The second day of Sled Island was a much longer one, but the pacing seemed more relaxed. Chalk it up to the gaps between the afternoon shows and the nighttime gigs, but there was a little more room to breathe between shows. Regardless, the city was still going nuts.
Afternoon Pool Party
Just before I left my Aunt’s, it started to rain, so I changed out of my shorts and into a pair of jeans. By the time I got to a punk house pool party just a couple blocks off the downtown core, though, the sun was blazing again. Murphy’s law, I suppose. The backyard was plenty packed, with people grilling burgers on the patio and an inflatable pool attracting a handful of kids in their skivvies. The basement gig was way too packed to even consider going in, but I heard Halifax’s Duzheknew from outside, and their new wave-y garage went down as smooth as the cans of Kokanee being passed around. Someone tossed a bag full of dry ice and Gain into the pool, which caused a misty, sudsy ruckus. It was awesome. What wasn’t as rad was when one punk tossed his mutt in the water. That dog seemed bummed.
Downtown House Show
Just a couple blocks away, another punk house hosted their own unofficial Sled Island party. By the time I got there, Vancouver’s Keep Tidy were kicking it up a notch in a backyard shed with their speedy, scissor-beat blasts, anchored by vocalist Shmoo Ritchie’s mondo-bizarro glam clamourings.
Up next was Face, a fairly jokey Vancouver MC. Sporting neon sunglasses, he attempted to get through a couple of Garageband-bred hip-hop beats, but ended up cracking up and aborting his freestyles mid-song. He was clearly having a ton of fun, even at his own expense. “You would never guess that this is the first time I’ve played these songs,” he quipped.
Lethbridge’s Stressed Out were up next, and their name said it all. Tight, nervous blasts of ’80s hardcore, with a singer whose lyrics mused on the finer points of stabbing someone with a pencil.
The cops soon showed up, but they let the show go on. Good on ‘em.
Zola Jesus and Lee Ranaldo @ Central United
Gale force winds hit the downtown core in the early evening, eventually blowing me back to the Central United church to check out goth songstress Zola Jesus. The diminutive, bleached-blonde singer played up the holy vibe of the venue, sporting puritanical-yet-tattered white jeans and an ivory wrap. While most of the crowd sat in the pews awestruck, Jesus’ icy spirituals had her extremely energized. She crawled along the floor, hopped on top of speakers, let out a few snuff film-styled screams and took off with her wireless microphone to the top levels of the church by the end of the set. It was incredible.
Silver-haired Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo kept up the mobile-theme as he walked around the aisles with his Fender held high, tapping the headstock to create a cacophony of feedback. A film screen soon projected footage of a naked guy huddled by a fire. Ranaldo then hooked his six-string onto a hanging wire and swung it high above the room. The drone piece eventually got too loud to handle, so I split.
James T. Kirks and the Nancees @ #1 Legion
Just down the street, the #1 Legion was hosting gigs on two floors. Upstairs, the James T. Kirks were dropping some chunky surf instrumentals that may have been a bit too bro’d out for my tastes. Things weren’t that much better downstairs, where the Nancees were offering up some sloppy, out-of-tune bar rock.
Keep Tidy and Needles//Pins @ Palomino
Back at the Palomino, Keep Tidy slammed straight into their second set of the day. Ritchie gave props to a smoke machine before headbanging her poofy mane and seemingly doing a bit of a cowboy two-step during “Hit The Ground Running.”
Needles//Pins have been around for a while now, but for whatever reason, this was the first time I’ve ever seen the punky Vancouver trio. I’ll make it my business to catch them locally, as I was plenty impressed with their slightly Ramones-y take on ‘50s sock hop anthems. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a round of “ba ba ba’s” that gruff and growly.
Soft Pack and Dum Dum Girls @ #1 Legion
San Diego’s Soft Pack are pleasant enough, but reasonably forgettable. The pop rockers played “Answer To Yourself,” from the Grolsch beer commercial, and the peppy “C’Mon,” but singer Matt Lamkin’s low-key presence held the band back from really pumping up the party.
Dum Dum Girls, meanwhile, thrilled with their ‘60s-style girl group numbers. Nothing spectacular happened during the couple songs I caught, but the troupe was solid.
Man Man @ the Distillery
By the time I walked into the Distillery, Man Man frontman Honus Honus’ mighty moustache was positively dripping with sweat. A highlight was when he and the rest of the war-paint sporting combo hammered into the spooky ragtime-by-way-of-prog rock heartbreaker “Shameless.” The combo continued to drop eclectic compositions full of drum solos, vibraphone runs and sax lines. Honus, meanwhile, put on a sequined sweater, jogged on the spot, jingled two sets of keys and blew a pillow’s worth of feathers into the sweat-soaked crowd. It was exhausting and a great last gig of the night.
Stay tuned for Day 3!