I completely forgot about Sled Island.
It was Tuesday night when I received a message from Tristan, a man I’d yet to speak with, asking when I’d be arriving at the festival. “…just working that out,” I assured him, frantically trying to figure out what to do. I could have sworn SI didn’t start until July. Oh well. Real world be damned, I got my ass in gear and made it to Calgary, just in time.
Or so I thought. I was set to meet with Tristan at the Central United Church to see Wild Nothing/Braids perform but due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to get together. Flat tires and crossed wires will do that. While I never did technically get inside the venue what I heard from outside sounded nice enough.
We finally managed to catch up briefly at The New Black, a small venue upstairs on 9th Ave SE, for Bayonets!!! high-energy set. Those in attendence were treated to a frenetic, go-for-broke performance featuring three vocalists willing to ditch their microphones and yell instead. Between their short, punchy numbers the band jostled goofily with the crowd, clearly in a joyful mood. The anthem-like songs burst to life and abruptly stopped just as it seemed they were picking up steam, daring the crowd to start dancing; not unlike their songs, the group ended their show on a sudden high note, leaving us wanting more.
Since we had no real game plan at that point, we hailed a cab and headed to Tubby Dog to see Montreal’s Pat Jordache. I’d never heard of Pat Jordache before but I won’t be forgetting them any time soon. Their hauntingly defiant sound draws a listener in immediately. Singer/bassist Pat Gregoire has a sort of charisma that draws you in and forces you to take notice. His cool, strangely soulful baritone doesn’t need your attention but will take it anyway.
The two drummers and two guitarists (one of whom plays keys sporadically) never overplay, allowing the songs to speak for themselves. Many bands that use multiple drummers often can’t pull it off, but the two pounding the skins, while not necessarily in perfect unison at all times, fed off each other and made it feel like one giant sound. And just when you think that you have these guys figured out, they launch into a stomping number where three of the members howl together like a pack of wolves.
The sound at Tubby Dog was surprisingly good. The vocals were clear and the guitars were as clean or noisy as they needed to be. Not bad for a place that puts Captain Crunch, peanut butter and jelly on hot dogs. After Jordache’s set we spoke with members of the group who were humble and very friendly. If you have a chance to see these guys in your town, don’t hesitate. (VANCOUVER, WEDNESDAY JUNE 29th)
It was around 11:30 we realized we still hadn’t decided what to do to close the night off. I knew that Man Man was playing at midnight at the Legion but also Thursday at the Distillery. Thing is, at Sled Island there’s so much to do and see, if you have a chance to see something you want, go and avoid disappointment by waiting for another day.
When we walked into the Royal Canadian Legion #1 there was a bit of a shock to the system. Here we’d been in two small venues with appreciative but limited attendees—this was not the case. The crowd, to put it delicately, was going completely apeshit. Chali 2na, a former member of Jurassic 5, and his band destroyed. I was only able to catch a couple songs but from what I saw it was funky as hell. The guy has a great flow. I’m not entirely familiar with his work but I liked what I saw. Everyone clearly did, too.
2na’s set didn’t finish up until midnight, meaning Man Man would have to be put on hold for a short time. Luckily this show was 18+ giving us an opportunity to down a few beers, something that was long overdue. At 12:30, Man Man finally graced the stage.
Knowing their records does not even begin to give the scope of what these guys do onstage. It’s a bizarre, exhilarating spectacle punctuated by manic performances by every band member. Honus Honus, the moustachioed frontman, pounds the piano with a fervour so electric it’s impossible not to be swept up by it all. He’s also not averse to donning a dress looking like something out of the Liza Minelli Collection. “Piranhas Club,” from Life Fantastic, the band’s latest record, got everyone dancing while “Dark Arts” ignited crowd surfing and piercing screams throughout the hall. Everyone in the group frequently switched instruments, showcasing their ridiculous talents and how important each part—no matter how seemingly slight—is to each song. They kept everyone at rapt attention until the final notes rang out of the venue around 1:30. It’s amazing knowing that they’ll be doing it all again the next night.
I exited the Legion, emotionally and physically drained from the pure awesomeness I had just witnessed. If Thursday can live up to the opening night, this should be one hell of a festival.
>>>>>>>>>>FULL PHOTOS DAY 1-2<<<<<<<<<<<
Writing: Scott Malone Photos: Tristan Orchard