Festival Preview: Seven must-see artists coming to Sled Island
Controlled chaos — many music festivals are masters of the latter and struggle with the former. Enter Sled Island, western Canada’s premiere musical showcase, featuring over 200 bands deftly packed into the downtown core of the country’s third most populous city. Like SXSW minus the corporate overlords, Sled Island is the DIY-music lovers festival: a kaleidoscope of genre across a network of venues from bars and breweries, to veteran’s legions and churches. It’s a marvel that something so complex can be so cohesive, a true testament to the festival’s organizers, their dedicated volunteers and a local music community that has been vociferously tied to the festival’s decades of success.
After landing on both feet in 2022 following two years of pandemic-induced hiatus, Sled is back in Calgary, Alberta from June 21-25. Here are seven artists we can’t wait to catch at Sled this week.
The Canadian hip-hop scene has crowned a new champion, and Haviah Mighty is its title-holder. Winner of Canada’s top music prize in 2019, Haviah Mighty has been flexing on upcoming challengers ever since. Dynamic, meticulous and occasionally ruthless, Mighty pulls no punches, taking aim at systemic inequality, the music industry, and anyone else standing in her way. Take note: Haviah is coming for the international heavyweight title next.
Friday, June 23 at Dickens, 11:30PM
Donning genres like a technicolour dream coat, Helado Negro is as prolific as he is imaginative. By weaving multiple influences and languages, Negro explores his Equadorian heritage with deft artistic strokes, creating a well-decorated tapestry of sound that pulls together threads of jazz, electronic, folk and pop. Don’t be fooled be his obtuse and inquisitive nature: Negro has sewn every stitch with care.
Saturday, June 24 at The Legion #1, Midnight
The Chicago trio arrived on the scene like a storm in the early 2020s. Riding the waves of surf rockers before them, Dehd stripped the genre of its modern flourishes, taking nods from early pop radio with sugary hooks, dizzying counter-melody, and the occasional yelp. Firmly anchored by the one-two punch of singers Emily Kempf and Jason Balla, while effortlessly kept afloat by the fulsome thuds from drummer Eric McGrady, Dehd expertly bobs and weaves through jangly bops with ease. Kempf is oft-centre stage, drowning in lonesome vibrato like a tie-dye twisted Roy Orbison, buoyed by jangly, post-punk tinged instrumentals.
Thursday, June 22 at The Legion #1, Midnight
Sun Ra Arkestra
With a long history at the centre of the Afrofuturist movement, Sun Ra Arkestra is still burning bright nearly 70 years since their inception. Formed by the legendary Sun Ra in the mid-1950s, the foundational jazz band has undergone cosmic change after cosmic change, with an incredible constellation of musicians orbiting lead saxophonist and original member Marshall Allen. Avant-garde, experimental, and infinitely transformative, the sheer gravitational pull of Sun Ra Arkestra’s influence can be felt across decades of music around the world.
Thursday, June 22 at Central United Church, 8:00PM
Blisteringly honest and emotionally skewering, Sister Ray is not afraid to tell painful truths. The Edmonton-born Métis songwriter Ella Coyne pins trauma under the microscope, exorcizing demons with dark-folk confessions from a first-person lens. Their 2022 full length album Communion is a raw and emotive string of stories that centers Coyne’s glass-sharp vibrato amidst ghostly synths and tender acoustics. Canada’s answer to Adrienne Lenker with a more potent bite, Sister Ray continues to carve out their own narrative with unflinching honesty.
Thursday, June 22 at Modern Love, 9:00PM
Some people learn to be musicians, and others are simply born that way. Multi-instrumentalist, generational talent and all-around polymath Sen Morimoto is the latter. With a saxophone as a security blanket, Morimoto unceremoniously moved from Tokyo to a stateside Volkswagon bus, mastering the sax under the tutelage of legend Charles Neville. Dabbling in every instrument in reach, the result is predictable in its unpredictability. Jazz? Pop? Electronica? Chillhop? R&B? Whatever genre, Sen masters them all.
Wednesday, June 21 at The Legion #1, 10:00PM
Calgary-based Silvering may have only released a few songs, but the melancholy bedroom pop singer is already making their mark. Lofi sensibilities and stripped-back instrumentals meet delicate synth flourishes, outlining a pastel dream with singer/songwriter Shalom Toy’s flowing voice colouring softly between the lines. The result is intimate and powerful all at once, a testament to indie darlings like Soccer Mommy and Phoebe Bridgers that have risen to giants of the genre. With their head amongst the clouds, Silvering is ready for the spotlight to fall in their corner.
Wednesday, June 21 at The Legion #1, 8:30PM
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