Last year, Sled Island Music & Arts Festival had its fair share of challenges due to the devastating Alberta floods, but if there’s anything to learn from a bad situation, it’s that you can’t keep a good thing down. It was named one of the top festivals in 2014 to check out by Time magazine—and for good reason. Over the course of its seven years, organizers have curated a continually drool-worthy lineup, consisting of international heavyweights and buzzed-about up-and-comers. This year’s installment will be no different. The unsinkable ship has risen again with a killer lineup that includes Spiritualized, Neko Case, Rocket From The Crypt, St. Vincent, Touché Amoré, Joel Plaskett Emergency, Rhye, Killer Mike, Earthless, Bob Mould, Chelsea Wolfe, Mission of Burma, Blitzen Trapper, The Fresh & Onlys, Power Trip, Shannon & The Clams, Julianna Barwick, Bass Drum of Death, U.S. Girls, Elliott Brood, and so many more.
With Sled’s music-drenched festivities upon us once again, a few staffers at the National Music Centre decided to roundup their top picks. But, really, all of the shows are going to be awesome, so if you haven’t already, grab a pass and let the exploration begin. Go to sledisland.com for more information on purchasing passes or individual tickets.
Jason Tawkin, Collections Assistant
Spiritualized: I love Spacemen 3—and this offshoot of that band is one class act. Finally they’re playing here in our hometown!
Earthless: Let’s face it, every guitar solo should be 15 minutes long. This band brings back the power trio with their mind-melting epic 20-minute psych jams. If this is not enough, they are known for their modern takes on the classics. Their version of “Cherry Red” by The Groundhogs is a great example.
“Cherry Red” by Earthless
Public Animal: Ian Blurton’s newest project. I was introduced to this band when they dropped by to do some overdubs on our mellotrons in January. Killer band. Think Black Mountain meets King Crimson.
B.A. Johnston: Great songwriter from Hamilton. Anyone that sings about stealing cable from Rogers is worth seeing live.
Jerusalem in My Heart: Mixing Arabic scales with modern electronic sounds and a 35mm film collage, this is more of an experience than a performance. This one also means a lot to us here at NMC as last year’s cancelled show was the start of last year’s flood events.
Chad Saunders, Manager, Operations and Special Projects
Rocket From the Crypt: Waited a long time to see this band.
Earthless: To sonically melt your face.
Any of the shows at The Golden Age Club: This venue didn’t get to debut last year as a Sled Island venue due to the floods, but the shows scheduled here are all amazing. Highlights: Dead Soft and Lab Coast (Thursday night); Burger Records showcase with La Luz and Shannon & the Clams (Friday night); Strange Attractor and The Spits will likely be an epic and legendary show (Saturday night).
The Spits performing “Let Us Play Your Party” at SXSW
Honorable mention: Gaytheist; CFCR from Saskatoon hosts a showcase at Tubby Dog that is always good; NMC folks playing at, or with bands, at Sled include Sarah Davachi, Lab Coast, HexRay, and Samantha Savage Smith.
Full disclosure: I also sit on the Sled Island Board as a director (they gave me a title of Vice President, but still no free parking!).
Julijana Capone, Publicity Coordinator
Bass Drum of Death and The Fresh and Onlys (Wednesday at the Legion): A mixed bag of garage rock jams—from the loud and skuzzy to the warm and fuzzy—at one of my newfound favourite venues in town.
Royal Canoe: Known for their inventive brand of avant indie-pop, the Winnipeg band’s debut album, Today We’re Believers, is front-to-back excellent. Nailing gorgeous, complex arrangements, and throwing the occasionally ridiculous dance cover into their live set (hear: Nelly’s “It’s Getting Hot in Here”), Royal Canoe’s shows are guaranteed GTs.
Spiritualized: Space rock band formed out of the ashes of Spacemen 3, and main project of Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman). From shoegaze touchstones to elements of gospel and full-on sonic free-for-alls, Spiritualized have been tapping into another terrestrial frequency since the early ‘90s, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the trip.
“Come Together” by Spriritualized
The Repossessors: Full-throttle garage-punk out of Vancouver that will hit you like a punch in the face.
St. Vincent: Shredding guitar work, robotic stage moves, nods to Gary Numan, Talking Heads and Devo and an offbeat pop sound that is driven with such wonderfully disjointed precision, St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) has a way of pulling an audience in and never letting go.
Dead Soft: Keeping grunge alive for the 21st century, Dead Soft bridges the heavy with the melodic in just the right proportion. I discovered the Vancouver trio a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to shut up about them since.
Blondes: Last call house music, if you need to get in one more turn before calling it a night.
Adam Kamis, Event Coordinator
The Spits: Punk rockers of every stripe agree that The Spits rule. This Missouri band slops together flathead, Ramones-esque riffage with spaced-out synth lines to create the perfect soundtrack to an end-of-the-world pizza party.
Un Blonde:The astoundingly talented Jean Sebastian Audet has been writing and recording some truly unique and well-crafted music in Calgary for the past few now. Un Blonde is his latest project and arguably the most defined in terms of vision. The band evokes traces of no wave and classic Euro post-punk, but is completely original at the same time. Oh yeah, Jean just turned 18 in April….
storc: Vancouver’s storc I’m endorsing on reputation alone. They have never played Calgary, but the band features former members of The Nasty On and Canadian college radio legend and all-around music fiend Luke Meat on vocals. Don’t miss their show at Tubby Dog next Friday night!
Power Trip: For those of you who like both kinds of music: heavy and metal, look to Texas’s Power Trip to slay your puny eardrums. They have a classic thrash feel about them and it rules! As always, death to false metal!!
Shannon & The Clams: San Francisco’s Shannon & The Clams are the best. Shannon Shaw (from Hunx & his Punx fame) and her band sound like a psychedelic sock-hop in a John Waters universe. Do not miss them. They will be your favourite band ever!
“Blood” by Shannon & The Clams
Tyler Stewart, Exhibitions Project Manager
Powder Blue: Who says you need a beard to play droney-space rock? This all-female foursome brings the bleakness of Saskatoon winters to your eardrums at the point of maximum saturation, delivering your dose of psychedelic bliss with a side of beautiful vocal harmonies.
Public Animal: Featuring an all-star lineup led by the godfather of Canadian garage rock Ian Blurton, Public Animal play rock n’ roll of the loud/hard/fast/thick variety – just the way you like it. Go buy yourself two king cans of PBR and get ready to get sweaty. Bonus trivia fact: they recorded Mellotron overdubs for their new album right here at NMC!
Craig Martell: Don’t forget Sled Island has comedy programming, too! Craig Martell runs one of Edmonton’s best venues and is one of the funniest dudes you’ll ever meet. Don’t believe me? He was voted Edmonton’s best comedian of 2013 by Vue Weekly readers, so stop taking yourself so seriously and go laugh at Craig’s jokes already.
Tee-Tahs: Three of the most prolific women in the Edmonton music scene have joined forces to play poppy garage rock and have fun times. “It feels so good to be bad, everything is stupid, I don’t know and I don’t care, I just wanna have fun forever.” EXACTLY.
Diamond Mind: This band is about to explode. Keep your eyes on Liam Trimble and his merry bunch of pranksters as they coat you in sugary dream-pop and make you swoon all over the dance floor. Their just-released Fake Tape is completely real, and it’s completely awesome.
“Dragon Egg” by Diamond Mind
Wanna talk music? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @thejulijanaruin.