It’s fair to assume that on the final day of a raucous four-day, all-day all-night festival, the audience would be exhausted. And on the final day, maybe you’d expect fewer people at shows, and those who showed up would be haggard, deaf, pale, and frail; a mass of wrist-stamped, strung-out music lovers.
But on the final day of Calgary’s Sled Island festival, the aforementioned couldn’t be further from the truth. It was grey, rainy, and unwelcoming outside, yet every venue, from the womb-like sit-down Theatre Junction Grand to the jam-packed Bamboo Room were all still buzzing with action.
Hangovers amassing, the day’s festivities began a little later, but there was still plenty to get out of bed for. Saturday afternoon started with two shows at Olympic Plaza, where Toronto trio Bonjay sliced through the drizzle with their dancehall hype that infused the tropics into an rain-soaked crowd. While the audience was likely more sparse than what could have been on a sunny afternoon, those who showed up were step-touching in their panchos as though it was 25 degrees in their hearts. Next up, and riding the wave of what was arguably one of the festival’s most outstanding shows (two nights earlier at Broken City), was Seattle trance-rap duo Shabazz Palaces. The sky tore open, and with it another impressive performance.
Luckily the rest of the night shook down inside, where Brooklyn ethereal R&B-er How To Dress Well (Tom Krell) and hard-rock-opera quintet Yamantaka//Sonic Titan packed the intimate Theatre Grand Junction. Two more polarized bands couldn’t have been paired under one roof, but in terms of creativity and individuality, the two were forces of their own. While a tall skinny white dude isn’t usually who is expected to belt out R Kelly-esque vocals, the unexpected was unexpectedly amazing. The last stop on a nine-date North American tour (following a month-long residency in preparation at the Waldorf Hotel), Krell teamed up with Vancouver’s Aaron Read and Cam Reed (Babe Rainbow), for a performance that was ear-piercingly melodic, and the best way to prep for the thrash that followed.
Trotting up the street to Bamboo, the next quadruple bill was the Beatroute Cotton Candy party. The almost all-Van lineup of Dirty Spells, Oh No! Yoko!, Needs, War Baby and Victoria’s Babysitter solidified the Rain City contingency in Cowtown for Sled. Between the psych rock of the seven-piece Dirty Spells and the strung-out punk rock of newly-formed Needs, the cotton candy being spun at the back of the bar was just icing on the cake.
A quick walk up the street brought us back to Sled Island’s ground-zero, Broken City, where the final show of the night by psych-dance trio Prince Rama simultaneously zonked and freaked the heck out of the sweaty, packed-to-the-brim crowd. To say that this show was the most appropriate end to this festival is an understatement; on top of the band’s high-energy performance, the pouring rain won the battle between venue and weather, as the roof began leaking in two places sometime between the show’s start and finish.
It looks like four days of music is just the right amount for this city to handle.