Sled Island final thoughts

It just occured to me that I never wrapped up my Day 4 of Sled Island. So for those who’ve been waiting with bated breath here it is:

  • Started the day with Dinosaur Jr.’s Lou Barlow doing an in-studio acoustic session at CJSW — and I have to give my profuse thanks to Aubrey McInnis for inviting me to that because Barlow was note-perfect and being part of the five-person audience was pretty magical. It was a little awkward sitting on the other side of the glass and knowing that he couldn’t hear us applaud (you could tell he felt at least a little awkward himself) but really just a perfect way to start the day.
  • Next up was Local 510 for Southeast Engine and Hard Drugs since I managed to catch Silje Nes the night before. Both put on solid sets — Engine was energetic rock and Drugs had a bit of country in most of the tunes except for the closing Descendents cover which was a nice touch nonetheless. Plus 510’s brunch special was genuinely tasty and probably the closest to a healthy meal that I’ve gotten in a week of pizza and street meat.
  • Speaking of unhealthy next stop was Tubby Dog for Sans AIDS who’d been described to me as Edmonton’s Chad Van Gaalen and that seems about as good a description as I could muster. Definitely worth checking out when he inevitably comes back to town although judging from the crowd at Tubby Dog most of you have already seen him.
  • The main stage was next with The Melvins shouting about demanding sacrifices and generally proving why punk metal and alt-rock fans have been in love with them for decades. Hot Water Music didn’t quite strike the same chord with me — I was never a fan back in the day and this set kind of felt like the Warped Tour with less nostalgia. Nonetheless they gave it their all the bass player cranked out some monstrous riffs and the crowd was certainly appreciative.

And here’s where I get lame: After 3 1/2 days of Sledding I called it quits in exchange for a barbecue and some board games. Pretty much the least rock ‘n’ roll move possible I know but between Deerhoof the first day North of America (and DM Stith) on the third and Lou Barlow on the fourth my mind was pretty much mush anyway. Although I’m still kicking myself a little for missing GZA. All told probably the best Sled yet and judging from the turnout at most of the shows the fest should be in good shape for next year.

A couple of closing thoughts though:

  • It’s awesome to see so many bikes outside of all the venues — it’s easily the best way of getting around during the fest. But it does show that the core really isn’t ready for people to fully embrace biking yet — you had to lock up to any and every available surface from street signs to trees and fences to benches. If people did that on a regular basis it’d be chaos.
  • Olympic Plaza must be really difficult to fill. Even with a Saturday line-up that included The Melvins and Dinosaur Jr. it managed to look fairly empty. I think that’s more an issue of the space being massive though — I’d be curious what the actual attendance was.
  • A few out-of-towners that I ran into have commented on how consistent Sled’s line-up is. It many not have as many acts as something like SXSW or NXNE but it makes every act count. I don’t think I saw a single dud show. Even the ones I wasn’t into it wasn’t through any fault of the bands. So props to the curators for bringing so many incredible bands to town.
  • Speaking of out-of-towners it still bugs me that people see something like the collapse of Jazz Fest and take it as a sign that Calgary’s a cultural dead zone when a week later the entire downtown is taken over by an artistically varied culturally vibrant and (probably) highly successful music fest. Mismanaging one fest doesn’t mean that an entire city hates the arts as the impromtu jazz march last week showed and as Sled continues to prove.