WORDS: Brett Fillmore
Sled Island saw its tenth anniversary pass this weekend, and to celebrate here are five standout performances from 2016’s edition that encapsulated the variety and breadth of the festival’s lineup year after year.
Betrayers – Royal Canadian Legion Branch 1
When the Betrayers took over the stage, it was basically the Sled Island British Invasion. Their sound was pure 1960s rock and roll, as if the band emerged from a time machine—fuzzy, jangly guitars and a hard snare drum perpetually on beats two and four. Frontman Travis Sargent could not have looked the part more: heeled boots, a moppish mod haircut, and guitar strummed from the side. Long live the Queen.
Even Gods Can Die – The Palomino
This Bay Area post-rock outfit tugs at your heartstrings slowly, building ambient layers of shimmering guitars into crescendos of thunderous, moody metal. The sound is one part Russian Circles, one part This Will Destroy You, and one part quarter life crisis.
Pigeon Breeders – Wine-Ohs
This band makes the list as a representative of the festival lineup’s segment of fairly weird experimental music. The three members of Pigeon Breeders took the stage shoeless, and sat cross-legged in front of their tiny microwave-sized amps—“we play real quiet”, announced leader Will Scott. A droning, psychedelic guitar was the common thread throughout the show, which was seemingly one long improvisation session. The other two band members freestyled on various instruments, often attaching lapel microphones to makeshift percussive devices and manipulating their sound through guitar pedals. An incomplete list of instruments (and “instruments”) used: a melodica, a cocokalimba, several sets of sleigh bells, a cooking pot, two recorders, a birdhouse, a screwdriver, a head massager, an ashtray, two air duct vents, two cheese graters, a flour sifter, and a suitcase lid. Strap in.
Yes We Mystic – Local 510
The grammatically challenged Yes We Mystic call their sound “cinematic art pop”, and their atmospheric offerings would fit well beside your Hey Rosetta! albums. It would have been impossible to squeeze another instrument into the cozy stage space occupied by the band, as members darted here and there to create a swirling blanket of organ, cello, and violin overtop fiery drums and stinging vocals. The mix of timbres was heady, but when lead singer Adam Fuhr howled “now I’m going, now I’m gone” on the swelling “Monument”, you felt it in your chest.
Peaches – Flames Central
What were the Vegas odds that two people would actually bone on stage during this show? The boisterous party atmosphere was not accidental—it was carefully crafted by Peaches using her favourite weapon: playing to the crowd with raunchy, gender-bending sexuality. Even an audience that was fully expecting outrageous costumes, shocking props, and over-the-top pantomiming was erupting at every twist and gesture. Backup dancers dressed variously as dominatrixes, naked lions, and giant flapping vaginas stalked the stage while the molasses-thick beats pumped. Peaches snaked through the crowd, drank their drinks, and sprayed champagne. It was such a lust-filled spectacle that the end of the encore called for a cigarette, or a cold shower.
See you next year, Sled Island. Stay weird.