Summer heats up at Sled Island
In only two years, Sled Island has firmly established itself as Calgary’s coolest summer festival, a mini version of Texas’s South by Southwest festival that balances music, art, and film from both local and international talents, running the gamut from up-and-coming to critically and commercially established.
Starting on June 24, the madness will descend once again upon the Calgary downtown core for four blistering days. And while it’s still too early to confirm even the most skeletal line-up (that announcement will take place May 1), excitement is already starting to build.
Festival founder Zak Pashak is hard at work ensuring this year’s instalment continues to live up to the hype.
“Last year’s festival was huge, and was kind of our way of showing everyone we were serious,” says Pashak. “We can’t really afford to do things on that kind of scale every time, so this year will be a little smaller. We really wanted to attract attention to what we were doing [last year] and get the word out, and I think we succeeded.”
Pashak says things are certainly going to be different this year, starting with the new guest curator Colin Newman, whose legendary band Wire co-headlined last year’s fest. Although Newman won’t be in town until April 10 to meet with the Sled Island team and participate in a fundraising show at the #1 Legion the next day (headlined by Canadian punks Fucked Up), Pashak is excited about what his latest guest will bring to Calgary.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Colin,” says Pashak. “Last year’s festival, he told me, was one of the favourite shows his band has played. And he also sees Calgary very much how I see it, which is basically a blank slate. So much is undiscovered in this city, and so much can be brought to it. That fascinates the both of us, so I expect it to be a really fruitful working relationship.”
Last year’s edition of a main stage site at Mewata Field, adjacent to Millennium Park, proved immensely successful for both attracting fans and letting the city know Sled Island is here to stay. The main stage will be back, but rather than return to Mewata, the crowds will be brought to Olympic Plaza, although at this point it’s only been confirmed for the Friday festivities.
“That’s where I always wanted the stage to be in the first place,” says Pashak. “Mewata was great, but Olympic Plaza is at the centre of where the rest of the festival takes place, so that’ll be awesome.”
But Sled Island is not just about music. Last year, more than a dozen galleries and art spaces throughout the city featured festival-sponsored modern art, from paintings to visual art to interactive installations. Pashak insists that the art and film aspects are crucial to not only Sled Island, but any festival worth its due.
“We’re definitely going to continue bringing in artists and filmmakers to add to the overall experience,” says Pashak. “I know that when I go to a festival, there are some days when I just don’t want to see any bands, which is why I love South by Southwest so much. It’s important to give people options.”
What can’t be denied is that most Calgarians will be lured to the Beltline this June by the music. Pashak says hundreds of bands have submitted their applications to play the fest, including some big names he never expected. “I thought I’d have to chase them down, but they’re coming to us first!”
Considering Sled Island’s track record, not to mention a curator with international connections and legendary status, this year’s line-up promises to be another explosive combination of big names and under-the-radar discoveries. If you’re a music fan who’s unafraid of expanding your horizons and getting your hair messed up in the mosh pit, you might want to postpone your vacation till July. Trust us.