The Sled Island Music & Arts Festival kicks off Wednesday with more than 250 artists performing at 40 different venues around town.
In the six years since its inception, Sled Island has positioned itself as one of the country’s leading independent music, comedy, art and film festivals.
With so much going on during the four-day festival (five if you count Sunday’s hangover-friendly wrap-up party and BBQ at The Republik) it’s hard to choose between the multitude of talented, unique acts.
So, as a public service I’ve compiled a not very scientific and relatively biased list of must-see shows during this year’s Sled Island.:
If you want to …
Get your groove on:
- Aleister X (Thurs., 8:30 p.m., Twisted Element/Fri., 11 p.m., Tubby Dog/Sat., 11:30 p.m., #1 Legion) London, England-based experimental electronic weirdo always finds fresh ways of getting the dancefloor going.
- Bonjay (Thurs., 11:30 p.m., The HiFi Club/Sat., 4 p.m., Olympic Plaza) – Singer Alanna Stuart’s power vocals highlight this Toronto duo’s banging dancehall-meets-soul-meets-indie tunes.
- East Village Block Party (Thurs., 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., East Village River Walk) A skateboard competition, art market, YYC Food Trucks and an evening of awesome DJ sets from Smalltown DJs, Pho, Teddy Celebration and more. Plus it’s free. Nothing wrong with that.
- Gothic Tropic (Sat., 11 p.m., Broken City) The L.A. trio mixes psychedelic pop with Afro-Cuban beats to bewitching effect.
Hang with the singer-songwriters:
- Joe Pernice (Wed., 10:30 p.m., Ironwood Stage) An oft-overlooked pop music genius, Pernice has been writing and recording brilliant roots/rock/power pop/folk songs since the early 1990s. Don’t believe me? Check out the Scud Mountain Boys and Pernice Brothers. Told you.
- Samantha Savage Smith (Wed., 9:30 p.m., Ironwood Stage/Sat., 7 p.m. Ship & Anchor Pub) The Calgary based songstress released her debut album, Tough Cookie, to great acclaim last year. She’s a critical darling and rightfully so. Her Billie Holiday-esque vocals and smart, sophisticated songwriting are captivating and soul-stirring.
Check out non-mainstream hip hop:
- Shabazz Palaces (Thurs., 1 a.m., Broken City/Sat., 5:15 p.m., Olympic Plaza) Led by Ishmael Butler of Digable Planets fame, this Seattle collective was the first hip hop act to be signed to iconic record label Sub Pop. Its futuristic sounds and intelligent rhymes are above and beyond other new acts in the genre.
- Reuben & the Dark (Wed., 9 p.m., The Blues Can) Reuben Bullock started playing music in his early twenties and says he couldn’t sing a note when he was younger. You’d never know it from watching him now. He’s a confident, engaging performer whose anthemic, harmony drenched songs have found fans in Florence + The Machine. Reuben & the Dark could very well become Calgary’s next international breakout act.
- The Mountaineer (Fri., 9 p.m., The Palomino) Fans of old-school Radiohead will find much to love about The Mountaineer’s earnest and endearing ballads, and especially singer Jourdan Cunningham’s soaring Thom Yorke-ian vocals.
- Lab Coast (Sat., 9 p.m., Ironwood Stage) One of my favourite local bands, Lab Coast possesses a truly magnificent melodic sensibility. Each song is a perfectly polished pop nugget that wouldn’t sound of place on a Guided By Voices or Teenage Fanclub setlist.
Get your Math Rock/Post-Hardcore on:
- Hot Snakes (Thurs., Midnight, Dickens Pub) John Reis (Rocket From the Crypt) and Rick Froberg (Obits) are legends among the post-hardcore faithful, having also played in Pitchfork and Drive Like Jehu. Come early to check out a stellar lineup of local acts, including The Soft Option, Miesha & the Spanks and The Night Committee.
See the headliners:
- Feist (Fri., 9:30 p.m., Olympic Plaza)
- Thurston Moore (Fri., 9:30 p.m., Theatre Junction Grand)
- Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks (Sat., 8 p.m., Olympic Plaza)
- The Hold Steady (Sat., 9:45 p.m., Olympic Plaza)
- Archers of Loaf (Sat., Midnight, The Republik)
- Andrew WK on Partying (Wed., 6 p.m., Goodlife Community Bike Shop) – Festival curator Andrew WK is presenting a lecture on the power of partying and how to party hard. Donations from the event will benefit the Goodlife Community Bike Shop in Kensington and Two Wheel View.
Have a laugh:
- Hannibal Buress (Wed., 9 p.m., Auburn Saloon) Not only does Sled Island feature hundreds of great musical acts, but its comedy mini-festival has attracted some of the best comedic talent from across North America. Buress has written for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, and recently won Best Club Comic at the second-annual Comedy Awards held in New York in April.
- A complete list of artists can be found online at www.sledisland.com along with the festival schedule.
- Tickets are also available online and at the Sled Island office, located at 2206a 4 St. S.W., or call 403-229-2901.
- Sled Island and the City of Calgary are installing extra bike racks at venues to encourage festivalgoers to cycle from show to show.