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Sled Island 2023 created five days of unforgettable music and memories

By Ansharah Shakil, June 29 2023—

Sled Island, the crowning music jewel of June in Calgary, took place this year from June 21 to 25 and was — akin to previous years — an incredible experience. Sled Island is often called a one-of-a-kind festival, and it’s definitely one-of-a-kind the way the streets of Calgary come alive in late June, bustling and busy with festival-goers spread across the city for the festival’s many venues.

Over fifteen venues were used for Sled Island this year and each one showcased a different part of Calgary. Smaller indie places like Sloth Records hosted bands alongside venues like the Palomino Smokehouse and the Palace Theatre. Significant Calgarian businesses like King Eddy and Globe Cinema had their moments in the sun. Coffee shops and bars alike were swarmed with concert attendees. The Ship & Anchor’s killer concert setup was as fun as going back and forth from the upstairs and downstairs of venues like Modern Love and #1 Legion as multiple showcases happened at once. There’s nothing like the music at Sled Island, but what also makes the festival special is its structure and the excitement generated by it. 

Sled Island is an inclusive festival — even if you lack a pass or tickets, or if you are under 18, there are still activities for you. CJSW’s live sets of Sled Island artists allowed you to tune in to listen to bands if you weren’t interested in heading to any venue at all. Artistic events occurred like Sled Island’s annual poster show held at I Love You Coffee Shop and their new AUArts exhibit at nvrlnd boutique, plus an art battle. Free shows could be accessed without passes along with free, family-friendly events like Sled Alley and the Ramsay Block Party. These events encouraged people to have fun in ways not necessarily expected from a music festival, though the music, of course, was impeccable and central to the festival. A pass becomes more tempting the longer you study all of the activities and music available at the festival.  

This year’s Sled Island lineup was better than ever, with headliners like Osees — returning to Calgary’s Broken City, now Modern Love, after a last legendary visit in 2011 — and Mannequin Pussy — in their first, anticipated visit to Calgary — both of which were sold out almost immediately. Other headliners included indie-rock Chicago band DEHD and this year’s guest curator Bartees Strange. 

Local artists like Vivek Shraya, Lovelet and Wack were widely welcomed by festival-goers, as were international artists like Weak Knees and Sessa. When it comes to genres, there was something for everybody, from heavy to indie to punk to folk to R&B and more. There’s a full spectrum of emotions in Sled Island’s 2023 lineup, from angry to quiet to groovy to energetic. 

Hopping from venue to venue and artist to artist allowed people to listen to all sorts of different genres and experience all sorts of places in Calgary and local artists. Music and packed crowds were everywhere you went downtown, and it was an absolutely exhilarating feeling to see Sled Island pull off another successful year. 

There’s nothing like live music — hearing artists share their thoughts about songs, seeing them be unpolished and messy and human, sweating in a crowd, having your eardrums blasted off. Sled Island understands how much fun live music is and enhances it by being a creative multi-venue festival that feels quintessentially part of this city. The best thing about the festival is that it’s annual. If you missed it, or if you can’t wait to go again, you can catch Sled Island again next June, with another amazing lineup, more entertaining activities and a completely extraordinary experience.

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