Photo by Liam Dawe

Dirty Projectors, Shabazz Palaces cap off a transcendental Sled Island

By Thomas Johnson, June 24 2018

My final day of Sled Island began at twilight on Broken City’s rooftop. The air still smelt like rain from the torrential morning. Lethbridge band Ghost Woman brought an oceanic feel to the patio, a concoction of Dick Dale and Joy Division. The short set and spaghetti-western riffs made the puddly deck feel like beachfront property.

Dave Longstreth’s Dirty Projectors took to the Palace Theatre at 11 p.m. The six-piece group defied their stature as premiere indie-rock oddballs with a youthful, vigorous performance. Despite the changes that have been made in the lineup since they made their mark in the mid-00’s, the performance was quintessential Dirty Projectors — distinct and peculiarly timed harmonies, bass-heavy grooves, mellow guitars stretched out. They kept it tame, preferring to incite the audience with their singular assortment of strange noises, sounding at times like some type of metropolitan island music. The stillness was a mood.

At the Legion, Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces capped off the weekend before one of Sled’s most congested, diverse and feverish crowds. It’s still frankly astounding that the organizers were able to rope Butler — who for over a quarter-century has been denying the limitations of rap and modernity — into turning the #1 Legion into a utopia of afro-futurism. He manned both the DJ equipment and the mic, liberally warping his voice and beats with an assortment of samples and loops. He was by far the coolest person in the building.

When everyone returned earthbound, Butler strolled into the crowd and thanked those who would shake his hand and pat him on the back. The rest ambled about, grasping at any potential after-party, secret show or reason to not go home. These optimisms were mostly fruitless. Realizing Sled Island had come and gone, the mob stumbled home, reluctantly conceding reality its first victory in four days.

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