My first night of my first ever Sled Island was not exactly a roaring success music-wise; after abandoning the hopes of seeing the Pack A.D. at the ridiculously crowded Ship and Anchor, I spent the evening downing wine at the Living Room with my best friend, her mom and her mom’s friends (yay for keeping it in the family!). After, I stumbled to the “secret” BeatRoute afterparty, but decided to make it a relatively early night.
For Day 2, I was determined to soak up as much as I could to make up for the previous night’s lack of musical activity, so I started early with the afternoon show at Republik. Though it was sadly empty for the tail end of the Boys Who Say No set – which is a shame, because it seemed like a good show – Chain and the Gang took the stage to a filled-out crowd. What Chain and the Gang lack in lyrical variety they more than make up for in stage presence; lead singer Ian Svenonius gives the distinct impression that he may be a time traveler from some indeterminate distant future where white disco suits are back in fashion and dancing has devolved into some sort of hybrid between the 1950s jitterbug and some kind of wild epileptic seizure. Throughout the show, Svenonius talked about everything from the inherent contradiction in rock ‘n’ roll to Prince Charles’ (not-so) slender arms.
Needless to say, San Francisco’s Ty Segall had a hell of an act to follow, which he recognized by joking that it was “not fair” to play after Chain and the Gang. He and his band definitely held their own with their performance, but in a very different way than the previous band. Chain and the Gang’s songs are rather formulaic, but they have a larger-than-life presence onstage, with plenty of between-song banter and WTF? appeal. Ty Segall, on the other hand, is less of a showman and more of a musician, up onstage to share his well-written songs. As a lover of over-the-top performances, I have to say that Chain and the Gang won my vote for this afternoon show.
Later that evening, my slight lingering hangover led me to appoint myself designated driver, which naturally upped the badass quotient of the night considering I’m currently piloting my parents’ old minivan. First it was off to Dicken’s, where Mico were celebrating their tenth year as a band with a show that wasn’t particularly attention grabbing. The highlight of the evening – and probably the whole day – was the weird and wonderful set from hip-hop/rock indies Why?. Though it started on a bad note with a ridiculous thirty-minute sound check, they more than compensated with their colourful show. Lead singer Yoni Wolf has a quirky Urkel-esque quality to him that enhanced their already great performance.
Much like Ty Segall earlier in the day, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists had a tough act to follow, but the punk rockers were not going to be intimidated by a strong opener. Their music has a way of taking complete control over your body, reaching inside your chest to pump the blood from your heart and jerking your head back and forth relentlessly, blatantly ignoring the complaints from your neck. Crowd surfer after crowd surfer launched themselves into the surging audience, which got ever rowdier and seemed poised to explode at any moment.
Leaving Ted Leo a few minutes early, I raced across town in the minivan to try and catch the Black Lips show at the Legion, only to find out that it had been delayed half an hour, so I moved on to the Palomino where a small motley group of characters were in the basement preparing for the poorly-attended By Divine Right show. The sad truth is that while the three guys in By Divine Right seem like really nice and talented people, they just aren’t the band they used to be.
Overall, Sled Island proved that the best way to enjoy Canada Day is with a mix of punk and weirdo rock, and I can't wait to see what else Calgary's best indie festival has to offer this weekend!