With headliners like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Explosions in the Sky, Swans and Joel Plaskett, the 2013 Sled Island Music & Arts Festival was slated to be huge. But two days into the festival, the whole event was brought to a halt after flooding paralyzed Calgary.
Facing initial losses of over $200,000, the future of the festival looked uncertain. Sled Island gave festival goers the option of a refund, but encouraged those that didn’t need the money to reinvest in the festival or forego the refund all together. After nearly 70 per cent of attendees chose not to take a refund, Sled Island had the money needed to return in 2014.
The festival returns in 2014 as strong as ever with over 250 bands, plus comedy, film and art in over 40 venues around town.
“In that sense we were really lucky. We didn’t have to go down in scope. There are just as many good bands and the bigger headliners are just as big,” says executive director Maud Salvi.
While Sled Island is known for its eclectic programming, marketing coordinator Drew Marshall says this year’s festival will be the most inclusive yet.
“One of the exciting things that we have going on that we haven’t done before is we’re going to be putting on an all-ages show at the Legion on Saturday afternoon with the band Touché Amoré,” Marhsall says. “We had so many kids reach out to us after we announced them wondering if it was going to be an all ages show or not.”
While Touché Amoré was initially slated to play an 18+ show at Dickens Pub, they took it upon themselves to reschedule their flights so they could play an all-ages event.
Now in it’s eighth year, Sled Island’s international profile has grown in the wake of the floods. In April, Time magazine named Sled Island as one of the top festivals to check out in 2014. While mega-festivals such as Coachella generally grace the must-see lists, Marshall says that the unique nature of Sled Island sets it apart.
“It’s a multi-venue music festival, which seem to be more and more rare these days,” says Marshall. “A lot of the bigger fests are your typical field with a couple of stages and some big headliner acts, whereas at Sled Island, the overall experience is made up of lots of smaller, more intimate venues and some really unique spaces.”
With so much going on, Marshall encourages Sled’s first-timers to take advantage of the wide range of programming.
“As long as people approach it with an open mind and see something new that they might not have heard of before, we guarantee they’re going to walk away with just positive experiences.”
Sled Island runs from June 18–22 at various venues around the city. Check sledisland.com for a complete list of performers and showtimes.