Sled in the summertime
by Vanessa Gillard
Since 2007 Calgarians have had their own private island — Sled Island. If you have never heard of the little festival that could, you have been missing out. What the festival could — and did — do was put Calgary on the radar of acts and music lovers alike that not so long ago might have said, “What’s a Calgary?”
Those are the words of Lindsay Shedden, who took over as festival director following the departure of Sled Island’s creator. Originally the brainchild of Zak Pashak, the festival was a concept that Pashak felt could bring the community closer together and stop people from uttering those six words we’ve all heard so many times: “There’s nothing to do in Calgary.” The music and arts community in Calgary had been blossoming for so long it seemed that fruition needed a catalyst of some kind. Pashak, who ran for alderman of Ward 8 in Calgary’s civic election last fall, knew that Calgary was a city worth sticking with. Instead of moving to another major arts centre in Canada, such as Vancouver, he went ahead and proved our city’s potential to everyone else.
The festival takes place from June 22-25 at 30 venues around town and will reportedly feature over 200 acts this year. Sled features music, art, performance art, film, comedy and generally anything else the organizers consider uber rad. Some of the acts performing this year are The Raveonettes, Of Montreal, The Dandy Warhols, C’mon, Crocodiles, Kurt Vile and the Violators and way too many more to mention here. This is one of the best and most frustrating features of Sled; there are so many things to see over a four-day period you have to schedule your time pretty rigidly if you want to take as much in as possible. While deciding who’s primary and who may be secondary it is imperative to figure out how you will get from venue to venue. Some like to bike, some walk, and many drunken jog, but however you arrive it is important to consider timing because your favs may come on right after the your other favs across town
This year sees a new director and The Reflector took a moment to have a chat with Shedden. She says that the transition between she and Pashak has been quite seamless and Pashak’s role will really only change slightly, he will continue to book the bands as he has done in past years but he’s also joined the board of directors.
Some venues have been dropped and some picked up this year, and a few sponsors, such as ACAD, have thrown their hats into the ring. The new venues won’t be revealed until the official schedule is announced in May, but Shedden says there are some things a goer can always look forward to.
“One guarantee with Sled Island, is that you will always get the chance to be a part of never-before-seen line-ups, special appearances, and bills so stacked it’s hard to even dream that they could happen.”
Every year the festival has guest curators to give their input, contribute their expertise and lend a hand during the festivities. This year will see four lucky candidates fill the roles: three musicians and one CBC Radio 3 personality.
“The guest curators this year are Ian Svenonius, Grant Lawrence, and (the band) Bogus Tokus,” says Shedden. “Ian Svenonius is known as the singer and mouthpiece of multiple Washington, D.C.-based music groups including Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Weird War, and Chain and The Gang. He is also a published author and an online talk show host and is characterised by his various antics and theatrics, at least some of which we hope to see.
“Grant Lawrence, a veteran Canadian radio personality and host of CBC Radio 3, and is passionate about the Canadian indie music scene. He has invaluable input into this year’s run.
“Bogus Tokus are from Vancouver. Thrash music in Fred Perry swim trunks. We’re looking forward to their music — and fashion — ideas.”
Though it may seem like major bands’ touring schedules often overlook our wee Cowtown, Shedden says that they are having little trouble getting the names they go after.
“Calgary is a major Canadian city, so most bands and booking agents are familiar with it, and through the years, the festival is getting more well known. There will always be people who want to know ‘what a Calgary is,’ but our past line-ups speak for themselves, which makes it easy to get the bands we go after.”
The newly appointed director, who is also new to the city, says she’s thrilled to be living in Calgary and looks forward to being part of the vibrant community.
“I am having a fantastic time living in Calgary and getting to know everyone that makes this city what it is, and what it is, is incredible. The scene in Calgary is amazing, and people here are really supportive of live music, and of all types of music in general. The best part of this job is being a part of this city and this festival. I have worked on, and been to, festivals around the world, but this is by far my favourite. Sled Island is really something special.”
The best way to experience Sled Island is by buying a wristband that will get you into all the shows. Advance and VIP wristbands can be purchased at sledisland.com