Sled Island’s parade strong as ever
One year after getting cancelled, the Fest isn’t backing down
While Sled Island didn’t live up to their slogan literally, they figuratively proved that “no one rains on [their] parade” with a triumphant return after getting flooded.
Despite uncooperative weather and changes to the parade route — like headliner Neko Case cancelling and comedian Kyle Kinane getting held up at immigration — the 2014 rendition of the festival showed a lot of the same spunk that Calgary did in June of 2013.
Wednesday night started out dreary, and those who chose to walk and bike to participate in Green Island arrived at their shows sopping wet. At Republik, strong band after strong band took the stage. They were rocking, and they were loud. It sent the message that Sled was back. The night offered an incredibly diverse collection of sets, from Dan Boeckner’s new synth-rocking group The Operators to loud, local punk group Catholic Girls. It was a treat to get that much music in one night.
Thursday kept going, offering acts from seemingly every genre. Those who were in the mood for hip-hop were basically spoiled, with Atlanta legend Killer Mike taking Republik attendees to his performance, which he declared to be church at midnight, which took strongly to Sledders. Earlier Thursday, Mike gave a fascinating artist talk at Beat Drop about where his life had been, where it was going, and how much he hated poodles.
As a side, it’s events like the artist talk and Sled’s noted presence of art, film, comedy and special events that makes Sled Island stand out from being just another North American fest. While many attendees only catch music, this year featured a film by Dr. Seuss, incredible plays by Calgarians like Radioheaded 2¸and provided a great platform for art to get recognition by more than its regular crowd.
However, it excels in music. Friday proved that, with Olympic Plaza returning as a stage for the first time in two years. It wasn’t the prettiest, as a torrential downpour had fans hiding under trees and tents in between every act. On top of that, as mentioned before, Neko Case had to cancel hours before her headlining act, leaving the Fest in a bit of a lurch.
No strangers to making the best out of a bad situation, the fest hit a trifecta of good notes to make sure Neko Case’s cancellation didn’t detract from anyone who might have had their night ruined. First off, they offered refunds to everyone who had purchased a ticket to see Case. Next, they managed to get Canadian treasure Joel Plaskett to take on double-duty and play in Case’s place before his own scheduled set later in the night. Finally, they turned the entire ordeal into a free show for any Calgarian who appreciates good music or just wanted a good time. They held true to their word — nobody was going to rain on their parade.
Finally, as it inevitably happens every year, Sled Island had to wrap up, but left on a strong note with a must-see at seemingly every venue. Having gone to see St. Vincent at FlamesCentral, it would not have been a disappointment to go to Olympic Plaza to see Spiritualized or Republik for Bob Mould.
St. Vincent, though, felt like the right way to end of the fest. While she was her same, crazy self with her absorbing music and jarring dance moves, it didn’t necessarily seem like a venue dedicated to Calgary’s hockey team felt right for St. Vincent — whose performance was far more graceful than what usually takes the stage at FlamesCentral. However, it provided a perfect metaphor for Sled Island, in that no matter what the circumstances were, they were going to give it their all and no one was going to stop them.
During a weekend when many Calgarians reflected back on the year that had been since the terrible 2013 flood, Sled Island gave a beam of hope as to just how well this city is going to recover, and get their parade back on track.