Sled Island 2015: The Year the Tide Turned

July 03, 2015

Sled Island 2015_840px

WARNING: There is strong language contained in this post.

Sled Island has had some obstacles to contend with over the last few years—a headlining no-show in 2014, and that natural disaster that almost ended it all a year earlier. As one friend pointed out, 2015 would be remembered as a positive turning point for the festival.

Guest curated by influential Montreal post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the five-day event was experimental and dramatic in tone, with the on-stage theatrics of some performers proving to be just as exciting as the music itself.

Given the fact that there were over 250 bands in town, I was reminded to be like a leaf in the wind. “You won’t see half of the bands you plan to see,” a pal warned. I agreed, but I would try.

With the city sweltering under a heat wave, I would catch many notable faves, and fall in love with bands that I knew little of. Indeed, there were plenty of highs.

Wednesday

Allowed free range over the National Music Centre’s collection of instruments and recording equipment, Daniel Lanois’ Master Session seemed to be the antidote to his current state of artistic restlessness.

Known, of course, for his work as a producer on hit records by U2 and Peter Gabriel, Lanois’ latest album, Flesh and Machine, explores a lust for atmospheric ambient tunes—an interest sparked decades earlier alongside Brian Eno. And it’s the far-out, unrestricted Lanois that audiences would meet during his two-hour set.

“The Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry of Quebec,” as he likes to refer to himself, chose not to perform on a stage. Instead, he set up on the floor ‘in the round’ with his band. With audience members orbiting around them, Lanois fielded questions from the crowd while oscillating through songs. It’s hard to imagine a more intimate setting than to watch an artist let the audience in, and then let all creative energies go.

DanielLanois-atNMC_crBrandonWallis-2_840pxDaniel Lanois in the round at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

There was a brilliant precision to The Ex’s offbeat fusion of angular post-punk, folk and free jazz, and those seemingly unpredictable guitar moves. Watching baritone guitarists Terrie Hessels—the last original member from the 1979 lineup— tripping all over the stage, and Andy Moor kicking himself into a tailspin as he thrashed at his axe, was a true display of showmanship. Every bit as physical and magnetic as one would hope, The Ex navigated deafening crescendos, showing no signs of slowing down their energy or their genius.

Thursday

Much like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Montreal post-rockers BIG | BRAVE are a band that know the importance of drama. Performing at Central United Church with packed pews, the darkness and scorching humidity in the venue punctuated the milieu. With frontwoman Robin Wattie wailing notes alongside the guitar slashes of Mathieu Ball and the mesmerizingly convulsive drum hits of Louis-Alexandre Beauregard, there were moments so peaceful they could induce sleep, followed by wraths of chaotic noise—an exercise in slowly building tension fitting for a post-apocalyptic film.

“We’re too powerful,” proclaimed masked Lightning Bolt drummer/vocalist Brian Chippendale after the lights suddenly went out 30 seconds into their thunderous opening—too powerful indeed when your tunes quite literally blow a fuse in the building. There would be more technical difficulties, but no one cared. Every torrential blast of bass, drum and cymbal hit like an electric shock. One fan was so moved he climbed to the top of a speaker and dove into the crowd head first, his upside down legs momentarily suspended before slithering to the bottom of the heap.

LightningBolt-atTheLegion_crBrandonWallis-1_840px
Lightning Bolt electro-shocking the Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

Friday

When it comes to reunions, people have a lot of contrary opinions. But when it comes to Duotang—the Winnipeg duo of Rod Slaughter and Sean Allum—naysayers should give it a momentary rest. For the band that went on hiatus in 2002, their first show in Calgary in over a decade felt like no time had been lost. Both members, who’ve openly said that their breakup was caused simply because they got sick of each other, genuinely seemed happy to be playing together again.

Wearing stovepipes and ties, the band hit on fan faves, such as “Thomas Green” and “The Message,” along with a few new jams, and an excellent cover of “Age of Consent” by New Order, with some impressive multi-tasking by Slaughter, who played bass with his left hand and keys with his right, all while singing. For those looking for a little nostalgia, the dream of the ‘90s was alive in Calgary and it was well worth the trip back in time.

Atlanta garage-punks The Coathangers are at once cutsie and vulgar with songs, like “Nestle in My Boobies” and “Shut the Fuck Up.” Together, the ramshackle vocal combo of Rusty (vocals/drums) and Crook Kid (vocals/guitar), channel the surly notes of a lady version of Glenn Danzig and the high-pitched shrieks of Kathleen Hanna.

While the band cranked out a cover of The Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat,” my friend nudged at me to look at the blonde bobbing head directly in front of us. “That’s Kim Gordon,” he yell-whispered. Gordon, who was billed to play the following night with her duo Body/Head, had obviously flown in early to take in the festival. By set’s end, I was a bit too boozy and awestruck to remember if The Coathangers played their song “Sonic You.”


The Coathangers covering The Go-Go’s.

Saturday

With the sun pummelling down on Olympic Plaza, Ex Hex gave us a sweet taste of their ’70s-nodding, hook-heavy—and kinda glamy— garage-pop, hitting on tracks from their utterly fantastic 2014 release, Rips, a pogoing soundtrack to girls having fun.

There were also brawny sets from Sub Pop titan King Tuff, local noisemakers Viet Cong—whose seamless playing and melodic, distortion-fuelled wig-outs, especially on “March of Progress,” illustrated their readiness for further world domination—and the recently reformed Drive Like Jehu.

Seminal post-punk act Television were the main draw, however.  As the night drew in, the band pulled out shaky yet crowd-pleasing numbers, including “See No Evil,” closing with “Marquee Moon,” the only song that seemed to be unscathed by time. Returning for one encore, Tom Verlaine slipped up a verse that caused the band to start the song over again. “Let’s leave before it gets sad,” said someone in my vicinity. It was too late though.

VietCong-atOlympicPlaza_crBrandonWallis-1-840pxDriveLikeJehu-atOlympicPlaza_crBrandonWallis-1-840pxTelevision-atOlympicPlaza_crBrandonWallis-1-840pxFrom top to bottom: Viet Cong, Drive Like Jehu’s Rick Froberg and Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

Sunday

“Cleve-punk” is the bass-heavy hybrid of hip hop and punk, so named by Lamont Thomas of Cleveland’s Obnox. “Some people call it bullshit, but we call it advanced,” he said during the closing Sled Island Pig Roast at Republik, one of the last shows the venue would see before closing its doors just a few days later.

The set took a number of turns that were applauded by the crowd—who, at this point, were probably on their fourth and fifth wind. Be it the punch-to-the-gut afropunk of “Too Punk Shakur” or the scuzzy funk-laced “Molecule.” Heck, even the drugged-out love jam “Carmen, I Love You,” had the room grooving.


“Carmen, I Love You” by Cleveland’s Obnox.

But it wasn’t just about the music, Thomas’ sincerity and good-humoured banter is what won everyone over. “I’m local now,” he insisted, while shouting out Sled Island organizers, CJSW and Republik.

“This is like a mini-SXSW, only safe,” he continued. “I don’t feel so safe in some parts of Texas…This is a good music community, man. There’s no shortage of pretty girls and dank weed.”

Following the Pig Roast, word is Thomas headed to Broken City’s karaoke after-party and spun ’45s until the wee hours of the morning. Apparently, he didn’t want the music to end.

And he wasn’t the only one.

 

Photo Gallery

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    De La Soul at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Big | Brave at Central United Church. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Big | Brave at Central United Church. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Big | Brave at Central United Church. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Big | Brave at Central United Church. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Big | Brave at Central United Church. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Big | Brave at Central United Church. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Big | Brave at Central United Church. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Black Givre at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Black Givre at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    COUSINS at Local 510. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    COUSINS at Local 510. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    COUSINS at Local 510. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    COUSINS at Local 510. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    COUSINS at Local 510. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    COUSINS at Local 510. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    COUSINS at Local 510. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    The Crowd at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Andrew Mosker (President and CEO of NMC) introducing Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Daniel Lanois at NMC. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Drive Like Jehu at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Drive Like Jehu at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Drive Like Jehu at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Drive Like Jehu at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Drive Like Jehu at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Drive Like Jehu at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Fu Manchu at The Palomino. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Fu Manchu at The Palomino. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Fu Manchu at The Palomino. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Fu Manchu at The Palomino. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Fu Manchu at The Palomino. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Fu Manchu at The Palomino. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Fu Manchu at The Palomino. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Fu Manchu at The Palomino. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Fu Manchu at The Palomino. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Central United Church. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Lab Coast at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Lab Coast at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Lightning Bolt at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Lightning Bolt at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Lightning Bolt at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Lightning Bolt at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Lightning Bolt at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Lightning Bolt at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Oxbow at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Oxbow at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Oxbow at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Oxbow at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Oxbow at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Oxbow at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Oxbow at The Legion. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Television at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Viet Cong at Olympic Plaza. Credit: Brandon Wallis.

  • Sled Island 2015

    Yo La Tengo at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Yo La Tengo at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Yo La Tengo at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis

  • Sled Island 2015

    Yo La Tengo at Flames Central. Credit: Brandon Wallis

 

— Julijana Capone

Wanna talk music? Email me at julijana.capone@nmc.ca or follow me on Twitter @thejulijanaruin.

 

About the Author

Julijana Capone

Originally from Winnipeg, Julijana is NMC’s senior publicist and the managing editor of Amplify. In addition to her role at NMC, she is the founder of Light of Day Publicity, a company she formed to promote the work of emerging Canadian artists.

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