Sled Island slides into our hearts

By Rachel Betts-Wilmott

Most of the year, the rather senior staff of Calgary’s #1 Legion contend with Bingo nights and retirement parties. However for four days in June, the Legion played host to as many Calgary scenesters as it could pack in its door as Sled Island 2007 took over.

There was a buzz of excitement surrounding Sled Island’s inaugural year which didn’t die out as the festival came to a close. Early Sunday morning, as the crowd spilled out of the #1 Legion, scarved boys and legginged girls whispered and giggled about the shows they’d caught, while lamenting those they’d missed. Every person in the crowd had at least one great act they’d seen, one great story to tell.

It seems Sled Island’s first year was a great success, with many near-sold-out shows and a slew of delighted artists. However, it was the ensemble of happily milling fans which truly signaled the festival’s accomplishment.

“If you’re going to call it a music festival, it should be about the bands and the music,” said southern gent Eric Bachmann, of Crooked Fingers and Archers of Loaf, who played solo at the Hi-fi. “It shouldn’t be about a bunch of industry folks on vacation.”

In its first year, Sled Island has earned the title of music festival with a soul. Although it harnessed the bustle of a weekend at Austin’s South by Southwest, it was always about the music, rather than attendance. The four-day fest focused on showcasing the expanding Calgary indie scene while bringing some unlikely acts to the local audience.

In fact, audiences faced the dilemma of whether to support local acts or catch the rarer performances. There were, indeed, worries that some of the bigger names would overpower the Calgary artists–some Calgary devotees even going so far as to skip any and all out-of-towners. With acts like Miami’s Cat Power and art school punks Les Savy Fav, it was a legitimate worry. In the end, Thursday evening saw droves of scenesters heading to a Calgary showcase at Cantos headed up by indie darlings Azeda Booth, while Montreal’s newest exports Miracle Fortress and Hylozoists played to a rather desolate group at Quincy’s.

“I’d like to see some of the lesser known bands,” said Michael Hanson, half of Saskatchewan duo These Hands. “Destroyer and Cat Power as well.”

At an event where even the performers had long wishlist of shows they wanted to see, the real dilemma wasn’t about local or foreign acts, but how to quickly make your way from venue to venue. For the prompt music fans, the extended weekend provided great experiences, some even unexpected.

Knox United Church was host to an upset when Jane Vain and the Dark Matter played a nervous, but lovely set, before Cat Power’s breathtaking but in the end underwhelming performance. Although Spoon’s Mac Hall Ballroom show was a pleasure to attend, they were outshone by Vancouver’s Mother Mother, who yodled and yelped their way through an amazing set.

Saturday night, both Les Savy Fav and Japan’s the Boredoms delivered explosive performances. While both were inspired bits of lunacy, the Boredoms left hundreds with their minds blown.

“I just can’t talk about it,” said one wowed attendee.”It was too good. It makes me want to have sex with Japan, like on top of Mount Fuji.”

And so the festival went out with a bang from Chicago’s Bobby Conn, leaving the many and varied festivalgoers to chat about a fun four days, conveniently omitting from memory the organizational snafoos, which riddled the festival up until the first note was struck–and making the festival a resounding success.

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