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Wye Oak and Flaming Lips bring beauty, weird to Sled Island Day 2

By Thomas Johnson, June 22 2018 —

The highlights from Sled Island Day 2 (Thursday) brought out the quintessential aspects of the five-day fest’s effect on Calgary. The air in the city was thick with the aroma of seasonal IPAs and fried-goods and the public transit system inexplicably failed at crucial moments. No one seemed to notice.

Wye Oak took to the Central United Church at 8:30 p.m., where a pipe organ the size of St. Peter’s Gates loomed over the procession. The Baltimore trio’s baroque hybrid of pop and folk swept up the church for a wholesome set. Sitting near the back, the rattle of the church’s antiquated windows was enough to remind one of the venerable age of the building.

Wayne Coyne and his Flaming Lips headlined MacHall at 9:15 pm. At the onset, a giant inflatable golem stood guard over the band, tucked between a technicolor kaleidoscope and clusters of beach balls tumbling about the crowd like bubbles in a breeze. A pair of humongous fungi capped both ends of the stage.

The Lips’s commitment to the trip was commendable. Coyne wrapped himself in a reflective blanket and whirled around like some great liquid disco ball. An oddly placed rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” seemed to momentarily confound the crowd, but business was returned to with a beautiful, fitting cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” — which is when the hamster ball came out. Perched out on a cluster of fans, with beach balls still whizzing by, Coyne looked like the sun around which a model scale solar system orbited. Back on the stage, between a pair of disembodied eyes, he urged the crowd to “Never hold back!” before an inflatable rainbow rose to close out the set.

At the Legion, John Maus performed in front of a wasted crowd. The sweat-drenched performance was heavy on wails and disco. He paced the stages, whipping his arms around, hitting himself and moaning through his dark, disco-oriented funk.

Walking home, the Ship & Anchor teemed with residual excitement. Its final show  — B.A. Johnston — was being disassembled, not that it dettered the crowd. A man outside tried to climb over the construction fence, not realizing it ended about 10 feet to his right. Never change, Calgary.


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