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Sled Island Diaries Day Two: Floods To the Forefront

by New Music Michael on June 21 2013

Jessica Jalbert at Sled Island 2013

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about attending music festivals, it’s to be flexible. And no word was more required at any music festival I’ve attended than yesterday, when the music itself took a backstage to a much deeper and worrying news story, with the potential flooding of various rivers throughout southern Alberta, including a couple of significant waterways surrounding Calgary’s downtown core.

A heavy downpour (almost a record if not a record itself) in the region caused rivers to begin to swell, and as the day continued, creeks become rivers, rivers became rushing lakes, and flood warnings gave way to mandatory evacuations. My hotel here in the very core of downtown remained fine, but was just five blocks in either direction from evacuation zones. In fact, walking back late at night I could see police cars down the road demarcating the evacuation zone.

There’s no pictures here of  the rivers, of course, because I am *NOT* one of those crazy people that’s going to head down to a rampaging, deadly river just to get some pictures. My life’s not worth that. Nobody’s life is worth that. I can’t believe anyone would do that, but we continue to see pictures, including this morning, of people creeping right up to the river’s edge to get photos. One mis-step, and floomph, they’re in the river and we’ll never see them again. You’re not coming out of that.

At any rate, the Sled Island team dealt with everything as absolutely best as they could, and I think they did a freaking incredible job. There were a few shows cancelled as evacuation orders closed down some of the venues close to rivers; and some shows were moved to other venues, the biggest of which was the Superchunk show (moved to Flames Central, a venue they weren’t planning to use until tonight); and John K. Samson (which was moved to Globe Theatre, a scant half a block from my hotel).

But with all that I did get to see some bands yesterday, so here’s the run-down, understanding that EVERYONE’s attention was half on the festival, half on the news, throughout the day.

Like Wednesday, I started the day off with a non-gig, this time a thought-provoking and deeply-useful panel on touring Europe, featuring three booking agents from said continent (one was from England, one from France, and one from Benelux).

The afternoon then consisted first of seeing Calgary bands Viet Cong, and Feel Alright. The former has gotten rave reviews from locals, and continued to even after their set. I heard the band had a bit of an attitude at their Wednesday night gig, and I saw a little bit of that at the start of their set, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’ve seen in other cases. The lead vocalist has a really cool voice, quite similar to David Byrnes. And some of their songs were really solid, but I’d have to say at this point they have more album filler than album highlights, if you know what I mean. Definitely some potential, though. But seriously, what’s up with the fucking hoodie? Is that a thing? Don’t let it be a thing. It looks ridiculous to wear a hoodie while performing on stage, especially having the hood up. If I see anyone else try that I’m going to slap them across the back of the head. Yeesh.

One of the highlights of the day was definitely Jessica Jalbert (pictured above) who I saw next at the Palomino. Believe it or not, it was my first chance to see Jalbert, and I was deeply impressed by her indie rock sensibilities and songwriting talent. Not quite folk, not quite pop, not quite rock, sort of seemingly taking all of those influences and others and creating some deeply meaningful, driving guitar-based tunes. And she’s one of those artists that just has a good time performing and enjoys herself, which as I said earlier, is almost always infectious and catching. After her set another local band, Axis Of Conversation (pictured below), took to the small stage. A seven-piece just doesn’t fit on that stage, so two of their members, a female violinist and a female bassist (upright) made do on the floor in front of the stage. Honestly, it’s not my favorite venue for this reason, though I’m not sure they would’ve fit on the stage at Wunderbar either, one of my favorite venues back in Edmonton, and known for their small stage as well (and where I’ve also seen members set up part of their equipment on the floor).

Axis of Conversation at Sled Island 2013

A dinner break gave way to more evacuation orders, but I took a shot and headed east to the East Village region to hopefully see a show at the Golden Age club featuring a couple of acts I was really hoping to see – Calvin Love and Dent May – as well as Lab Coast. I got there just as C/L should’ve been taking the stage, but the venue was close enough to the river they weren’t sure if they should go ahead, so they were checking with the fire marshal. Honestly, though, as I looked at maps and my twitter timeline continued to light up with the impending danger, I decided it was far too close to the river for me, and started retreating back towards the core. I wasn’t wrong, as it turns out, the show started but was then stopped and the venue was closed down. So I felt better about my scaredy-pants decision.

As I said, other venues were closed as well, and some shows were moved – so I ended up attending the Superchunk show, which was moved to Flames Central, only a few blocks walk from my hotel. I felt pretty safe about that decision. Also on the bill were Hooves, Roaming Storms, and THEEsatisfaction. I think Roaming Storms impressed me most of the opening acts.

Colonel Aaron was at the show as well, and suggested it might end up being another Archers Of Loaf experience for me. Meaning that there’s a ton of history that backs up Superchunk, obviously, a North Carolina act that was part of the early alt-rock/grunge movement, appearing on an early Lollapalooza bill (the year after the one I saw in Vancouver), huge influences on many other bands that came after them. But I was never a huge fan for whatever reason, and Aaron turned out to be bang-on-the-money. A good show, but not a momentous experience for me like it was for others.

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