Words by Trash Can Dan, host of The Buzz (alternating Tuesdays, 5-6pm). Photos by Dan unless otherwise stated.

Sled Island Statistics: 

13th annual edition of the Festival.
250 bands.
35 different venues.
29 unique people-from-Saskatoon sightings
Trendiest look at festival: Bleached-blonde hair is making a comeback.
Festival Beer:  Steam Whistle
Festival Beer Satisfaction:  Low to Moderate

Thursday, June 20, 2019

6:00pm – Astral Swans @ The Palomino (Upstairs)

It seemed fitting to open up my 2019 Sled Island with Calgary’s indie darlings - Astral Swans. Astral Swans is the project of Matthew Swan who usually writes his tracks on a whim.  Most recent Astral Swans album is 2018 Strange Prisons.

Venue: Main Floor of Palomino Smokehouse
Atmosphere:  After-work drinkers collides with Sled Island cool cats
Fav Lyric: "I like getting high and singing 'Hallelujah'"
Recommended Listening:  "Let Their Faces All Blur Out" from All My Favourite Singers Are Willie Nelson (2015 Album).

7:30pm - Squirrel Flower @ Central United Church

Photo by Levi Manchak

Squirrel Flower is the alias of Ella Williams from Boston, Massachusetts.  After a delayed flight (due to 100F cabin temperature) the band played a show at Central United Church in a lineup that included Cedric Noel and Jessica Pratt.  I had a chance to catch up with Squirrel Flower after the set. 

3 1/2 questions with Trash Can Dan:

TCD:  So, you’re one of the guest curator selections.  What’s the connection between you and Julien?
(*Note:  Each year, Sled Island’s guest curator puts their stamp on the festival through a handful of special programming selections.  The 2019 curator is acclaimed indie singer-songwriter Julien Baker.)

Ella:  Julien is wonderful.  We met at a music festival in Iowa City that was a lot similar to Sled Island.  It’s a great honour to be one of Julien’s picks.

TCD:  What’s your weirdest inspiration for a song?

Ella:  That’s a hard one. Hmmm

TCD: How about Daylight Savings?  There is a lyric "I know we gained an hour but it feels like I’ve lost two," was this song about Daylight Savings Time? 

Ella:  Kind of. It was about a time in my life and thinking about change but definitely an element of the clocks changing. 

TCD: Are you pro Daylight Savings?

Ella:  F&*K no.  It’s horrible. 

TCD:  What’s next for you in terms of music?

Ella:  It is top secret but I have a new album in the works.   I’m playing some more shows in the US and then will hopefully figure out timing with the new album and what’s next but focusing on music for sure. 

Special thanks to Ella for taking the time to chat.

Recommend Listening: "Conditions" and "Daylight Savings" from the 2016 Album Contact Sports

Friday, June 21, 2019

2:00pm – A Sask-Tastic Voyage: CFCR's showcase of Saskatoon bands @ Tubby Dog

What a delight!  The best damn local bands in the world paired with hotdogs and beer. 

Hot dogs I tried:

SUMO (Japanese mayo, wasabi, pickled
ginger, lightly toasted sesame seed,
seaweed salad)
CAP’PN Dog (Peanut butter & jelly
with Cap’n Crunch cereal) 


8:00pm – Jonathan Kawchuk, Muqata’a & William Basinski @ Patricia A. Whelan Performance Hall at Calgary Central Library

Friday night saw a change of pace for me. The crossroads of sound, visual arts, and music were explored through three artists of ambient and experimental music. Sled Islanders were treated to a special show inside the Central Library, featuring Jonathan Kawchuk, Muqata’aWilliam Basinski.  The headliner, William Basinski, explored the tangible hope and fear at the center of humanity through the sound of two black holes merging over a billion years ago. 

The fire alarms went off during the set due to a fog machine and delayed the headliner (everyone had to temporarily evacuate the building). The fire alarm sound actually seamlessly blended in with the music. It’s a good thing the fire department entered the performance hall, it’s not every day ambient music calls in the fire department.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

1:00pm – Silvering @ Central Memorial Park 

With the sun shining, Calgary folk bedroom pop project, Silvering played an outdoor set full of flowery tunes. Silvering is the work of Calgary musician Shalom Toy. 

2:00pm - Sled Island Block Party 

The Block Party took place a 10-minute bike ride away from downtown in the neighbourhood of Inglewood. Upon my arrival, the 3 Moonjasks were spotted out of costume dancing to the french-touch house beats of Edmonton electronic duo ANZU.  The festival also had custom signage welcoming Trash Can Dan. [Photo of Dan & his Trash Can by Kevin McGuigan-Scott]. A highlight of the Block Party was a set of apocalyptic trap, lo-fi house and spectral R&B from Montreal Artist Ouri


11:00pm – Julien Baker @ Palace Theatre

Photo by Jarrett Edmund / Sled Island

At only 23, Julien Baker may be Sled Island’s youngest guest curator to date. Her performance was powerful, emotional, and raw. One friend remarked “You can feel the collective sadness of the Palace from across downtown.” But it was more than just sad songs, you could also hear hope and the reminder that the happy times are happier because we remember the bitter. 

I really enjoyed the touch Julien put on the festival as guest curator, bringing artists like the aforementioned Squirrel Flower, as well as Japanese Breakfast, JPEGMAFIA, Hop Along, Bully, and more.

12:30am – Cate Le Bon @ #1 Royal Canadian Legion

Photo by Jarrett Edmund / Sled Island

The Welsh artist Cate Le Bon's band started their set by saying they felt high from a lack of sleep to due a whirlwind of travel and delays on route from Wales.

Recommended Listening:  "Home To You" from the 2019 album Reward.

Highlights of the Festival

Diveristy of Artists:  So many differnet genres of music!  It truly is a festival of discovery. In one hour I went from listening to traditional African (King Ayisoba) to electronic (Graham Van Pelt) to indie rock (Julien Baker).

Biking Around:  It was great cruising around Calgary by bike. With the rain and high volume of hip people, it kind of felt like I was in Portland. 

Venues: The music was great, but it was wonderful exploring all the diversity of venues from rundown bars to classy performance halls to parks to hotdog shops.

Thanks Sled Island!