Night Two of the Sled Island music festival saw some wet weather outdoors, while the audiences inside soaked up the incredible talents on display all over town.
One of the biggest hits was the Commonwealth performance of Colin Stetson. A touring member of several big-name bands (Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre), Stetson took to the stage solo, with his duo of saxophones, and proceeded to blow the minds of everyone in attendance. His set featured a number of long pieces that took everything that a layperson would expect from a guy with a sax and threw it out the window. Someone had described his sound to me at one point as similar to free jazz – thankfully, it was nothing like that. His pieces had definite structure and cohesion, purpose and poise, and plenty of soul. The sound ranged from jazzy to electronic, suddenly pounding in an near-industrial throb, and finely pulling away in an orchestral musing. All of this was impeccably fused into an incredible performance that left several people proclaiming it the sure champion of Sled sounds.
Not everyone got in to see Stetson play, as Commonwealth, like Dicken’s, reached capacity rather early in the evening, leaving music lovers to seek out new venues and sounds, and boldly go somewhere because no one wanted to stand in the rain for much longer.
Many ended up at the downtown Legion, where the battle of the stairway gave fans a chance to bounce between two superb venues without getting wet. Downstairs, Freak Heat Wave started off with a strong set, rocking solid tunes and a mature voice that belayed their young appearance, but certainly filled the dance floor with eager ears. Upstairs, Crystal Swells stood out in the intimate confines, all the better to display their garage rock sound (The rain outside must have made the Vancouver boys feel right at home).
The other big show for the night was the Swans set at Dicken’s, which by all accounts, was well worth the lineups for those who arrived early enough to secure a spot, blasting the audience with enough base to shake off any lingering raindrops. Meisha and the Spanks were also rumoured to have shown up in the Palomino basement and surprised everyone with an inpromptu set between the rest of the heavy ‘Mino lineup for the night.
All in all, a soggy night in line for some, but no matter where you ended up, there was great music to be had.