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Sled Island Music & Arts Festival Overview

Calgary is often overlooked as a vibrant arts and culture hub, but for those who know about Sled Island, that’s just fine. For over a decade, Sled Island has remained one of Canada’s best kept festival secrets, bringing hundreds of bands into dozens of venues, to entertain tens of thousands of attendees. For those five days in June, Calgary is an art lover’s paradise featuring one of Canada’s most eclectic and expansive list of musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, and comedians.

The festival model looks similar to SXSW or NXNE, but is set in Calgary in lieu of Austin or Toronto, has its benefits. This is truly a festival in line with the festivals of the past, where popular bands participate as means of helping promote smaller bands that had yet to reach the masses. If you’ve ever been to Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ontario, you might know what a festival like this looks like: Festival goers and volunteers are equally excited, poster art is extravagantly done, poetic show descriptions, and a supportive and excited community.

What festivals like Sled Island ultimately lead to is a discovery of new music and art. You might stop by a pub to see one band or artist where you meet a fellow concert-goer who tips you off on another show, and boom, just like that, you have a new favourite.

Want to get prepared? Dig into 2016’s stacked lineup with new and old bands who are all worth listening to. While you scroll the lineup, we’ll get you started on a few notable bands, artists, and films that you need to check out.

Music

Photo: Wiki Commons

Photo: Wiki Commons

Guided by Voices got their start in the’ 80s in Dayton, Ohio, by school teacher Robert Pollard. The band has written over 2,100 songs, (1600 by Pollard) with many of them being examples of post-punk, psych, and indie rock perfection. These lo-fi legends began the aesthetic you’re still hearing reverberated in every band with “beach” or “wave” in their name. GBV broke up in 2004, but are back for Sled Island. So, yeah, this show is kind of a big deal.

Photo: Wiki Commons

Back when I was a kid, I remember my older sister playing a lot of indie rock records whose sounds were laced with feedback and fuzz. Being a younger brother, my musical ideology was basically, “Okay, we like fuzz.” Then she bought a Built To Spill album and everything changed. It was a revelation; clean and sensible guitar rhythms, catchy choruses, refined indie sensibilities, and amazing lyrics that made me feel some level of depth. I transcended, we didn’t like fuzz anymore; I liked indie rock. Lead singer Doug Martsch and the rest of the band have continued to put on great shows and incredible albums. If you’re a songwriter or musician, they’re not to be missed.

Photo: JuliaHammasHolter.com

Photo: JuliaHammasHolter.com

“I can’t swim, it’s lucidity, so clear!” Julia Holter sings on standout, “Sea Calls Me Home.” Holter broke through in 2013 with her album, Loud City Song but last year, further established herself making many attuned critics’ Best-of-2015 lists. Pitchfork has sung her praises in stepping away from heavy conceptual tracks to orchestrated gorgeous pop confessions. Holter’s voice, which can switch between a baritone and a less smokey Chan Marshall, is often complimented by strings, which is all to say, she’s amazing live.

Photo: Wiki Commons

Photo: Wiki Commons

Peaches is truly larger than life. Born Merrill Nisker, Peaches employs rhymes coupled with electronic beats to share her explicit and bold politics around ideas of body, sex, and gender. Originally a librarian, Peaches is as multi-disciplinary as they come, never restricting herself to one medium, using film, theatre, and music to convey and challenge society and our culture’s contemporary ideas.

Art

Photo: Fantaviousfritz.com

Photo: Fantaviousfritz.com

Fantavious Fritz, Zoe Koke, and Matt Krysko are brought together in Beyond A Shadow, which explores the music video. The opening reception of the show will feature Vancouver-based band, Dada Plan. Of all the art shows, this one is a can’t miss.

Photo: jessiebeier.com

Photo: jessiebeier.com

The Beginning of the Middle of the End is presented by Albertan, Jessie Beier, a film installation that portrays experiences of anxiety in the form of cinematic tension.

Photo: theworldofdaveandjenn.com

Photo: theworldofdaveandjenn.com

Calgarian, Jennifer Crighton, uses film, sound, sculpture, and animation to perform as her own doppleganger in, The Hermitess.

Film

Photo: Wiki Commons

Photo: Wiki Commons

Sharon Jones, of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, presents, Miss Sharon Jones! A documentary that follows Sharon and her band as they begin to achieve greater success, only to be confronted by Jones’ recent cancer diagnoses.

Photo: Desirewillsetyoufreethefilm.com

Photo: Desirewillsetyoufreethefilm.com

Guest curator, Peaches, selected Desire Will Set You Free, a comedic film that explores Berlin’s underground and queer scenes through an American Expat, Ezra.

Finally, infamous musician, videographer, and music video directorVice Cooler, hosts a Q&A on June 25th to discuss his extensive experience in music videos and videography

Trip Details

For details on anything mentioned in this post check out these links

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