EXPOSURES captures the moods and experiences of fans and artists, both onstage and off. This time, memories from a packed, packed week at the perfect edition of Sled Island, the Calgary festival's 10th year.
I finally made it to Calgary for Sled Island after years of pining from across the country, and boy did it deliver. Unbeknownst to me before I arrived, Sled (as it’s affectionately referred to by most festival-goers) was celebrating its 10th edition this year, and it’s obvious that the organizers have spent that time really figuring out how to throw a truly awesome party. While similar "club-hopping" festivals can often be overstuffed with bands, Sled felt like the perfect size, with just enough options to be exciting but retaining individual showcases that you could truly enjoy from start to finish.
You can tell that a lot of care went into choosing the acts, which I really valued, because there's nothing worse than being stuck watching something not so good when you're missing out on something at another venue. So, while I didn't catch all the big headliners (Julia Holter, Tortoise, and this year's guest curator Peaches) that I would have liked to have seen, I discovered a lot of great bands from western Canada that were new to me. Plus, I finally saw Guided By Voices.
So, shall we look at some photos?
1. Here we are, beautiful Calgary, where the sun always shines and you can wear a cowboy hat without getting any weird looks.
2. Toronto’s The Highest Order, on tour celebrating the release of their new album Still Holding, got us moving and grooving with their psychedelic country jams.
3. London’s WHOOP-Szo impressed at the Local 510.
4. I ran into Vancouver’s Shearing Pinx goofing around CJSW’s music library.
5. By Divine Right played to a packed and rowdy room at Chart Attack’s showcase.
6. Supermoon, from Vancouver, was one of our favourite discoveries of the festival.
7. Jay Arner flashes some cash while his band smiles politely (l-r Adam Fink, Adrienne LaBelle, and Jessica Delisle)
8. While I was in Calgary, I had the chance to tour Studio Bell, the new home of the National Music Centre. Many of the instruments in the NMC collection are in full working condition, and can be used by musicians who take part in their artist-in-residence program.
9. One of the coolest things to check out when you visit the NMC is the Rolling Stones’ Mobile Recording Studio, which was used to record albums such as Exile on Main Street and Led Zeppelin IV.
10. Edmonton’s Mitchmatic switched seamlessly between rapping and playing sax.
11. Tough Age lived up to their reputation as one of Vancouver’s most beloved bands.
12. Back at CJSW, Toronto’s HSY ran through a blistering live-to-air set.
13. Eccentric Vancouver musician Johnny de Courcy and Laura Bardsley, in between playing their own sets, spent the entire festival running around filming interviews with everyone they could find for their new web series Artists Against Artists.
14. Halifax’s Vulva Culture packed people into the famed 17th Avenue eatery Tubby Dog for a mid-afternoon set.
15. I stumbled into an unofficial house show, where I caught Winnipeg’s Conduct, who Ryan Parker saw playing the same house last year at Sled!
16. Down in the basement, I saw new pals Shearing Pinx doing their thing.
17. Really nice to finally see Edmonton’s Faith Healer, who released one of my favourite records of last year, Cosmic Troubles.
18. Genesis P-Orridge’s Psychic TV brought out some of the festival’s most hardcore fans. I witnessed several audience members brought to tears.
19. Upstairs at the Legion, Calgary’s Blü Shorts kept things weird. I loved every minute of it.
20. Recently revived Sackville punks Astral Gunk came through with a batch of new songs but the same high energy.
21. Montreal’s TOPS had something of a homecoming, with many family members in the audience. Thankfully, they delivered one of the week’s highlights.
22. The members of Halifax/Montreal band Heaven For Real (l-r: Cheryl Hann, Scott Grundy, Nathan Doucet, and Mark Grundy) could also be seen throughout the week performing stand-up comedy (Cheryl), or performing with their other group, Quaker Parents (Nathan and the Grundy twins).
23. New York legends ESG were one of Sled Island’s most exciting programming choices, and the audience certainly revelled in the chance to hear iconic songs such as “UFO” and “Dance” in the flesh.
24. Angel Olsen packed people into the Central United Church, performing songs from all her albums, plus previewing a few from her upcoming LP My Woman.
25. Back at the legion, Deafheaven provided catharsis for the crowd.
26. Built To Spill have nothing left to prove, yet they still proved they’re one of the most consistent bands of their generation still working today, continuing to release great records and put on vital performances.
27. Montreal producer Kaytranada had the crowd at Flames Central transfixed.
28. Brandon, MB Guided By Voices superfan Shotgun Jimmie wasn’t going to let a little bit of rain dampen his enjoyment of a GBV set, so he came prepared.
29. Guided By Voices played and made as us all very happy.
30. Post-GBV smiles with Shotgun Jimmie and Winnipeg’s Human Music (l-r: Mef Hollier, Cole Woods, and Jory Hasselmann), with Tough Age’s Jarrett K. creeping in the background. Apparently it was Jarrett’s 42nd time seeing GBV!
Okay, that’s it, that’s the end. It was the most fun week of my life.