Jason Persse for AOL Day two, week two, of the flame-broiled Coachella…
- Posted on Jun 27th 2011 1:00PM by Jenny Charlesworth
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Over the course of its five-day run -- which wrapped up on Sunday, June 26 -- Sled Island transformed the Alberta city into an indie music paradise, where it was possible to see the Sheepdogs jam inside a hotdog joint amidst arcades games and exotic condiments, Kurt Vile unleash his stoner Springsteen routine in a church and Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo walking along the street post-gig with a 10-speed in hand.
In just five years, the music and arts fest has flushed out a platform that is giving Canada's cowboy capital a new reputation.
Sure, the RCMP officers on hand apparently took style cues from Chuck Norris' 'Walker, Texas Ranger' character, but the 'Boot Scootin' Boogie' vibe was largely upstaged by the formidable talent that shook Calgary last week as locals and outsiders alike raced from venue to venue to hear the 200 artists on offer.
Flanked by tents hawking everything from wood-fired pizza and screen printed posters to bicycle helmets, Buzzcocks fired through hits like 'What Do I Get' and 'Orgasm Addict,' Twin Shadow won over new fans with 'Slow,' and the Raveonettes reminded folks why they're still going strong after a decade in the game. The outdoor Olympic Plaza stage, which featured these sets and more -- indie rock elder statesmen Minus the Bear and hometown hero Chad VanGaalen, among others, also performed -- drew thousands of wristband-adorned concert-goers over its two-day weekend run.
Elsewhere, Man Man smeared red and white paint on their faces and took to the Distillery stage to enrapture fans with their exuberant, carnival-esque rock as Montreal metallers Barn Burner thrashed their way through a ragged set several blocks away at Dickens Pub.
"It's a really cool festival, I'm glad it happens," Man Man mastermind Ryan 'Honus Honus' Kattner told Spinner. "Unfortunately, the bands I'm keen on catching are playing at the same time as us, that's what happens at fests. But we're psyched to be here and we want to come back."
With churches, clothing boutiques and popular BBQ joints like the Palomino holding down showcases, Sled Island has a very SXSW-like quality -- fitting, considering Alberta's oil-and-cattle kinship to Texas -- but in Calgary, the career-launching handshakes take a backseat. The focus is more on music than roundtables and Twitter workshops, which makes for a rather relaxed experience. Well, as relaxed as one can be while trying to hit up four bands at four venues in a two-hour span.
Though Calgary may not necessarily chart with tastemakers, Sled Island has the chance to change all that, enticing people with a first-rate lineup that pairs scene staples like Blonde Redhead with buzz bands such as the Luyas, while even finding a place to showcase a crotchety comic like Neil Hamburger, who was actually attacked by an irate fan during one of his shows -- there's an ongoing criminal investigation -- though that's probably not all that surprising given his confrontational comedy.
Sled Island also has the gusto to go after heavier sounds, which seems to be paying off nicely with the decibel-pushing demographic, who rang in the fest's fifth year headbanging to Bison B.C., Red Fang, the Sword and stoner doom metal stalwarts Sleep.
"This city is made for this -- this is Canada's SXSW," Bison B.C. singer-guitarist James Farwell told Spinner. "That's a bold statement ... but I think Sled Island is gaining that momentum, all the different types of music, it's very eclectic, and it's becoming that destination. But Sled Island is very low on the f---ing industry bulls---, here it's just like playing good shows and partying with your friends."
The 2011 installment of Sled Island was certainly a milestone year. Moving out of its infancy, the festival has become a point of pride for Calgarians, with locals eager to talk up their music scene and city at every turn. And, in some cases, the fine citizens of Calgary did a lot more than hype up their home turf. Just ask Carl Johnson, frontman for the Canadian indie pop group Library Voices,' who, after injuring his foot mid-set at Sled Island, was rescued by local actor and 'Fubar' star Andrew 'Tron' Sparacino so he could get right back up and, y'know, "Give'r!"