By Liv Ingram, June 26, 2015 —
Big|Brave, Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Central United Church
Day 2 of Sled Island 2015 was a colossal day for Calgary music fans, marking the first of two performances by the highly-anticipated Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Central United Church.
The opening band, Big|Brave, hit the stage at 7:00 p.m., a good hour before Godspeed’s 8:00 p.m. set. Eager audiophiles formed a line at least 50-people deep by 5:30 p.m. Countless more joined, with equal numbers deciding to try their luck at another show as the queue stretched for blocks. An excited energy began to build as concert-going hopefuls called friends and took photos.
The doors opened promptly at 6:00 p.m., and the line quickly disappeared into the church. Ten minutes later, the venue was nearly full, with people squeezing in as close as possible in every pew. There were musical instruments everywhere — the area to the right of the main stage was full of large orange speakers, drums and various guitars, and the front row of pews were taped off as instruments and effects pedals spilled off the stage and onto the floor. The church was electric with excitement in anticipation of this year’s you’ll-regret-not-seeing-it show.
The first band to take stage were Godspeed festival pick Big|Brave, who delivered a powerful wall of sound. Guitarist Mathieu Ball was fascinating to watch as he danced wildly around the stage, utilizing the guitar to its full capacity. He coaxed sound by hitting the guitar, playing with his face pressed up against it and even using its feedback as an integral part of their music. With a furious intensity, Big|Brave was a fitting primer for the experience to follow.
Godspeed soon took stage. Populated with countless guitars, drums, a cello and a violin, the band’s seven members had countless musical possibilities at their disposal. As they began to play, an abstract film filled the screen behind them.
The set moved through a musical landscape I previously thought impossible — it’s not an overstatement to say that seeing Godspeed live altered the way I see music. Sublime isn’t a powerful enough word, but it’s the first one that comes to mind.
The projections moved from scrawled messages of ‘Hope’ to industrial architecture and flowing stock prices, and from machinery schematics to novel excerpts. Godspeed destroyed genre boundaries to create a truly transcendental audio-visual experience. Needless to say, the standing ovation began before the music even stopped. Cancel whatever you had planned tonight and line up early to catch their life-altering show.
Shaani Cage, Mdou Moctar — Wine-Ohs
I was quickly brought back to earth in the basement of Wine-Ohs by Shaani Cage, a Calgary R&B duo consisting of brothers Kaleem and Aleem Khan. With the addition of new electronic elements, Shaani Cage evoked a richer, fuller sound than their inaugural Sled Island performance last year. The band’s familiar tunes took on a more dynamic sound and their musical evolution is a delight to watch firsthand.
Closing out the night at Wine-Ohs was Nigerian rocker Mdou Moctar. Moctar was like a Hendrix incarnate, shredding through a fusion of psychedelia and traditional Tuareg music. He had people dancing so feverishly servers had to ask people to put their shoes back on. The musicians’ energy was invigorating as their songs continued to gain speed, as if they were challenging the audience to dance faster.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to seek their music out online, as this was their only Sled set. If you find yourself at Wine-Ohs this weekend, keep an eye out for one of Sled’s visual art components, an installation piece from Scarlet Letters that hangs behind the bar.