Sled Island Post-Mortem July 5, 2010

Sled Island started hitting it’s stride right when I left it’s host city. I think if it had matured to what it is today, I would have been less likely to move away. Not much less, but a bit. The “island” bit of the title is it’s most appropriate, standing as this weird island, isolated in the calendar with the disintegration of the Calgary Jazz Festival and with a long stretch before the Calgary Folk Festival (who are really bringing it these days, even at the expense of their theme). The year is relatively dead, aside from a smattering of events spread so thin as to be nearly invisible.

Sled Island makes no sense really. I had a lot of fun living in Calgary, but for most people, the city is a “wasteland” (to quote Japandroids), a partially deserved qualification. But for a weekend in July, it’s the home of arguably the best music festival in the Pacific Northwest, if not the entire West Coast. Plus it gives me an excuse to eat my parent’s food for a weekend.

What I Saw, And How Good It Was (in chronological order, starting Thursday afternoon):

Hot Panda: Ahead of The Pack A.D., these guys played a great set and seemed like they were having a great time. They were terrific to open up my weekend with and I look forward to checking out their stuff. B+

The Pack A.D: Good Lord I want to bottle their live show and sell it. They are definitely one of the most dynamic two-pieces I have ever seen play. It never seems theatrical, but you can’t help but just watch them beat the shit out of their instruments and wind everybody up. The desecration of a Nardwuar pinata helped too. A

Mini Mansions: These guys put on a good show, but seemed a little misplaced. I think putting them after The Posies and before Deerhoof would have been a better cleanser, priming us for weirdness. B

Women: I never really got into their recorded stuff. It doesn’t really move me. That’s why I’m continually surprised at how much I enjoy their stuff live. Unfortunately, the plague of inappropriate moshing continues in Calgary. No sense of history, I suppose. The violence killed punk and is what makes metal so scary to people. I’m fine with physicality, but this was a kind of shit that was just testosterone, looking for an altercation, shrugging and yelling “just tryin’ to have a good time, bro” when somebody is pissed that you’re mashing the ribs of his girlfriend into a pulp into the monitors. That really negative atmosphere was killing the energy in the room, and was expertly deflated by the band with only four words: “Hey, keep it positive”. I couldn’t have put it better myself. A-

The Posies: Consummate professionals that deflected a couple of drunk fellows telling them they were “totally sweet” after every single song. Their brand of 90’s pop rock was great, but went on about 20 minutes too long. Brevity is the better part of wit, boys, and serves the velocity of your music better. B

Deerhoof: Everything I could have wanted out of a band I have longed to see live. Opener “Basketball Get Your Groove Back” was outstanding, and their drummer is one of the weirdest, most talented musicians working today. He stands out in a group that is entirely, massively good at what they do. Awesome. A+

Fucked Up: Opened the mainstage on Friday, but I couldn’t see them. I had to go home (all the way south on the train) to take my DSLR camera back to my vehicle. With the little shitty kit lens I brought, it was hardly professional, boys. When everyone and their dog has a 500D, when do they cease being “professional”? It’s a shitty rule that plagues all modern festivals, really. “Just take it back to your car”, said the security guard who would pat-search me about 30 times over two days. That’ll learn you to take transit in this town, boy. –

Why?: This was my first real introduction to this band. I heard some of their stuff before, but hadn’t sat down with an album yet. Yoni Wolf is now quickly becoming one of my favorite lyricists since Stephen Merritt. A-

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists: A band I respect dearly but know people who love them far more than I do. A great, energetic set that told the rainclouds gathering to fuck off…and they did! A pretty neat trick. Along with a great rendition of “Sons of Cain”, I was pretty satisfied. A-

The Thermals: I have been aware of this band longer than I care to remember, but they have never really done it for me. I usually tune out after a couple of tracks. Their live show is a marked improvement, but they were flanked by way more exciting bands. B-

Built To Spill: With Muse and Phoenix, they complete a triumvirate of big bands I just don’t “get”. I’m sure they’re great, and I have heard some stuff I like, but people whose opinion I value highly rave about them. And I don’t get it. I hope to someday, and until then I’ll reserve judgement.

Girl Talk: Don’t put baby in a corner. Don’t put Girl Talk outside, in sunlight. Sweaty, cramped, dark bars are his arena. Keep him there. C

Woodhands: Totally awesome. Finished out the set with “Dancer”, the female vocals filled in falsetto from a dude. It was nearly perfect. A

Cex: Didn’t really come to play and drove a ton of the crowd to tables for drinks and food to refuel. I heard scattered reports of a real disconnect between the members onstage and general apathy. I can’t comment on those rumors, as I headed for tables for drinks and food to refuel. I could hear them just fine, though. C

Whomadewho: The Show of the Show. Absolutely incredible. The best thing out of Denmark since Lego, said a dude on Twitter. I’m inclined to agree. I would pay a great deal of dollars to see them again, immediately. A+

!!!: Commented that they never had to follow an act so good. I felt for them, as the brand of dance-rock they helped invent just seemed laid back next to the powerhouse performance of Whomadewho. Still pretty great though. A-

A band including a festival organizer guy whose name I cannot recall: They were basically just screwing around on stage with instruments. It was pretty neat. B-

Black Lips: A surprisingly tame set by these guys, notorious for urinating on…most things, really. There was a rogue firework that went off from the stage, but other than that, they just leaned on a good stable of songs. Not a band I would put on an outdoor stage. B-

The Bronx: I really wanted more mariachi. Sigh. C

NoMeansNo: No. C-

Big Business: The mainstage on Saturday was packed to the gills with this aged sort of punk and soft metal. This was likely to serve as an appropriate opener for Melvins and Dinosaur Jr., but was really underwhelming. The whole day sounded like one extended power chord. C

Melvins: Pretty glad I got to see these guys. They put on a great set (if somewhat short) and it oddly had the most dimension out of everything on the mainstage that day. It injected some energy back into the proceedings, to be sure… A-

Hot Water Music:…only to have it sucked out again by more of the same. B-

Dinosaur Jr.: A good set somewhat marred by a couple of douchebags near me at the fence who were really stoked that they could see J. Mascis. “Hey! Hey! Hey J! We see you man! We see you! You are there playing music! You are J! Woo! Hello! Hello! I need attention from a paternal figure! Hello!” It was pretty painful. Way to make us look stupid, guys. A-

White Lung: Continuing a fairly aggressive, punk trend in the day, but in a good way. This was a first listen for me, but I was pretty impressed. Vocals, guitar work and drums were all really tight, and I look forward to seeing them on bigger stages next year. B+

No Age: A very cool show with, packing in a ton of songs in a short time. Very glad to have got to this one. A

GZA: Didn’t get to see much of GZA as it was standing room only (and by that, I mean on top of tables at the Legion). I heard a bunch though and it sounded cool. Everyone said it was a good time, but I can’t help but think we will probably lose the Legion as a venue for next year because of it. The amount of bottles just thrown on the ground (and broken) was something definitely not present in previous years (that I can remember, through the haze). The clean up would have taken hours, and we will have to see if the staff thinks it was worth it. Fingers crossed. –

Fucked Up: They played my fave, “I Hate Summer”. One of the best live bands to come out of this country, and probably Sled Island’s biggest cheerleaders. Hell of a way to finish out the weekend. A

This year’s Sled Island was a mixed bag, and probably the most hit and miss of the three I have attended. A ton a good times to be had though, and the free Dr. Pepper made for good breakfast. I give the whole thing a B+ (2008 being an A- and 2009 being an A).

Bands I Would Have Liked To Have Seen:

Half of Sled Island is regretfully missing a ton of great bands. It’s an overabundance of wealth, sometimes. I wish I hadn’t missed these.

Apollo Ghosts: Alex Hudson is going to murder me if I don’t see these guys soon.

Hard Drugs


Golden Triangles

Les Savy Fav

Gobble Gobble


Turbo Fruits

Shout Out Out Out Out

Quintron + Miss Pussycat


The Donkeys

The Dudes


Ramblin’ Ambassadors

Woodpigeon: first Sled Island having not done so

Ty Segall

Chain and the Gang

North of America

Also: I hope that girl who had her shoes stolen got them back. Not cool.