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Sled Island returns to Calgary venues

June 18 2015 —

Calgary’s beloved music and arts festival, Sled Island, returns June 24–28 with one of its most eclectic lineups yet.

Executive director Maud Salvi says she’s pleased with this year’s artists, including the acts curated by legendary post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

“We’re stoked about the lineup. We feel like it’s very true to Sled Island. There’s a lot of people in the lineup this year we’ve been trying to book since our first year,” Salvi says. “[Godspeed You! Black Emperor] have been involved in suggesting artists. The collaboration was great and we’re really happy with their selections.”

Salvi says she’s also happy with the non-music portion of Sled Island, citing a strong movie lineup as a highlight. Salvi is also excited for the festival’s collaboration with art collective Wreck City, which will see the decrepit Penguin Car Wash taken over by local visual artists.

Sled Island takes place at an array of venues, ranging from the large outdoor Olympic Plaza to assorted bars and pubs in the downtown core.

Unfortunately, Sled Island will soon lose one of its long-time venues. It was announced June 12 that the Republik will shut its doors at the end of June. Salvi says the venue’s legacy is monumental to both the city and the festival.

“It’s going to be a tough venue to replace from a practical point of view, since there’s not a lot of other venues of similar size. But also from a historic view, because it’s been a big part of Sled Island. We’re sad to see it go,” Salvi says.

But the Republik stays open this year, hosting some of Sled Island’s 250+ artists each night of the festival.

Need help choosing which bands to check out from Sled Island’s massive lineup? Gauntlet writers compiled a list of four must-see shows.


Norwegian jazz ensemble Jaga Jazzist perform Saturday, June 27 at the Republik. // Erlend Solbu

Norwegian jazz ensemble Jaga Jazzist perform Saturday, June 27 at the Republik. // Erlend Solbu

Jaga Jazzist:  

When: Saturday, June 27 at 12:00 a.m.

Where: Republik Nightclub

Hailing from Norway, Jaga Jazzist are a nine-piece experimental collective that have been changing the modern jazz landscape for over 20 years. The collective has undergone many iterations since its formation, but the band has a constant core of siblings Martin, Lars and Line Horntveth.

Though Jaga Jazzist’s members have changed, their desire to innovate hasn’t. The group embodies all the characteristics that make jazz great. Their music is meticulous and free-flowing and the band never sticks with the same style for too long.

Jaga Jazzist’s unwavering dedication to experimentation makes for explosive live sets. With the band bringing their ensemble of strings, horn and percussion to Calgary for the first time, this is sure to be a spectacular show.

This will also be the second-last show to ever take place at the Republik Nightclub. Come say goodbye to one of Calgary’s great indie venues while taking in Jaga Jazzist’s slick tunes.

Jason Herring


Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche will bring their mesmerizing music to Sled Island this year. // Michael Shu and Catherine Gauthier

Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche will bring their mesmerizing music to Sled Island this year. // Michael Shu and Catherine Gauthier

Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche:

When: Tuesday, June 23 at 9:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 27 at 10:30 p.m.

Where: Commonwealth Bar & Stage and #1 Legion

Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Sled Island performances are slated to be the most-talked about of this year’s festival, but their influence on Sled Island goes beyond their own shows. The band, who are guest-curating the festival, have assembled some incredible groups worth paying attention to.

One of these is Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche, a Montreal avant-garde funk band who make music as weird and delightful as their name, which translates to “with the sun coming out of her mouth.” But you don’t have to speak French to enjoy their psychedelic smorgasbord of experimental sounds.

Avec le soleil create idiosyncratic and hypnotic rhythms punctuated by wordless vocals to craft an intricate and mesmerizing musical experience.

The band is known for their 20-minute multi-faceted epics. You’ve got a few chances to see them in action during Sled Island. Avec le soleil will share a bill with Calgary R&B darlings Shaani Cage on Tuesday at Commonwealth, but it’s their Saturday evening gig at the #1 Legion you shouldn’t miss. Make sure to bring vinyl-buying money and your favourite reality-enhancing provisions.

Liv Ingram


You can see Carla Bozulich's creepy art-rock at this year's Sled Island. // Alexander Klich

You can see Carla Bozulich’s creepy art-rock at this year’s Sled Island. // Alexander Klich

Carla Bozulich: 

When: Thursday, June 25 at 11:30 p.m. and Friday, June 26 at 7:00 p.m.

Where: National Music Centre and Central United Church

While St. Vincent isn’t returning to Sled Island this year for another round of her signature weirdness, Calgarians will have a chance to see a different, darker art-rocker lady.

Carla Bozulich is an L.A.-based singer-songwriter whose music weaves between folky lyricism and droning post-rock, creating an atmosphere equal parts beautiful and terrifying. Her newest album, Boy, is a perfect example of this kind of songwriting, with tracks that offer seas of noise and sadness for listeners to lose themselves in. Fans of both folk and post-rock will find something to love in Bozulich’s music.

Bozulich’s music isn’t suited for crowded bars. Thankfully, Sled Island gave her shows at two of the city’s coziest venues. If you’re interested in a smaller, more intimate show, catch Bozulich at the National Music Centre. But if you’re looking for something a bit more grandiose, then head to her show at Central United Church. Either way, imbibing mind-altering substances beforehand is highly recommended.

Sean Willett



Veteran rockers Yo La Tengo visit Sled Island for a show at Flames Central Friday, June 26. // Alterna2

Veteran rockers Yo La Tengo visit Sled Island for a show at Flames Central Friday, June 26. // Alterna2

Yo La Tengo:

When: Friday, June 26 at 11:00 p.m.

Where: Flames Central

Experienced rock trio Yo La Tengo are returning to Sled Island after headlining the festival in 2008. The group, consisting of husband and wife duo Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan, have been making diverse music for 30 years. But don’t let their age fool you — Yo La Tengo still rock harder than bands half their age.

Rounded out by multi-instrumentalist James McNew, the band is known for varied and unexpected live sets. It’s not unusual to hear soft ballads, fuzzy dream-pop and keyboard-driven rock in the same set.

The band also has a penchant for performing covers. The band’s upcoming album, Stuff Like That There, consists almost entirely of covers. They’re sure to play a few in Calgary, but it’s impossible to guess which. And that’s one of the best things about Yo La Tengo — they aren’t a band that brings the same set to every city they visit. Even after 30 years, Yo La Tengo remain inventive and original.

Claudia Wong


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