Jason Persse for AOL Day two, week two, of the flame-broiled Coachella…
- Posted on Jun 22nd 2011 1:00PM by Jenny Charlesworth
Since 2007, Sled Island -- which kicks off today and runs until June 25 -- has been steadily growing into one of Canada's premier multi-day music festivals, even expanding to include film and art components like the established NXNE in Toronto and the mother of all city-wide showcases in Austin. Perhaps not the most obvious place to throw a destination fest -- Calgary is known more for its cowboys kicking up dust during the Stampede than as a hot-spot for catching chart-topping indie artists -- Sled Island has found success nonetheless. It's five-year milestone in 2011 proves it may even have the momentum to one day challenge NXNE for Canada's festival crown.
"Five years ago when it was just a dream, it was like, 'Can this actually happen in this city? Can a festival this caliber and size exist and grow, and be around for this long?'" Sled Island festival director Lindsay Shedden tells Spinner. "And five years later here we are, and it's bigger and better than ever. It's become really obvious to everybody in the city that Sled Island was actually what the city needed."
Chad VanGaalen, a Calgary native who performs at the city's outdoor Olympic Plaza on Saturday, concurs. "I love playing and enjoying Sled Island every year regardless of if I'm playing or not, guaranteed there is always a band that will blow my mind," he tells Spinner. "A festival like Sled Island means that Calgary gets introduced to a s--- load of bands that we would almost never get to see play in this city. Also, its great to see people stumble from one event to the next, using the down town like it was meant to be used."
With this year's lineup topped with heavyweights like the Raveonettes, Blonde Redhead, Minus the Bear, and Buzzcocks (whom Spinner recently chatted with about their just-released 'A Different Compilation' -- we may also have covered that time they "borrowed" Kurt Cobain's blow while on tour with Nirvana), while white-hot acts like Zola Jesus, Crocodiles, Twin Shadow, Man Man and Dum Dum Girls round out the bill, Sled Island requires nearly as much planning from concert-goers as SXSW. "Do I catch Dead Meadow at Local 510? Or opt for the Lee Renaldo Workshop at Cantos?"
Then there's the chance to get a rundown of the local music scene, where you can see Hot Panda, Samantha Savage Smith, Smalltown DJs and more performing in their own backyard (sometimes even quite literally).
"The great thing about Sled is the paring of local bands with international acts. Also the surprise of walking around the corner and seeing one of your favorite bands in your friend's living room and then seeing your friend's band play right after," says singer-keyboardist Katie Lee of Braids, a Calgary outfit now based in Montreal.
"Unfortunately, in the past, the city has shut down some wonderful creative spaces for music and I think Sled Island helps push the need for more of these types of spaces to help foster creativity which then the city can showcase at festivals like Sled Island," adds Lee.
Sheddan notes that this was indeed Sled Island's mandate when festival founder and Calgary club owner Zak Pashak was trying to get things off the ground. "The whole idea behind this festival was to have a community-orientated festival," she says. "All these venues pop up and stick around, so every year there are new venues coming up. So it's getting better every year and the [local] scene is growing."