Ahhh, Sled Island. This raucous festival was first unleashed upon me last year, and it blew my mind. The plethora of great bands, the (not-so-secret) secret shows, and the absolute madness of being part of a collective entity of freaks, geeks, and bicycles (and I mean this in the utmost of good ways) running around downtown like a crazed, disorganized swarm of vermin ready to feast upon ill-prepared venues.
To say that I was excited for this year's iteration would be an understatement.
However, my festival experience this year started off in a bizarrely PG-13 manner. My good associate in mischief Sebastian and I began the Wednesday by heading down to Cantos to check out 40 Gun Flagship, an up-and-coming alt metal/hard rock/punk/whatever band. Now, I knew coming in that this was going to be an all-ages show, but I certainly wasn't expecting these ages to include anyone older than, say, 25. A lot of kids showed up with their moms in tow, creating the weirdest of vibes. As soon as one woman started handing out what looked like treat bags (so very Grade 1), we decided that it was time to migrate. To their credit, 40 Gun played a solidly respectable set, getting the kids jumping up and down on spot or whatever the hell it is kids do when these days when they're amped on music.
But what happened? Where was the ubiquitous zanity that had triumphed last year?
Oh, wait, there it was, setting up at The Ship & Anchor.
Bogus Tokus, a quirky little stoner-thrash ensemble, dominated the Ship like no band I've ever seen. They got on the tiny stage and only moved a collective 19 inches their entire set, but hot damn could they shred. And shred and shred and shred and shred. Shred shred shred shred. Every new song would start with a creative, slow little intro before descending into enough shredding to cut up the clothes of the first two rows of people. Now, I'll give the Ship credit for being smart enough to keep their shows free, allowing anyone and everyone access (if you can withstand the monstrous line), which creates more dollaz for them, but this really did a disservice to the band. More than half the people in the bar had no desire to watch those long-haired hooligans do their thing (which was shred, in case you didn't know already). The people that DID pay attention to every little riff, however, certainly got a joyous kick in the ass.
Quintron and Miss Pussycat at the Legion soon followed. Use your imagination to picture what a band with a name like that would sound like and you'll get the picture, but still be completely way off. In fact, I don't have the words in my current lexicon to even come REMOTELY close to describing this alien two piece's sound or style. What I can tell you with full certainty, though, is that they were adored by the giant, dancing, drinking crowd that came to see them, and that they're a must-see act this Saturday at Tubby Dog. In fact, I fully predict that poor little hotdog house to be transformed into some sort of spacecraft and hover off into the night sky before the set is up.
I popped into Vern's quickly afterwards to catch the tail end of Battle Snakes garage-punking it up, but was very dismayed at how small the crowd was, especially considering how much these guys tore it up at the Palomino at last year's festival. Regardless, they played with the ferocity of a Tasmanian Devil high on Red Bull and ecstasy to the dedicated fans that showed up, giving me one last push of energy to move on with my night.
The true highlight of the first night of the festival, however, was the "secret" after party show that went down at the Beatroute office. I say "secret" lightly because that poor little office was ill-equipped for the hordes of festival-goers that arrived in droves, looking to keep their nights going into the wee hours of the morning. Bands played, beers were drank, and the true spirit of the festival emerged: a group of happy music lovers from various scenes and genres uniting to celebrate an awesome start to an awesome festival. The fact that so many people showed up is a testament to the strong music scene that Calgary has, as it was ultimately word of mouth that brought so many enthusiasts together to share the stores of their nights across downtown and keep creating more.
If Round One was any indication, I can't even predict what the next three days have in store.