Sunday, June 29, 2008

burning up the final day - going Sledding 2.0

After several days of experiencing some of the most exciting music on the planet, you tend to get a little blaise. So you allow yourself to sleep in a bit on the final day of the outdoor segment of the Sled Island Festival and consequently, you miss seeing Jose Gonzalez, Women, and the Secret Machines, and you are not even particularly bothered about it because you know you still have a full day and night of performances to enjoy.

The Mewata Armouries on the west end of downtown boasts a huge field, slightly rising in elevation, which offers a superb view of the stages regardless of where you happen to be. It's easily accessible by public transit and within walking distance of all the other Sled Island venues. Plus it's right beside the Science Centre in case you need a biology break. What it doesn't offer, though, is shade, and that made for a tough day on this 28C,
absolutely cloudless Saturday. From what I witnessed, there are going to be a lot of indie kids suffering today.

Some random highlights from the day:
Best hackeysack player - Spiderman dude who was called up on stage by High Flyin'
Best use of glitter - Of Montreal
Most humanitarian touch - free water all day, cheerfully dispensed
Most Dr Suess-like performance - Jonathan Richman
Most needed but unavailable commodity - ice cream
Personal fame-whore moment - being informed by the Alberta Views staff that they had published my abysmal festival poem in the June issue of the magazine
Happiest discovery - Ombrelle SPF 60 actually works

Here is a summary of the day's performances that I gleaned from yesterday's sun-screen smeared notes:

Still Flyin':
ska band from San Francisco, they actually played three sets yesterday, two of them at the outdoor
stage alone, as they stepped up to fill in after Scout Niblet cancelled. Bar none the most energetic band I have ever seen. The dude in the red gym shorts and tee was doing high kicks and jumping jacks, and the rest of the band was clapping and jumping up and down the whole time. I tried counting the members, and kept getting somewhere between 12 and 14, as they wouldn't stay still for the count. Between sets they played beach volleyball over by the toilets. Methinks they'd been nipping into the Red Bull a wee bit too much.

The music was infectious and upbeat and reflected the energy that the band personified. Alas though, when I
went to go buy their cd, they were sold out.

Drive By Truckers:
Southern rockers with a conscience, they played a hard-driving politically-charged straight
rock set. Think Steve Earle with a rock agenda.

Hot Little Rocket:
A Calgary institution, they offered a happy and irreverent post-punk set, plus they gave away a commemorative plate from a drunken ebay spree, which they had personalized with philosophical musings. Always a crowd favourite.

Gutter Twins: Although the Resident Offspring maintains that they looked like they stepped right out of a Neil Gaimen novel, there is no denying that Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan are an inspired musical pairing. With a set that was dark and hypnotic (some would say too much so for such a sun-filled outdoor festival), they completely drew me into the grooves that they laid down, and held me spellbound.

Jane Vain and the Dark Matter: I was starving by this point, and had seen them perform fairly recently, so
instead I checked out the festival fare on offer. Sled Island has a ways to go to compete with the likes of the Folk Festival in terms of food vendors, but the three vendors did offer the likes of burgers and dogs, fries and meatball subs, tacos and corn on the cob. Nothing too inspiring, but the pop was cold.

From what I could hear of Jane Vain and the Dark Matter, their atmospheric and broody basement music was
well received.

Jonathan Richman: Anyone expecting a Modern Lovers set was surprised (although he did play Pablo Picasso). Anyone expecting a rehashing of the former glories that made him a punk visionary, was certainly surprised by Richman's reinvention of himself as an avant garde storyteller, an intimate acoustic oddity. From tales of dealing with an unhappy girlfriend (and the subtle differences of same in several languages) to a radical stand against cell phones (man after my own heart) to dancing in a lesbian bar, he kept us puzzled and amused and scratching our heads. And oh, how that man can dance. He was really utterly charming.

Of Montreal: Like everyone else, we were expecting a great deal of spectacle from Of Montreal. And they did
not disappoint. Resplendent with fox heads and glitter guns, hot pants paired with paisley leggings, mysteriously masked figures parading balloons on poles throughout the crowd, and on-stage dramatic reenactments of something that looked to be a cross between Little Red Riding Hood and Phantom of the Paradise, Of Montreal somehow still managed to find time to belt out their sassy and criminally catchy songs. Definitely a highlight of the festival.

The Fellas:
Okay, I'll admit it, the sun was starting to wear me out so I wandered the booths in search of relief
during their set. I did hear them play their hit single though.

How often does one see two seminally influential rock acts perform in
one day? I tell you, I am not going to hold my breath waiting for the next time.

We suspect that the female guitarist with the mass of hair was not an original member of this 70's British punk band turned art rockers, but the rest of the quartet, who took the stage as the sun started to dip, were certainly the real thing. In their signature all-blacks, they launched into a lengthy set, heavy on the experimental art theme. Consummate musicians, Wire were tight and focussed, edgy and creative, and unrelenting powerful. It may have been a better choice had they worked a bit more of their infectious punk back catalogue into the set, as the audience's energy was beginning to flag at this point after too many hours under the brutal sun, but nobody can deny the importance of what they witnessed.

The Dodos: Sadly, by the end of Wire's set, the Resident Offspring was complaining of feeling ill, so we decided it was time we packed up and dragged our sorry asses home. I confess I packed as slowly as I could, because I was really liking what I was hearing from the Dodos, a guitar and drum duo. Their soaring vocals and complex drumming made me want to hear more from this San Francisco band.

And I still can't quite believe that I missed Mogwai!

And when I think back in awe and increasing disbelief about all the fabulousness that the Sled Island Festival has brought this city in the past four days, and in only its second year of existence, well it all but brings a little tear of gratitude to my eyes.

Well done, you Sled Islanders, well done.


bloody awful poetry said...

You missed Jose? And Mogwai??? Goodness I don't think I could live with myself in that situation.
But I suppose them nutters in Of Montreal were worth it, eh?

Allison said...

Wow, that line-up would make one stellar mixed cd. :)

I keep forgetting its summer, but when you mentioned 28'C I thought, hmmm what was that like. Its cold and rainy here. To be fair, I'd probably complain if it was warm as well. ;)

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

So you had a good time then. Good for you! Yay music! Yay Canada!

BeckEye said...

Ah, Slut Island. Sounds wonderful.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I considered sitting in a warm tub and opening my veins, but it's too bloody hot for that, BAP. And yes, Of Montreal alone were worth the price of admission.

Complaining about the weather is what we do, after all, Al, being Canucks and all, no matter what side of the pond we happen be on.
You are right, of course, that lineup would make an excellent start to a mix tape. Thanks for the subtle reminder.

It was pretty spectacular, Dr M - still pinching myself! No we will sit back and wait for Canada Day, so we can drink beer and eat red things.

I'm still a little sad that it isn't really called Slut Island, as the Resident Offspring originally thought, Beckeye, as the possibilities for blog post titles alone would be endless. But regardless of the name, it was fabulous.

justacoolcat said...

Who wears short shorts?

Congrats on getting published!

Anonymous said...

For the record, Resident Offspring also had work the next morning.

Sean Wraight said...

You are just so lucky Barb! What a strange eclectic mix of talent you witnessed. Curious though, just what did the Resident Offspring make of Wire, Of Montreal and Jonathon Richman? What a great parental you are to expose your daughter to such great stuff.

Thanks so much for the lowdown too... I have to wait until Fall before we get anything even remotely approaching this lineup.


Barbara Doduk said...

I have to say I love Hot Little Rocket. I saw them a couple years back and was like, wow! Thanks for reminding me of them.

JustRun said...

Man. You are so cool!

Gifted Typist said...

I love the fact that you go to these things with the idea of writing up review for us.

We are so lucky to have you

mellowlee said...

Wow, I am sooo jealous! I think the J. Richman part is my fav :O) Hope you have a great Canada Day Barb, and eat lots of ice cream to make up for the lack of it at the festival. ;O) I wonder if they make red and white icecream for Canada Day, and if so, what flav would it be?

Evelyne said...

seems like a lot of fun. And you are lucky to have sunny days (even if it means Ombrelle 60!).

Barbara Bruederlin said...

WE wear short shorts, JustA! Actually, I lied, I generally wear capris, being a woman of a certain age.
Thanks muchly, it's been a few years since I've had anything non-scientific (ie non-boring) published.

You are 100% correct, Anony, thank you for pointing that out and for defending the honour of Resident Offspring.

It was a really inspired lineup, Sean, both at the outdoor shows and at all the small venues throughout town. You are making a reasonable assumption that I am introducing the Resident Offspring to all these musicians, but in actuality, it is the other way around. She has forgotten more about music than I will ever know. I have been blessed with a great kid (who also has impeccable musical taste).
I am looking forward to hearing about your fall shows.

Aren't they a fun band, Barbara D? Always so energetic and positive. And Andrew Wedderburn has just published a book, to boot!

No, I'm not, Justrun, I just hang around with cool people who make cool things happen.

Ahhhh shucks, Gifted! Actually, writing these things up is as much for my own benefit as it it for yours, as my memory is not what it never used to be. Did I just say that out loud? I meant, I do it all for you, nothing is too good for my peeps. Yeah.

It's probably something kinda mundane like strawberry and vanilla, Mel, but wouldn't it be great if it was pomegranate and vanilla (because you can't beat vanilla)? Hope your Canada Day is great too.
Jonathan Richman was so funny and sweet, he really was quite quirky and adorable. You would have loved him.

It was totally fun, Evelyne, a little tiring after four days, but well worth the lack of sleep. And fortunately our heatwave only lasted 3 days, so we are pretty lucky.

Will said...

it's ok you missed mogwai - you got to see of montreal and the gutter twins!!! i am so jealous.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Of Montreal and The Gutter Twins wer both real highlights, Will. Totally different acts, but both completely memorable.

Anonymous said...

Good Job! :)