Fumes. Adrenaline. Lack of sleep. High on life and drunk on love, I swan-dove into Sled Day Three, with these things fueling the adventure. And while it was hard to fathom it getting any better after highlights like Disappears’ headlining set on Wednesday and critically acclaimed Atlanta rapper Killer Mike’s artist talk at Beat Drop yesterday, you know what? It did.
My day began at the crack of 6 p.m. with a mad dash from the artists lounge atop the Calgary Tower to the opposite end of the Sled grid at the 65-person capacity, densely hot, grease-scented space of Tubby Dog, where Saskatoon psych rockers Shooting Guns were already balls deep into a scorchingly loud yet contemplative set.
Big instrumental hooks, clashing cymbals, and heavy guitar riffs piloted the five-piece through their 45-minute set. At times it was even difficult to differentiate the band from crowd as high fiving between band members mirrored the elated enthusiasm of the audience.
An $8 cab ride that sheltered me from the many spontaneous downpours of the night brought me to the Golden Age Club (think shuffleboard outlines painted on the venue’s floor) for the Burger Records showcase, nostalgically evocative of a high school sock hop. Vancouver surf garage foursome Dead Ghosts opened. Shrouded in red velvet curtain, perched atop the wide high stage, these dudes were a spot-on throwback to grade school days gone by, the only omission being the token “Enchantment Under the Sea” banner above the stage. Eliciting progressively more head bobbing and hip shaking, the music ranged from semi-screamo to melodic crooning to boy-meets-girl lovers rock, and even included a great cover of “Telepathic” by Detroit garage rockers the Gories.
Riding the wave of teenage fantasy, next up was the Seattle trio (usually four-piece) of a similar ilk, La Luz: three ladies with more sass and swagger than I’d seen so far at Sled. Equal parts distortion and reverb, they conjured soundscapes similar to Chains of Love but despite sincere efforts to engage the audience, they failed to be as memorable as the energetic Dead Ghosts.
I split soon after to make sure I got into the Legion, home of the remainder of the night’s shows. While I’d meant to catch more, I walked into Calgary indie rock foursome 36? two songs from finishing their set. I still felt satisfied with the ice cream-themed music I did see though, and in the boiling hot jam packed room, I was also jealous of the drummer and his undies-only outfit.
Back downstairs, Mammoth Cave act Teledrome were onstage. Aptly touted as “retro-futurist punk ode to robo-romance,” their music was snappy and frantic, like a 33 of the Cure that accidentally got played at 45. After having listened to their recent debut LP, I was happy that the live show was more raw and less polished than the recording.
To cap off the festival’s half-way mark was Dan Deacon, the electronic dance maestro from Baltimore who led the most uplifting, fuel-injected, dream-come-true dance party I’ve ever been to. Without the cheese of glitter cannons or oversized props onstage, he choreographed a youthful set that turned the audience into a smiling, giggling flailing bunch of kids for his hour on stage. Staccato strobes and flashing lights bathed the crowd as he orchestrated stage-left versus stage right dance offs several times over, which infectiously spread through the entire cavernous room, up the stairs, around the upper level of the venue, and back. Rows of giddy people joined hands above heads with each other to form a long tunneled bridge for the others to dance through. On the technical side, Deacon’s vocals were completely drowned in the mix for a song or two, but looking around, it didn’t seem like many people gave a fuck about the notable shortcoming.
As we poured out into the chilly street at the stroke of 2 a.m., I closed the night with an enlightening conversation with a fellow Sledder who summed up his experience to me. There’s a lot of doom and gloom and stoicism in music. And often when it’s positive, it’s some sugar-coated, unbelievably formulaic top 40 trash. It felt great to be in the house of Deacon, where this one single individual summoned such vigour, talent, and energy, all sincerely.
And with that in mind, day three was done.