Exclaim!

Canadian Music Festival Profiles

Sled Island

Calgary, AB


Calgary’s Sled Island, born in 2007, is known for its eclectic programming and youthful energy. According to their website, Sled Island is elusive and malleable; the name can refer to an actual place in northern Alberta, a two-word poem and/or a one-of-a-kind music and arts festival. Bringing together a community of over 250 bands, comedians, filmmakers and artists in over 35 locales across Calgary, Sled Island takes place each June over five days. The festival has initiatives in place prioritizing inclusion, safe spaces and the environment, acknowledging the city of Calgary as the traditional territory of the Blackfoot and the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta.

The event is curated in part each year by a musician, with previous curators including beat experimentalist Flying Lotus, electro-clash queen Peaches, Montreal post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor and riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna.

Local talent play alongside international musicians at Sled Island. Vancouver jangle-pop outfit the Courtneys and Cowtown four-piece Hag Face played in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The festival has also lent its stages to the hauntingly beautiful sounds of Angel Olsen, the genre-bending Willis Earl Beal and Japanese legends Boris. Older acts have included Wu-Tang icon RZA, art punk CBGB fixtures Television and experimental noise all-stars Boredoms.

2013 saw John Dwyer (of Thee Oh Sees) and Tim Hecker’s set lists drowned out by rising water levels, a historic flooding that caused evacuations and closures around the city, but the festival came back strong and has been unfazed since.