Sled Island Festival Calgary AB June 24 to 28

Sled Island Festival Calgary AB June 24 to 28
Photo: Aubrey McInnis
It can be easy to complain about Calgary’s inconsistent music scene, but when Sled Island is going on it becomes the luckiest city on earth. Drawing premier independent acts on a global and local scale, the festival’s second year crammed countless performances into the city’s best, and often most intimate, venues. The fest opened on fire at Broken City, where fans were treated to the smarmy punk of the Dirty Dirty North and the thinking-man’s no wave of Ontario’s DD/MM/YYYY, who drove to the venue straight from another show in Lethbridge that night. But it was No Age who stole hearts the first night, blowing the place apart with their raw, passionate nu-gaze. Wednesday night truly set the chaotic pace of the festival, where Woodpigeon’s sincere rock paved the way for a sacred, intimate Grizzly Bear set at the Central United Church. Then it was back to Broken City for a riotous set from the Mae Shi, who had the crowd in full party participation. They ended so they could join their fans in running down the street to catch Dan Deacon at the Warehouse. A festival highlight for most, Deacon transformed the medium-sized rock club into a sweaty, pulsating dance party not unlike the warehouse parties he throws at home. The show ended when his iPod Shuffle ran out of songs, and it was a race to the Ship and Anchor, which Bison ripped to shreds with heroic metal riffs. Thursday saw Montreal’s BBQ break hearts with his crooning one-man garage act, Vancouver’s Basketball pulsate with fiercely loud noise rock, and Italian DJs Crookers draw a line-up around the block of the Hi-Fi Club. All of this was a precursor to the main stage at Mewata Field, which on Friday saw a sunny, if a little subdued, performance from Yo La Tengo and a phoned in Tegan and Sara performance. Broken Social Scene ended the main event, but many had to ditch it to catch RZA as Bobby Digital at the Grand Theater, who turned his lukewarm Digi Snacks into a mind-blowing party experience without forgetting some classic Wu-Tang gems. The night could have ended there, but it was off to the Legion for an intimate-but-packed performance from post-punk legends Wire, who were solid but did not live up to the profound hype surrounding their presence. José Gonzàlez opened Saturday’s main stage with his full-bodied acoustic guitar and earnest voice, and was followed by Calgary’s Women, who tore up the side stage with their messy indie rock. Other highlights of Saturday were Modern Lovers’ front-man Jonathan Richman, who drew grins with his gleeful folk songs, Of Montreal, who glammed up the stage with outfits as stylish as their songs, and Mogwai, whose epic post-rock was a fitting soundtrack to the setting sun. Rather than let the festival end, it was back to the Legion where local punk kids Sudden Infant Dance Syndrome (pictured) played a sweaty, shirtless final show, followed by a truly insane Fucked Up set that vocalist Pink Eyes called one of his favourite Fucked Up shows ever. There was a hint of sadness as the whirlwind weekend wound down, with fans wishing every weekend was this legendary.