By Liv Ingram, June 29 2015 —
Mark Mills, J.Sherri, Aleem Khan — Broken City:
Sled Island can be an expensive staycation, so I was grateful Broken City hosted a free vegan BBQ Saturday afternoon. Their patio was packed with folks scarfing down vegan hotdogs and cold beer shortly after 3:00 p.m. Local sweetheart and Sled Island veteran Mark Mills weaved his way through the crowd, serenading people as they ate and bringing an infectiously positive vibe to the patio with his upbeat tunes.
Spirits were high as Montana pop band J.Sherri took the stage with sparkled faces and playful music. The crowd loved their goofy dance music and the area around the stage was soon populated by hip-gyrating and head-bobbing folks having a great time.
The afternoon concert closed out with Aleem Khan, one half of local duo Shaani Cage. Armed with a drum kit, guitar and a multitude of effects pedals, Khan was a one-man musical army. He crooned about lost love in a largely improvised set, breaking strings and knocking over hi-hats. The music was disjointed but tidy, and it’s obvious that Khan’s work comes from his genuine curiosity and love of music.
Viet Cong — Olympic Plaza:
After filling up on barbecue and electro-pop jams, I headed to the mainstage show at Olympic Plaza to catch local-act-turned-superstars Viet Cong. The art-rockers have enough energy to fill a large stage, with guitarist Scott Munro playing so hard he lost his guitar strap half-way through the set. He didn’t bother replacing it.
Despite the band’s impressive performance, the crowd was a bit lethargic, likely due to the heat and day-long music at the venue. Regardless, it’s always a treat to hear rock music the way it’s meant to be heard — loud, outside and with a beer in your hand.
Jung People, Bitter Fictions, Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche — #1 Legion
A quick bike ride to the #1 Legion had me within earshot of two bands I’d been looking forward to all week — Jung People and Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche.
The show opened with Jung People, a local 10-piece post-rock band. They were sprawled across the stage, with instruments like cellos, keyboards, guitars and sleigh bells adding depth to their layered set. Balloons playfully floated through the crowd as their songs melted together.
But the set ended with a bang, as audience members hoisted sparklers into the air, illuminating the room in a sparkling finale that had everyone smiling and giggling. It was an appropriately luminous end to a band that knows how to tap into all the feel-good parts of your brain.
Meanwhile, there was a performance downstairs by Bitter Fictions, who was described in the Sled program as the “crankiest record store clerk in town.” He created a cacophonous array of improvisational sounds for 15 curious onlookers, including one kid who looked to be in the middle of an existential crisis. After seeing that, I’ve got to respect Bitter Fictions’ commitment to weird.
But my most anticipated Sled 2015 event was about to begin upstairs. Montreal’s Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche reclaimed the space christened by Jung People. It’s hard to accurately describe Avec le soleil’s unorthodox sound, possibly because the band uses unconventional, wordless vocals themselves. Their hypnotic 20-minute songs are as unpredictable as they are eccentric — a danceable twinkling bass line can explode suddenly with a furious punk energy. Their music travelled through a miscellany of unconventional movements, bringing everyone in the room onto the same wavelength.
Late in the show, Avec le soleil invited everyone to dance with them on stage. The audience was hesitant at first, but once a few people joined the band, the crowd spilled onto the stage. The weird and effervescent auditory journey ended to form as the crowd danced in between the musicians, careful not to trip on shoes they had long since removed.
Jessy Lanza — Hifi Club:
Not wanting the night to end, I walked to the Hifi Club to catch the last few songs of Jessy Lanza’s set. Lanza, a skilled electronic producer from Ontario, performed a high-energy set as the crowd danced in the steamy nightclub. The show was an ideal nightcap for a beautiful evening and a wonderful Sled Island.