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Everything you need to know about Sled Island’s first wave

By Sheroog Kubur, April 10 2023

With June quickly approaching, Sled Island is soon to be a hop, skip and jump away. The first wave of artists has been announced and each one brings something exciting to the table. This year’s festival seems to be a return of some of the greatest performances in Sled Island history, stretching from down south to the big cities of up north. 

Bartees Strange is the guest curator for this year’s event — an artist with a comforting repertoire and clear vision. His contributions include folk artists like Helado Negro, bringing a refreshing ambiance to the festival by introducing the sounds of electronic folk and jazz, edgy punk-influenced pop artist Pom Pom Squad, singing her sorrows of girlhood through the lens of a recently-deceased cheerleader, and Venezuelan-Guatemalan-Chicago fusion artist KAINA, bringing an R&B and pop dimension to the festival with sophisticated polyrhythms and groovy instrumentals. 

Bonafide punks will be excited to see 1876 — a self-described “pow wow punk rock” band, the group injects an Indigenous flair to each of their songs, whether it be through the incorporation of pow-wow drums or lyrics boasting their music as “the sound of Indigenous and proud.” Philadelphia punks Mannequin Pussy will be making their Calgary debut at the #1 Legion. This band steps above the classic riot-grrrl archetype and expands on what punk could be, crossing the worlds between thrash, punk and melodic pop sounds. Osees will be returning after a legendary performance in 2011, injecting some underground, grimy punk into the festival. 

To keep the energy high and ears ringing, Montréal avant-garde metal band BIG|BAND takes the stage. Their flavour of metal is a cross between art rock and thrash, creating ear-melting tracks that are best experienced live. Suffering Hour follows suit with a more traditional metal sound, bringing black and death metal to the forefront. 

While this first wave has been remarkably noisy, artists like Water From Your Eyes bring the high energy back down and bring balance to the lineup. Atlanta jazz players Sun Ra Arkestra will be kicking it old school with an afro-futurist and big band attitude, breaking down barriers of what it means to be a band and what music can be. Pop princess Spelling will be taking attendees to space with her ethereal beats and synth-heavy tracks, providing the soundtrack to a potential alien invasion at any moment. A standout from the lineup is Toronto-based hip hop artist Haviah Mighty — rapping hearty lines over slick instrumentals, bringing a different kind of edge to the festival. 

The first wave is a sample of the full lineup of Sled Island and it’s already better than anyone could have imagined. Sled Island runs from June 21–25 with single tickets for the first wave being available now through the website.

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