Since its debut in 2007, Sled Island has captured the hearts of audiences across Canada. This captivation is the result of many distinct parts: the amazing venues, talented musicians and local art all play role in making the festival what it is. Yet the thing that rules most about Sled Island is its simplicity — all you have to do is listen to music and have fun. For four (or so) days, a mob of bike riding festival attendees are dedicated followers of this simple mantra. If that isn’t the Calgarian dream, what is?
**Tent Healer at Broken City**
It’s the first day of the festival. Wristbands are crisp, clean and blue, designating attendees who in three days from now will be worn out, fatigued and content. Reunions happen in the street, on the corner, in the crowd and in the alley. No longer is there a distinction between those who’ve left Calgary, those who’ve stayed and those just visiting — during Sled Island, we’re all Calgarian.
Later in the night at Broken City, Tent Healer take the stage. The three boys grasp their instruments and, without a word to the crowd, begin. Bassist Ryan Von Hagen keeps himself turned from the audience, hiding the genius behind his riffs. John Quinones’ guitar draws the audience inwards, as his vocals beckon eardrums forward with Kurt Denne’s insistent drumming. As their set continues, more and more people are drawn inside the bar. On the stage a light bulb flickers on in a suitcase, as if the luggage too wanted to share the applause with the now packed audience. Tent Healer introduces themselves and finish their set to a full crowd of cheering fans. Just like a shotgunned beer in an alley, Tent Healer are an efficient, delicious and wonderfully invasive experience.
**Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet at The #1 Legion**
Outside of the #1 Legion, at least 150 bikes are locked to the generously provided temporary bike racks. It’s quite a sight, with so many people chatting and even attempting a bike-bell symphony. Once inside, the sights remain just as spectacular, with celebrities like comedian Hannibal Buress mingling with the crowd. The audience contains a few fighters, willing to physically keep others from reaching the front row. Thankfully, Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet know how to keep their shows fun, resolving disputes by asking if anyone bad needs tickling.
With only three members, Shadowy Men fill the stage and the Legion with fans jiving to haunting surf rock. Shoulders roll backwards and forwards as the band keeps energy high and the crowd eggs the band on for more. The trio delivers — every single song is a banger. At some point, the guitarist and drummer explain the loss of their original bassist as the crowd raises their drinks to honour him, and thank the very talented replacement. As they announce the last song, the audience emits primal sounds for more, but it’s obvious that the group is tired from their killer set. Thankfully, they return promptly for an encore, and continue to blow minds. Their last song, something which could have stood apart from the set as its own special performance, is a mash-up of seemingly endless riffs barely separated by flawless transitions. As they walk off the stage for the final time, some in the front row allude to Wayne’s World as they bow to the retreating feet, sighing: “we are not worthy . . . we are not worthy.”