Since it’s inception in 2007, Sled Island has continued to impress year after year. Last year’s flood was a hard hit that could have meant the end of an amazing festival. Thankfully, in true Calgary spirit, it has risen above the flood waters and managed to stay afloat. The festival has so much to offer in way of music, art, film, and even comedy it can be hard to know where to start, but once things kick off on Tuesday the vibe of downtown Calgary will make it easy to sink into the fun the festival brings. I always get excited about the bands who are coming, but one thing I have learned over the years is that it’s the days that go off-course that turn out to be the most memorable. Experiencing Sled Island is not always about being in the know about every single artist, but being open to the experience. In recent years, I have missed a few bands that I wanted to see but ended up at shows that have blown my mind. There are many artists that I am excited about, but have found many more that have piqued my interest.
I never quite know where the days and nights will take me during my Sled experience, but there a few shows I am hoping to catch. There are tons of local bands playing during the festival, one of my most favourite being Kris Ellestad. He is playing Wednesday at the Ironwood, and seeing as how he doesn’t play a ton of shows, his set is a must-see for me. If you like folk music, you are bound to love Kris Ellestad – he is captivating to watch live, as his voice is absolutely beautiful.
Another band that I can’t wait to check out is Coach Longlegs, a self described “power pop” band from St. John’s, Newfoundland. They are just the kind of band that I love to run into during my sled wanderings – fun, talented, and ready to party. They can make your Friday night at the Legion, or start your Saturday at Local 510 (If you see them at the Legion, you also get to hang out with the cool senior servers – BONUS!)
Speaking of the Legion, I happen to love this venue! It’s especially fun during Sled Island, with bands playing on both floors as well as a cool art instillation to check out. This year’s is call ‘Zoloft Garden’ by Joleen Toner, Zac Macarthur, and Mohammad Rezaei. Saturday night at the Legion was curated by Kathleen Hanna, who sadly can’t be at the festival due to her struggle with Lime disease. To learn more about Hanna, check out the documentary “The Punk Singer” playing Friday night the Globe Cinema. Her impact on this year’s festival will certainly be felt, and Saturday night at the Legion will feature some of her favourite bands, including The Younger Lovers, and Mindtroll.
If you are into the latest and greatest, you may want to check out Dan Boeckner’s new band Operators, who are playing Wednesday night at the Republik. Don’t let the late night scare you off! There is a no sleeping rule for Sled (or at least there should be!) Boeckner (formerly of Wolf Parade, and The Divine Fits) and The Operators have created a lot of buzz, leading up to the Canadian Music Week in Toronto in May. Although they have a recorded album, it’s yet to be released. The reviews so far have been great, and The Operators have a fun pop vibe that will keep you dancing and forgetting about your bed time.
If you want a walk down memory lane (perhaps a lane that existed long before you were born) check out Shannon and the Clams. They rocked Sled in 2011, and manage to sound like a 50’s doo-wop band with a punk edge. Super talented and a whole lot of fun, you can find them at The Golden Age Club on Friday night, and at The Palomino on Saturday. You can’t go wrong with this trio.
I could go on and on about bands to check out – there are some big names coming and lots of amazing smaller bands with tons of sounds and styles to choose from. Stay up late, go somewhere new, have fun. And in case you haven’t heard, you can walk around with beers at Olympic Plaza! It’s hard to go wrong at this festival, especially if you get into the spirit of what it’s all about and appreciate what a great opportunity it is for our lovely city.