By Troy Hasselman, February 13 2019 —
Sled Island, the annual music festival that turns Calgary’s downtown core into a haven of live music for a weekend in late June, has became a city staple over the years, sparking excitement and speculation every year when the festival announces its annual lineup.
This year’s lineup announcement stayed true to the festival’s aim of mixing up-and-comers with established stars and young acts with veterans across a variety of genres to create the exciting and unique atmosphere that defines the festival.
Sled Island announced the first wave of its lineup at Commonwealth Bar & Stage on Feb. 12. Sled Island artistic director Maud Salvi announced 22 acts, including eight selected by guest curator Julien Baker.
Notable names from the announcement include indie-pop favourites Japanese Breakfast, internet-age avant-rapper JPEGMAFIA, hip-hop provocateur Le1f and folk-inflected indie-rockers Hop Along.
Reunited acts and veterans also sprinkle the announcement including Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds, fronted by the alumni of legendary bands such as the Cramps, The Gun Club and The Bad Seeds. The Messthetics will also play, featuring the former rhythm section of Fugazi. Reunited Montreal post-rockers Fly Pan AM will play one of their first shows since their hiatus began in the mid-2000s. While blues-punk hellraisers Oblivians will also play a reunion show at the festival.
Salvi emphasizes three acts in particular the festival is excited about. One is Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk, the inventor of a style of piano-playing called “continuous music” it involves the playing of notes so rapidly that the human-ear can’t differentiate between the tones, creating an intense sound that is both droning and rhythmic. Another is ambient composer William Basinski, known for his work with tape loops as the inaugural act to play at Calgary’s new Central Public Library as a new venue this year. Finally, Salvi emphasized The Comet is Coming, a UK based psych-jazz group with a wild, experimental sound.
“If you don’t bob your head or tap your feet to this band, I’m sorry, but your soul is dead,” she says.
The 22 bands announced as part of the first-wave of the lineup is only a small portion of the over 250 musical acts to grace the stages —not to mention the film, comedy and art showcased during the festival. This year’s festival runs from June 19–23. To see the full lineup announcement, purchase passes and stay updated on future announcements, visit sledisland.com.