes to talk to me about their van, the tour and dogs. Check it out here.
After Genders, I left Todd parked on the street and went to check out the Broken City patio. After Broken City, I headed to the Palomino, because that was sort of the pattern that I got into. The Palomino was pretty central, the bartender knew my order and it was two venues in one. Adolyne was playing that night at 8:30, so I thought “Why not head on down?.” I took it easy, got a table, wrote a little bit and ate. And then Kelso showed up and she was excited to see Brass play, a punk band from BC. I had never been in a mosh pit until then. I barely walked out with all of my teeth and toes, but I did and I am still alive to tell the story.
Later, I met the ladies from Hedks and they invited me to party. Turns out they were with Brass. It was great and everyone laughed at my jokes. Check out at the Air BnB on Sunday was at 12:00, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to make it. My original post-festival plan was to camp in Waterton for a couple of nights, but that didn’t end up happening. My wallet hurt more than my head Sunday morning and I decided to get another night at the BnB.
Getting home on Monday was a slice. The drive from Calgary is like a single lane through a green purgatory. It is astoundingly boring; there is nothing to look at. You get some fun hills about an hour from Calgary, but after that, the highway turns orange for a little while and you get a giant cactus. Sled 2016 was definitely an experience. The music was amazing and the people were all so beautiful. I didn’t get a chance to see everything on the list, or hit every venue, but hey, mystery is part of the allure of Sled 2017, I’ll catch ya there.
*Watch for the audio from Josie's Sled interviews to pop-up here soon!!
(c) 2016 CFCR 90.5FM