Let There Be Sled - SI 2014 Day One w/Jeanette

I always think it is really important to remember the history of the things we love--who was there, who did what, how did it all actually happen. In 2007, Sled Island Festival Founder Zak Pashak decided to start a music and arts festival in Calgary and bring something to the city we had never had or seen before. What is now one of the most special music and arts festivals in Canada and North America is right in the heart of downtown Calgary.

From running the fest. out of his home for years to the slightly mildewed basement of Aida's on 4th street, the festival has evolved and Zak has stepped out of the limelight of planning it--but let's face it, none of us would be Sledding without him. So thank you, Zak Pashak---Festival Founder.

For all the hard working men and women who have helped bring that idea to fruition year after year, and there are many of you, you deserve a thank you as well. Thank you.

Now for Day One.

With wristband and rubber boots I took to the streets, the ominous rain clouds of last year still hanging over the city as it marked the one year anniversary of Alberta's 100 year flood this very week. Rural Alberta is feeling that commemoration all too much as the streets of Fort Macleod take on water and the Blood Reserve is evacuated--homes surrounded by the brown sludge we remember all too well.

Sled Island is back having survived the unexpected natural disaster but it is still in the minds of a lot of festival goers--reminiscing about evacuated venues and hoping for the best this year. To put things in perspective, it has been reported that the city's reservoir dam under normal circumstances lets out 30-40 cubic meters of water per second--right now it is letting out 120--last year at this time it was letting out 1200. Check out this 2013 news video.

Rhye @Central United Church

I was really happy to see that Sled was using the historic Central United Church as a venue once again, it is a beautiful room to have music and was packed to the rafters with festival goers to see one of the first all ages lineups this year. Rhye took to the stage and cracked the silence of the anticipating audience with the arrestingly soulful yet angelic vocals of  Robin Hannibal. Technically the show was sound, crunching synth back beats coupled with ethereal violins plucking and colliding in rhythm and elongated movements. The band waved in and out of mellow ambience to pop/smooth jazz, it truthfully reminded by of the best of Sade at times--which believe it or not is a good thing.

Burro @Legion #1

CJSW presented it's very own Whitney Ota, staff and Music Director, and his avant-garde noise trio with Rush-esque drums and waning and whining guitars. It was perfect for anyone who wanted to be in a swirling vacuum of experimental comatose with little breathing room except to contemplate how long it may go on and then back to the strange world of Ota's basement rituals, bringing you to his altar. I missed the drummer's jokes at the beginning but apparently they were dynamite.

Jerusalem in My Heart @NMC

I was looking forward to this show last year, prior to the band and National Music Centre being evacuated in a fury of tear down and get out. With four projectors, meters upon metres of film, multiple hanging screens, mixers, strings, mics, and synths--it was apparent that a lot of planning had gone into this show. The performance consisted of Lebanon born and Montreal based Radwan Moumneh and his mysterious head bopping projectionist. The altruistic and pounding Arabic song-prayer that opened the show led into electronic nerdist inputs of plucking notes and cycling rhythms with a black and white to colour flickering backdrop--what I can only describe as film etchings that placed Moumnehs shadowed face on the screen behind him. Although his minimalist approach with a long-necked lute that resembled a traditional banjo left much to be desired, I appreciated the intentions and beauty it portrayed. 

Bass Drum of Death @Legion #1

Back through the drizzle to Surf/Punk/Pysch Rock with Bass Drum of Death at the Legion. A smaller crowd, Wednesday night, was treated to the head bopping, foot tapping, body slamming good times of this emotive and fun band. Catch them Saturday night at Broken City.

The Fresh & Onlys @Legion #1

What a treat, after having caught just a few songs of this band before I nearly fainted from heat in Seattle, I was happy to have the chance to see them on my home turf, in an only slightly cooler temperate room at 1am. Tim Cohen's banter was great, it settled the room in what turned out to be one of the more unexpected intimate shows of the night--considering it's competition in creating atmosphere, this was a serious feat. The twanging guitar of Wymond Miles was significant in driving the poetry of Cohen. The band played on in new-anthemic ranges winding through pop/punk melodies. The Fresh & Onlys were a romantic end to the start of a great festival, they are also playing Thursday night at the Golden Age Club.