CKXU at Sled Island 2024: Day 3

My penultimate day of Sled Island has finished and now it’s time to run through it. Friday’s performances were exquisite, and in particular places palatial, in other places radioactive. A bunch of amazing acts played last night in particular, Sergeant X Comrade, Mouraine, Radioactive Vampire Teeth, and Mick Jenkins, who will be having a special feature written on him later in the article featuring some breathtaking pictures. Other acts that played Friday night include, Kee Avil, Everythingyoueverloved, Kue Varo & The Only Hopes, and Bad Waitress.

I had to make an appearance this year at The Palace Theatre during Sled. When I first came to the festival in 2022 I did not go because I was too busy going to all my weird noise and heavy gigs but this year Kort AKA @flamesgrain on Instagram AKA The Dopest Photographer in Overalls, was bursting to take pictures inside The Palace and for good reason, I am sure you can see why.

Photo by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram
Photo by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram

8PM- Sergeant X Comrade (and what came before)

We arrived to The Palace Theatre early, like first 10 people in the building early. Kort was tipped off to get there early to ensure he could get a spot to take pictures and so he could scope out the venue to find the best the best angles, I just wanted to find a spot to watch the hockey game. Earlier in the day I had visited the Sled Island Poster Show hosted at the cozy underground I Love You Coffee Shop to interview a few artists including Moraine, who was just finishing his soundcheck when we arrived. Maybe it’s because I’m a nerd but I will never not have a little curiosity when an artist is soundchecking, it’s cool to hear them figure out their monitor mix and also know what song in their set they feel the most confident to soundcheck with. In Mouraine’s case they played “Championship” a handful of times and then called it good.

Because Sled Island does it right, at 8PM sharp Sergeant X Comrade took to the stage and immediately found their stride. They were projecting this slow moving image of an astronaut on a turntable floating through the stars in space, which may have been my favourite visuals of the weekend. The amazing lights and stage at The Palace combined with the sounds, backdrop, and talent emanating off the stage made for an incredible start to the night.

A highlight for myself was certainly their performance of the track Nosy Neighbour, off of their album The Elephant in the Room. The way the drummer and DJ were able to bounce off of each other and create tension through trading off who had the downbeat was such a treat to watch. There is a feeling when watching a really tight soul band, and I don’t think I can articulate it like I did in the Day 1 blog, but to try, it’s like there such a level of trust and understanding on stage. As if every band member is 10 steps ahead of each other, there was no panic, no eye contact indicating “hey let’s nail this bridge”, just pure performance. It was stunning. Also major props to The Palace’s sound team for how good Sergeant X Comrade sounded, no bleed between textures, all giving the vocalist a perfect foundation to find new heights.

The hits continued, the vibes continued. There were many highs hit as the set glided along, including some SLAP BASS and charming melodies. It was by the end of their set that I noticed I somehow ended up on the cool side of The Palace. I looked around to see myself surrounded by Calgary’s hip hop scene, K-Riz, Tea Fannie, KtheChosen and many other I’m sure I missed crowded stage right making for a great pocket of the concert to exist in. Only at Sled would there be a band that could be headlining a show be the first on the bill to put the audience in their place as a sort of sign of things to come.

Photo by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram
Photo by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram

9PM- Mouraine

Now at Sled Island 2024 I have not seen a bad show, a bad act, a band song. It’s been a fantastic time, and I feel it’s important to mention this because I am a huge Mouraine fan and that goes double since I had the opportunity to interview him yesterday. Anyway, so Mouraine killed it! Like wherever the bar was set after Sergeant X Comrade Mouraine blew right through it. He has such an energy to pair with a marvellous set of songs, and even to take it the next step further, he wasn’t even supposed to be on the gig last night. An artist had to drop out so Mouriane filled in at the final hour.

Due to the circumstances of his booking on the gig the crowd wasn’t totally with him through the first few songs which seemed to make something click for him on stage because within a few more songs he had the whole place singing lyrics back to him. Through nothing but his endless qualities as a performer he was able to turn the whole audience in his favour for the rest of his set, The Palace was so loud when he left I thought Mick Jenkins would never come out.

One last moment I want to highlight was somewhere during the latter half of Mouraine’s set when he got the whole place to start chanting the name of his latest album “In Search of Gold”. He got the whole place rocking then started throwing out copies of his CD into the audience like it was the mid 2000s or something. I loved it. Such a cool moment and it also got people fighting over CDs which is just such a cool thing to have happen in the age of streaming and immediacy in art. Big shout out to Mouraine for filling in on the gig and for putting on a set for the ages.

Photo by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram
Photo by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram

10PM- Mick Jenkins

Now I did not quite do my homework for this set at The Palace, I had been acutely aware of Sergeant X Comrade and Mouriane since starting my job at CKXU but Mick Jenkins eluded me. Kort AKA @flamesgrain- ok I’m not doing it again, is a huge fan and was hyped about the Mick Jenkins gig before we even knew we were going to Sled Island. Before his set I thought there would be a large change over between his set and Mouraine’s, considering Mick Jenkins is a large act at Sled Island this year. To my surprise, they actually ended up keeping the stage about the same, even keeping the drum kit around which really got me hyped up for his set.

After Mouraine the suspense for Mick Jenkins could not be higher, and when he took the stage the place blew up and pulsed with each bar Jenkins delivered. But I wasn’t able to fully experience the magic of the whole set as I had to jump around the block to the Palomino for the Radioactive Vampire Teeth set. So please enjoy what Kort has to say about how the night finished up.

Photo by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram
Photo by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Mick Jenkin’s debut album “The Water (S).” I’ve been a fan of his work since 2018, and it was a dream come true to attend his show in my hometown and flex my photography muscles, shooting an artist I’ve adored since high school. His first song that resonated with me is off of the debut album and is titled “Jazz.” Jenkins finished his set at the Palace Theatre with this undeniably catchy tune. I felt everyone in the room had a similar experience of being captivated by this song as I did in 2018.

One of the notable moments of the set is when he does a bit where he references his debut album by directing the crowd to shout “Drink More Water,” among various other water references throughout the set; I don’t think he is aware of the current water situation in Calgary, but I found that rather comical. Jenkins captivated the crowd with great energy and not once stumbled over the complex poetry he crafts within his writing. It was a true honour to have such a talented MC in Cowtown, and this entire Palace show demonstrates the desire for more rap/hip-hop shows and how the musical landscape in Calgary is experiencing a shift in what the people want; I am here for it. 

Photo by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram
Photo by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram

10:30PM- Radioactive Vampire Teeth

After leaving The Palace, I headed over to the home of smoked meats and sweet sounds, The Palomino Smokehouse for Radioactive Vampire Teeth’s second set of the night. Yes, they had already performed earlier at Pin Bar and now they were running it back at The Pal with zero signs of fatigue in fact they looked as ready and as rested as possible. They were playing the upstairs stage which is the best kind of awkward in my opinion and kind of perfect for the type of show RVT play. Awkward because the stage is small, very small just big enough for a drum kit and two amplifiers with no one else standing which pushed the extensive noise set up of the band onto the floor.

This “noise set up” I don’t really know what to call it due to how many pieces make are a part of it. On the floor there was a hard shell guitar case and inside was an assortment of effect pedals that I could not tell apart. Outside of the guitar case is where things got really weird, I saw a hockey helmet, children’s Casio keyboards, a ukulele held together with invisible tape and a Nintendo DS. Now all of those instruments would be used at some point in the set, and honestly the DS was super valuable to them as I think it was used for a few songs. I can’t be too sure because there was sound flying around all over the place throughout the set.

The body of Radioactive Vampire Teeth is their drummer, the constant, you can only get so far without a good drummer and they are no exception. The drummer, Matthew, was able to control the madness just barely as he skipped between blast beats and sideways linear drum grooves. Even then though, he had this modulated tremolo effect on his voice that just added to the insanity, I had not heard music fully until I had a mostly naked person play a Nintendo DS into a countless number of effect pedals while a drummer blew a harmonica held in his mouth while playing a never ending thumping groove. It was a pretty mind-altering experience that I may not think about for ever but whenever I do remember it I’ll be able to tell you every thing, smell, and sound I heard that night at The Palomino.

That’s all I have from night 3 at Sled Island 2024. As always thanks to the performers at the venues and all of the volunteers and staff needed to put on such amazing shows. It’s such a privilege to be able to go to Calgary and in the same night hear some phenomenal rappers and in the same festival hear some of the weirdest noise music I have ever witnessed. It’s beautiful. It’s Sled Island.

Photos and some words by Kort Woycheshin, @flamesgrain on Instagram
More words by Jeremy Collier, CKXU Music (Jazz) Director