What We Saw at Sled Island, Part 2

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(Read part one here.)

With any festival that splits its shows between indoor and outdoor, Mother Nature can have an unfortunate influence over your choices. It rained and rained hard for much of the final two days, but two of the best shows I saw the entire weekend required braving the weather.

Year of Glad (Brendan Frank)

Year of Glad (Brendan Frank)

Year of Glad & Feel Alright @ Local 510

Local 510 is a bar on the corner of downtown Calgary’s two of Calgary’s best nightlife streets (17 Ave and 4 Street). They had a dual setup, with one stage in the bar and one in the parking lot. Seeing as how it was pissing rain, I opted for the parking lot. If you have any interest in Sigur Ros or Colin Stetson, you owe it to yourself to check out Montreal's Year of Glad. Their ethereal sound is entrancing, and frontman A.P. Bergeron's jittery performance was wonderful and weird. Feel Alright put on a spirited show as well, their upbeat guitar pop belying the miserable weather.

Tortoise @ Central United Church

From there it was indoor living. First at Central United then The Legion. There seems to be something about churches that makes everyone behave. Tortoise's immediately recognizable setup (a drummer or two switching between multiple kits in the front, everyone else in a straight line behind him) is always interesting to watch. Their set was very loud, very proficient, and a little bit sleepy.

Betrayers (Brendan Frank)

Betrayers (Brendan Frank)

Power Buddies, Dream Whip, Pale Lips, Betrayers & The Sonics @ The Royal Canadian Legion #1

After Tortoise it was a garage rock blowout at the Royal Canadian Legion. Not just a gathering point for vets, the building is a multi-purpose facility that hosts cultural events throughout the year. Edmonton's Power Buddies got things off to a bracing start, with a set of cyclonic garage rock with some truly kick-ass soloing. They were a tough act to follow. Local quartet Dream Whip's comparatively listless garage pop sound was underwhelming. Montreal’s Pale Lips offered a similar but peppier sound – think Ramones meets Go-Gos. Betrayers, sporting matching blue tunics, dropped a fun set that sounds exactly how you'd expect a band warming up the Sonics would sound. They were fun but far from seamless.

The Sonics now operate as a five-piece. With 60 percent of their original lineup still intact, they're an institution at this point. When they first formed in 1960, the Sonics were proto-proto-punk. And they can still kick it. The Legion was like a furnace before they started playing, and the moshing and crowdsurfing began immediately. Attempting to get a decent photo was a futile pursuit. And all of it was awesome.

Speedy Ortiz (Brendan Frank)

Speedy Ortiz (Brendan Frank)

Moon King, Speedy Ortiz, Suuns, Land of Talk, Built to Spill & Guided by Voices @ Olympic Plaza

Sunday, the day I committed to spending entirely outdoors, was also rainy. One of the largest public spaces in downtown Calgary, Olympic Plaza occupies a whole block, and can accommodate 2,100 people. When I arrived on Sunday afternoon, Moon King was playing to a crowd of about 20 people thanks to heavy but errati rainfall. Speedy Ortiz came out to sunshine with a surprisingly heavy set that hit all of the fan favourites. Sadie Dupuis' vocals were too low in the mix though, which obscured the band's main selling point: the lyrics. They played a few of new songs too, which they're clearly still working the kinks out of. Suuns were brilliant, pushing out their rhythmic psychedelia with a perfect balance of enthusiasm and restraint. Land of Talk was pleasant but unremarkable. The pair of 90s icons, Built to Spill and Guided by Voices, demonstrated just how different their legacies are. Built to Spill remain a plaintive, no-gimmicks three-piece, Guided by Voices lively, aggressive and loud.

Best acts of the weekend: Respectfulchild, Year of Glad, Suuns

That’s it for now. Until next year!