Words and photos by Carter Engele, Host of Green Eggs & Ham (Wednesdays, 8-10am)
For the past couple of years, Sled Island has consistently been on my live music radar. Being 18-years-old, this was my first opportunity to fully explore the many events Sled has to offer and once again, this year was full of fantastic acts. The plan was to stay from Wed, June 19th to Mon, June 24th, and absorb the sounds of both new and familiar live music reverberating through the great city of Calgary, Alberta! Packed into my 2005 Nissan Altima, I hit the road with my two closest friends (Drew and Riley), en route to Sled Island 2019!
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
The road trip heavily consisted of music from artists attending Sled Island this year. We felt this was a great way to hear some new tunes and also build our excitement. Just over halfway through the journey, smooth sailing so far, we set eye-to-eye with a thunderous rain storm. Luckily, our music playlist knew how to accompany us and cued up “Mythomania” by The Messthetics and “L'Espace au sol est redessiné par d'immenses panneaux bleus” by Fly Pan Am. These two tracks complimented perfectly with the hazy horizon and deep dark skies. Over the period of seven hours, we arrived safely in Calgary around 4:30pm. The traffic was quite packed around downtown, but time was on our side and food was awaiting us in our to-go cooler. We unpacked our belongings at my sister’s apartment, had a meal and she joined us as we all went to pick up our passes.
We arrived just in time for Bay Area, California artist Cass McCombs at Central United Church. We could’ve showed up earlier but 30 minutes prior, I was denied access because I forgot my photo pass (Haha, whoops, rookie mistake). Luckily, the pass pick-up was only a couple blocks away and Sled Island staff was very helpful.
Central United was a great venue for McCombs and his band. People filled both floors, all mesmerized by their unique take on blending the genres of psychedelic and folk music. Their set consisted of crisp but ambient guitar tones, a thunderous rhythm section and diverse keyboard arrangements.
Just down the street from Central United was one of our favourite venues, the Palomino. We decided to switch up our schedule in anticipation to discover some new music. Upon arrival, Edmonton band Squids were preparing for their 2nd set of the festival. This group makes great use of unique rhythms and catchy melodies to grab hold of their audience. After shooting some photos we got up front, grabbed a drink and enjoyed the set before heading over to the next venue, #1 Legion.
Sled Island is fairly new to me, and I’m still learning how close most of the venues are in relation to each other. From the Palomino to #1 Legion is approximately 1700 Steam Whistle beer cans away (yes, I calculated that). Most of the shows on our schedule are between those two venues, other than the Commonwealth, Tubby Dog, King Eddy, and Central United Church.
Japanese Breakfast was the headliner at #1 Legion, although we arrived early and were pleasantly surprised by a set from Victoria, BC group Bridal Party. Lately, I’ve been digging music in the realm of R&B artist Yellow Days and this group delivered a similar but unique style to their set.
After Bridal Party finished, we headed downstairs, slowly moved up in the crowd and got prepared for Japanese Breakfast. The group had an amazing stage present and interacted great with the audience. Their music is dreamy, nostalgic and super catchy. Group Leader Michelle Zauner created many musical memories but also many comedic ones as well. She told stories from touring on the road, her food experiences in Calgary (Check out Michelle’s food show on Vice’s Munchies) and how “These Steam Whistles got me feeling a little bit tipsy.” Nonetheless, Calgary loved Japanese Breakfast and so did I!
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Today began with fruit smoothies, eggs and the essential cup of coffee. My sister is a coffee expert and treated us to some great homemade pour-overs during our visit. Following our relaxing morning, we decided to switch gears and head to Sloth Records. We caught some of Edmonton garage rock group, Dead Friends, and had a nice chat with their bass player, Carter. Up next was Jake from the Sex Geckos, doing a Ty Segall inspired solo set. Jake was playing guitar plugged into a Fender Quad Reverb, and using his feet for rhythm on kick drum and hi-hats. Just before heading out to replug the parking meter, I met another photographer/blogger. Connor Lang is a high school student, involved with Youth Central YYC, and guest blogging about all-ages shows during Sled Island 2019. Since Connor was checking out all ages shows, I made sure to invite him for CFCR’s annual Sled Island showcase at Tubby Dog (more on that on Friday!).
The Sex Geckos (Solo Set)
Following my chat with Connor, DTSQ from Seoul, South Korea was ready to tear the house down at Sloth Records. Their set was mind blowing. After the set, I made sure to purchase their 2017 release, “Neon-Colored Milky Way” on Vinyl. Looking forward to spinning some DTSQ back at the station!
During supper, we decided to grab some take out and view photos from the Sloth Records showcase before heading to Fly Pan Am and The Messthetics. Being from Saskatoon, driving in downtown Calgary is pretty chaotic. There are lots of one-way streets, trains and time restrictions on when you can or cannot drive down a street. I may or may not have driven the opposite direction on a one way, but that’s a topic for another time. Fly Pan Am had a mix of electronics and rhythmic patterns that gave them their own distinct sound for sure. Following Fly Pan Am was The Messthetics. This group is composed of Fugazi’s groovy rhythm section (Brendan Canty and Joe Lally) and Anthony Pirog’s heavy avant-garde, jazzy guitar playing. This was a great show and being a drummer, I fell in love with the playing of Brendan Canty. Following the Messthetics, I purchased their self-titled record from 2018 and my bud Drew purchased a CD as well!
Fly Pan Am
Friday, June 21, 2019
Friday was the day of CFCR’s 9th annual Sled Island showcase titled “Sask-Tastic Voyage.” There are beers, hot dogs and Saskatoon bands. This year included The Garrys, Slow Down Molasses, The Sex Geckos and 3 Moonjask. Each group had their own unique sound, which was the recipe for a great showcase. From 2-6pm, Tubby Dog was filled with interested ears and hungry stomachs. Connor, who I mentioned earlier, also made it to two of the four shows. He decided to bring two friends and check out 3 Moonjask and Slow Down Molasses. Before Connor left, I quickly snapped a photo of him for this write-up (Shouts out to Connor and hope to see you in the future!). 3 Moonjask played a groovy electronic set, Slow Down Molasses filled Tubby Dog with their atmosphereic tones, The Sex Geckos played their patented high powered punk rock set and The Garrys ended the day off with their classic set of original surf rock tunes. Overall, the showcase went super good. One of my favorite moments from the day, was enjoying The Garrys set, with good buds, Owen, Jake, Arnie and Kevin, as we watched from the back of the venue. This show also included new merch from the Sex Geckos, with art from Riley McWalter, my partner in crime during this Sled Island journey.
Later that night, we set out to see Ancient Pig and The Oblivians at #1 Legion. My first time seeing Saskatoon's Ancient Pig was actually at Sled Island last year, when they played with Wand, Faith Healer and Hot Garbage at Broken City. It’s always fun seeing them play, and good times talking music with bassist Maxwell and guitarist Peter after the show.
Later in the evening, The Oblivians played one of the highest energy live shows I've ever seen. Made up of three members, their music ignited an intense mosh pit with sweat dripping and bodies flying.
Saturday, June 22, 2019
I was pretty burnt out on Saturday morning, so I decided to nap and recharge for late afternoon. Before heading out, my sister’s boyfriend and I decided to get some black & white film developed from the last couple of days. Around 5:00pm, the first set we saw was Snake River. The set consisted of guitar, bass, drums, keys, violin, vocals, and tamborine. Each aspect contributed to a wonderful sonic landscape that distinguished their music from anything else. Following Snake River, we saw Shirley And The Pyramids. Once again, Shirley and the Pyramids are a great Saskatoon band with some familiar faces in the group. The boys put together a great set of new, old and cover songs as well.
Shirley & The Pyramids
Seeing UK group The Comet Is Coming at the Commonwealth was truly a unique experience. I heard on Sled Island’s web page that this was a show you cannot miss. The trio of synth, saxophone and drums created music that transcends time and space itself. Once the show concluded, we were still high off the experience created by the groups many different soundscapes. The best way to describe saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings is he speaks with his instrument. The emotion and effort shows, as five minutes into the set, he was already pouring sweat and looked like he’d just finished running a marathon.
The Comet Is Coming
To conclude Saturday night, we decided to check out Blessed at the King Eddy and Cate Le Bon at the #1 Legion. Upon entering King Eddy, we bumped into good friends Owen and Jake from the Sex Geckos. We only had time to check out Blessed because we wanted to catch Cate Le Bon on time and we started to get hungry.
With a quick pit stop at the Palomino for a plate of nachos and a big glass of water, we headed over to catch Cate Le Bon. Cate’s set consisted of seven different instruments, from saxophone to keys and everything in between. I’ve been a fan of Cate Le Bon after hearing her work with artist White Fence. Cate and Tim Presley (White Fence) created music under the name “DRINKS” and that’s what lead me to her catchy tunes.
Cate Le Bon
Sunday, June 23, 2019
This was our last day at Sled Island 2019, so we got a good start by eating eggs benny for breakfast. It was my 19th birthday as well, so we decided to go to Oak Tree Tavern for some food with a couple close friends during the afternoon. After cutting it close and executing the perfect parallel park, we entered the Palomino to catch Toronto group, Possum. This show was lucky number 13 on their Canadian/US Tour for new record Space Grade Assembly. It was an awesome birthday treat seeing one of my favorite Canadian bands and looking forward to seeing them again in the future!
Writing this conclusion on the last day of Sled Island 2019, makes me realize how many great memories were made this year. Each show contributed to a truly unique experience and it makes me look forward to Sled Island 2020! Thanks to CFCR and Sled Island for giving me this opportunity and to all the bands for some great music over the last five days. Cheers!