Sled Island all about location, location, location
Artists must match up to right venue
Sled Island is coming into its sixth year in Calgary, and this year’s recently announced headliners for the festival are creating quite a buzz. With the vast number of choices for venues in our city, about 30 in total for the festival, one wonders where and who has the best sound and the best amount of space to accommodate dancing and ridiculous numbers of indie music fans. With the hallowed Marquee Room indefinitely closed down, we are left with one less fantastic venue. Because the list for venues has not yet been released for this year, we’ll hypothetically set up a few of our eight headliners in what their ultimate stages would be.
Feist has been already slated to play Olympic Plaza, which is sure to be a great choice because the fan turnout will absolutely fill the space. Unfortunately Feist’s music, though quite obviously a good mix of bouncy pop/folk, registers fairly sombre and lyrical ballads would fit better in an intimate setting like the Hillhurst United Church. Vocalist Julianna Barwick played this venue last year to a reasonable crowd of about 45, her chilling vocals resonated throughout the entire church and were framed with a beautiful glow from the stained-glass windows. Ideally, we’d like to see Feist play here, however, because her reputation has garnered quite the fan following, the church would immediately overflow.
Thurston Moore, lead vocalist for Sonic Youth, will be making a come back this year to Sled 2012, and his venue has not yet been released. Moore played Central United Church downtown last year to a packed crowd. Moore’s speech and interview style suit the great sound system at this church, however, to shake things up, we hope that Moore gets presented at either Broken City or The Commonwealth Bar and Stage as both are dimly lit, shady bars that provide just the right dark atmosphere without being intimidating. The nature of the warehouse-steampunk style decor at Commonwealth or Broken City’s hipster runoff details seem to fit best with Moore’s rebellious and satirical nature. Commonwealth’s sound system obviously trumps Broken City’s, but because Broken City seems to attract the more counterculture crowd it is the best venue for Moore’s talks.
Our next headliner, Andrew W.K., the notorious party-rocker, is also deemed homeless thus far for this year’s Sled. Obviously the only place to put this zany musician is a place like Tubby Dog. Tubby Dog’s nostalgic interior (complete with old cans and jars of various memorable sweets and junk foods) makes for a whimsical place for an impromptu session. W.K. would definitely grab the best crowd here because the hotdogs are constantly piling up and so are the beers. Although the sound system is probably not as top notch as Local 522 or The Distillery, Tubby Dog’s primary coloured walls and diner-style floors allow for plenty of inspiration for mayhem.
Veteran ’90s rockers Archers Of Loaf deserve a nice svelte setting for their grungy noise-rock sound and the most equipped setting for this would be Legion #1 downtown. Its grimy brick exterior blatantly masks the cool, vintage Canadian embellishments inside. Complete with a parquet dance floor and a loud and large Canadian maple leaf decal on the stage, this space seems like the best place to put a whole troupe of old American alt-rockers. Although the sound system is less than to be desired the static and fuzziness will only be helpful to the Archers’ noisy guitar riffs.
We hope that this year the venues are carefully chosen to highlight various artists’ styles and their personalities. Although this does not happen 100 per cent every year, Sled Island’s hush-hush approach to announcing further headliners for this year seems to indicate to us that they have something big planned and will make sure that the venues can both accommodate and provide the best sound for all fans.