Sled Island 2013 – Must See and Where To Be

This year’s schedule is thicker than ever, with tons of talent from all over the world. In an effort to help figure your schedule out and prevent headaches (other than the hangover-induced ones you’ll likely have each morning), here’s a streamlined guide to the highlights of Sled Island 2013.

Nardwuar surfs the crowd at NMC during Sled Island 2012, photo by Arif Ansari.

Kick off the fest at Milk Tiger with the annual poster show where local artists have created limited edition posters for some of this year’s concerts – just one of the many art-related events during the week.  From there, you’ll want to consider catching the screening of Museum Hours at the Glenbow, which features the legendary Mary Margaret O’Hara; then get yourself to Commonwealth for the official kick-off party, with a slew of local talent on hand including Gold, Samantha Savage Smith, HighKicks, Extra Happy Ghost!!! and more.

Remember that the key to winning Sled Island is pacing. Drink lots of water on Wednesday morning before heading over to a special Sled Island edition of the Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmer’s Market to stuff some organic fruit and veg into your body. They’ll also have bands and beer gardens on hand when you’re ready to switch gears. Once you’re primed, head to NMC for more film programming with the screening of SUUNS Europe 2011, compiled from tour footage of this grimy psych-rock group, who also play the fest during the wee hours Thursday night at the Palomino. 

Suuns Europe 2011 clip from Andi State on Vimeo.

To avoid running all over town, your best bet for the early part of Wednesday evening is to settle in at Commonwealth at 6:30 p.m. for locals New Friends and Astral Swans before Colin Stetson plays his only show of the festival. You might know his great work with Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Tom Waits and more; but you’ll soon see that his bass saxophone is even more powerful all on its own. Don’t miss this one.
Return to Commonwealth for the sonic pop of Calvin Love at midnight, but fill the gap in between with your choice of three other Edmontonians beforehand; Travis Bretzer and his weirdly accessible songwriting at Broken City, Christian Hansen’s freakishly catchy disco-pop at Republik, or the classic alt-grunge sounds of Catgut at Tubby Dog. Edmonton is on fire right now, don’t you know?As always, the #1 Legion is consistently the best place to end the night, and this year should be no different. Iceage are coming to you all the way from Copenhagen and will be sure to end your evening with heavy dose of unhinged madness.

Start your Thursday afternoon off by heading to Broken City at 1:00 p.m. for the first of the Sled Island Panel Series, with a presentation by Music Calgary called London Calling on the trials and tribulations of touring in Europe. Or if you’re not into being educated, head to the East Village Block Party starting at 4:00 p.m. to spend the evening shaking your proverbial groove thang.
You can also catch another film screening at NMC Thursday night, featuring Wavemakers: Le Chant Des Ondes, detailing the history of the legendary Ondes Martenot, one of the most sought-after pieces of gear out there. Immediately following the screening, stick around for a demonstration of this incredible instrument, one of which resides in the NMC collection. 

Ondes Martenot from the NMC collection.

That’s not the end of the night at NMC though, stick around for three bands, the last of which will be the incredible Jerusalem In My Heart, a mixed-media band that will recording and experimenting with instruments from the NMC collection as Artists-in-Residence during the week prior to Sled Island. Catch their headlining set just after midnight. Thursday is also the first night of the Sled Island Comedy Series, with shows at the Fairmont Palliser Crystal Ballroom  and Wine-Ohs, featuring 13 different comics over the course of Friday and Saturday nights. Get your LOLZ on, kids! Head back to the Legion to polish off Thursday night with one of this year’s big headliners, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. 13-year-old me is all over this show, and if you’re into the dirtiest of blues and soul, you will be too.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion headline Thursday night at the Legion.

Hopefully you took Friday off work, as you’ll appreciate that extra few hours of sleep before you get up to do it all over again. Diehards can head over to Commonwealth by 11:30 a.m. to catch the first act of the day, as Montreal’s Technical Kidman will be sure to blast you awake. Stick around for the afternoon to catch local punk heroes Fist City, followed by UBT, the latest project from Priestess’ Mikey Heppner. Imagine the pounding riff-rock of Priestess, but way better. If you really want to ensure tinnitus, return to NMC Friday evening for all the hardcore your ears can stand. The roster is thick with Alberta talent, featuring Calgary’s Violence, and wrapping up the night are Edmontonians Flint and Book of Caverns. Do I really need to remind you a second time to make sure you’re stocked up on earplugs?
For a more chilled out Friday evening, Flames Central’s lineup is hosted by TSN’s Dave Hodge, featuring the softer sounds of The Deep Dark Woods, John K. Samson and the Joel Plaskett Emergency. Sports dude has good taste for an old timer. For a magical time at one of Calgary’s best-kept secrets, you can swing over to the Golden Age Club to catch Alberta ex-pats Ketamines along with festival curator John Dwyer’s band Thee Oh Sees. Pretty much every show they’ve played in Calgary has reached legendary status, and in a venue that looks like the gymnasium from Back to the Future, you can be sure this one will go off. I hope I make it in time for bingo!
Once again, your nightcap should take you to back to the Legion for White Lung and Metz too keep you sweatily slam-dancing into the wee hours. (Do people still slam-dance or do they just punch each other like idiots these days?) Oh yeah, there’s also a couple of headliners playing the outdoor stage at Olympic Plaza, including The Besnard Lakes and Explosions in the Sky. That would be pretty alright too, I guess.

Explosions in the Sky headline the Olympic Plaza stage Friday night.

Saturday! Wake up and score some free brekky at either Local 510 or the Palomino – whichever one you’re able to drag yourself to. Stick around the latter to catch Slow Down, Molasses who have some incredibly great-sounding new material to tickle your earholes. You can also slide back over to NMC at 1:00 p.m. for another installment of the speaker’s panel series featuring Secretly Canadian label head Chris Swanson that will surely edutain. Of course, music will fill Olympic Plaza all day long Saturday, with early acts Mac deMarco and The Dodos well worth your time, plus The Jesus and Mary Chain closing things down. Relive your teenage years all over again!
Obey Convention just rocked Halifax for the sixth straight year, and by the sounds of it, things went better than ever. Now the folks from Obey are throwing a showcase at NMC on Saturday night featuring a slew of great bands, closed out by Le Revelateur – the newest project from Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Roger Tellier-Craig, alongside video artist Sabrina Ratte. If the video below is any indication, be prepared for a sensory overload.

THE LAND BEHIND from Sabrina Ratté on Vimeo.

Flames Central will feature another TSN personality-curated show, this time by jokester Jay Onrait, whose taste is a bit more diverse. Here’s your second chance of the day to catch Mac DeMarco (after Johnny de Courcy and the Death Rangers open things up), with the all-star Divine Fits closing things down. Broken City will be another hot spot, with Fist City, Cousins and Metz packing the lineup to shut down the place, or head back to the place where legends are made (yes, the Legion) to catch Thee Oh Sees for what will surely be another most-talked-about set.
There. It’s over. You’re done. Go on a lemon juice cleanse now, or whatever it is you do to attempt reversing serious liver damage.
OR BETTER YET – keep the bender going for one more day and hit the wrap-up pig roast at Republik. Guess who’s headlining? Yep, that’s right – Thee Oh Sees. You’re taking Monday off work too, right?
Find tickets, plus the full schedule of music, art, film, comedy and more by visiting

Tyler Stewart

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