Japanese Breakfast, Kid Congo Powers, Bully, Cass McCombs among first wave of acts announced for 2019 Sled Island

Some legends, some experimentalists, some visionaries, some sorta familiars, some entirely unknowns — and so much more.

All par for the course when it comes to any lineup announcement from Calgary’s beloved Sled Island.

The first wave for the 2019 festival, which takes place this year from June 19 to 23 at more than 30 venues around the city, was dropped on Tuesday at Commonwealth Bar and Stage, and, predictably, it has something for everyone.

Even those who are admittedly feeling, ahem, old, out of the loop and are looking for something new to discover.

“Which is great,” says Sled’s executive director Maud Salvi. “That’s the point.”

Some of the initial artists announced in the first wave include: True alt legend Kid Congo Powers, who is known for his work with seminal post-punkers The Gun Club as well as his work with The Cramps and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and who will be with his current band the Pink Monkey Birds; American psych-folk artist Cass McCombs; “subversive” rapper-producer Le1f, formerly of Brooklyn act Das Racist; fellow New York act Japanese Breakfast, the shimmering pop project of Korean-American songwriter Michelle Zauner; instrumental act The Messthetics, which features the rhythm section from DIY legends Fugazi; garage-punk vets Oblivians; and Alabama surf-rock stalwarts Man or Astro-Man?.

As to a common thread with the first wave, the common thread is, well, Sled.

“I feel it’s in keeping with the Sled way of doing things,” Salvi says. “I don’t know what you would say is the thread that keeps it all together except that it’s all bands that we’re really excited to bring to Calgary and for people to discover.

“I was actually just telling (other staff) an hour ago that we’re announcing 23 artists (today) and I’m pretty sure that at least 19 or 20 have never played Calgary before. To me that’s really exciting.”

She continues. “And to me the one thing that I get especially excited about, too, is when I think about these specific artists playing in these specific venues. That’s something that’s always been super important for Sled is to really present the bands in what we feel is the best environment so that people can really appreciate the live performance fully.”

Also announced were the first acts chosen by artist Julien Baker, who was unveiled previously as this year’s guest curator.

Along with Japanese Breakfast, they are JPEGMAFIA, Hop Along, Bully, TORRES, Worriers, Death Bells and Squirrel Flower.

Salvi says Baker is fully embracing the spirit of the fest and relishing her role.

“From the first list she sent us it felt like it was the right choice for us,” she says. “Just from the (eight) of her picks that we’re starting to announce (today) I feel like they really fit in well with the festival. She’s obviously someone who’s still an avid consumer of music herself, beyond just making music. I thought it was really cool that she had picks that were … pretty wide-ranging, which is always nice and something we do appreciate at the festival.

“We’re really super happy to be working with her.”

Rounding things out in the first wave are The Comet Is Coming, Cate Le Bon, Sinjin Hawke & Zora Jones Live AV, Fly Pan Am, William Basinksi, Chandra, Ouri and Lubomyr Melnyk.

Of the latter, Salvi admits she’s particularly proud to have snagged, noting that she had been trying to book him since even before she joined the Sled team six years ago.

“He’s such an interesting musician,” she says of the composer and pianist. “He’s an example of one of those people who has worked so hard his entire life, devoted their life to their music, their practice.

“He’s 71 now and I feel like it’s only been a few years since he’s finally been starting to receive the recognition that I believe he deserves. So, yeah, I’m very, very excited to bring him and especially, again, what I was saying about venues, seeing him playing at Studio Bell, which is where he’s going to be playing, is the perfect match made in heaven in my mind.”

Going to show that even if you feel out of the loop and you’re looking to discover something new, you may not be the oldest one in the room.

Different options of Sled Island passes are available now from sledisland.com with limited single tickets to select events going on sale Friday, Feb. 15 at noon from the site.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.com. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at mike@theyyscene.com.