Broken Away from the Pack, Calgary's Sled Island Festival Celebrates 10 Years

This year, Peaches curates the festival's lineup
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This year, Peaches curates the festival's lineup
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Once a modest, mid-size oil town, Calgary, Alberta, Canada has undergone a massive transformation over the past 15 years. It now verges on metropolitan, home to 1.2 million people and a burgeoning cultural scene. Homegrown musical names include Leslie Feist, Tegan & Sara, Women/Viet Cong/Preoccupations, Kiesza, and Braids, with several others banging on the door. The city hosts a number of themed musical festivals, including folk (Folk Fest), indie rock (X Fest) and EDM (Chasing Summers). The eclectic Sled Island, celebrating its 10 year, may be the crown jewel.

Sled Island does not utilize a central venue - though it easily could given the number of suitable locations. The festival is instead held in pubs, bars and concert halls all over the city's unusually dense downtown area. Many of them have capacities of 200 or fewer, some greater than 1000. Your experience can be as intimate, muted or rambunctious as you want it to be. Any musical taste can be sated with hundreds of acts in dozens of venues over 5 days. It's just as easy to wander between venues as it is at a centralized festival. 8th and 17th avenue, nightlife hotspots that will host a fair portion of the festivities, are a 10-minute walk or an $8 cab fare apart.

In a festival season where the juggernauts are offering a certain level of uniformity, the prospects of small festivals like Sled Island are more interesting. Headliners include 90s underground heroes Built to Spill, Guided by Voices, and Tortoise, indie darlings Julia Holter, Angel Olsen, and Speedy Ortiz, and buzzy acts like Kaytranada, Deafheaven, and Peaches. The full line-up can be seen here. The blend of recognizable names and unknown talent is tantalizing. PMA's more is more approach will be reflected in our daily posts as we attempt to cover as many acts as possible from June 22 to 26.

Happy Sledding!