Calgary·Q & A

Sprawling, multi-venue Sled Island Festival kicks off this week

Sled Island 2017 kicks off with more than 250 bands, comedy shows, films and exhibits happening at dozens of venues around Calgary.

More than 250 bands, comedy shows, films and exhibits happening at dozens of venues around Calgary

At a typical rave, drug overdoses begin by about 10:30 pm and gradually get worse, a city report shows. (Allison Seto)

Sled Island 2017 kicks off Tuesday with more than 250 bands, comedy shows, films and exhibits happening at dozens of venues around Calgary.

For a preview of what ticket holders can expect in the festival that runs to June 25, executive director Maud Salvi stopped by The Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.

Below is a condensed version of that conversation.

Q: Let's start with a new and shiny venue, the National Music Centre and the attached King Eddy. What's happening there?

A: We have seven nights of music between the King Eddy and the Studio Bell performance hall. We also have some panel discussions in another part of the building, so it's going to be really well activated during the week of the festival.

Q: For the first time in many years you're not at Olympic Plaza. Why is that?

A: It was mostly a financial decision. This is a very big site, there's a lot that goes into producing an event there, you also need artists of a certain calibre in order to fill the space and it was just a little bit too much of a risk with the weather.

Q: You always invite a guest curator to define the festival. This year's guest curator is Flying Lotus, who many of our listeners will not know anything about. Can you tell me about Flying Lotus?

A: He's a rapper, he's a music producer from L.A. He also has his own record label, he's also a filmmaker, he just directed his first movie that was shown at Sundance [Film Festival] in January, so he's a man of multi talents. He's very, very respected in this field and we're extremely lucky.

Q: What has he done to put his stamp on this festival?

A: He submitted a wishlist of artists to us and we were able to bring 11 musical acts he chose that are going to be scattered through the programming of the festival.

Sled Island happens at venues around the city this week, including the newly opened Studio Bell at the National Music Centre. (Bobbi Barbarich)

Q: What are those acts like?

A: We have DJ Quik, who is an iconic rapper and producer from California who is going to be playing at the Palace Theatre on Friday night. We have a lot of electronic music artists. We have a night on Thursday at Commonwealth, three of his picks are going to be there playing if you want to have a good sense of what his musical universe is like. It's a really good selection.

Q: This can feel like an intimidating festival for some people if they've never been and don't recognize any of the acts. If you've never been to Sled, what's a good starting point?

A: First, I would like to say that someone not knowing any of the bands, that's almost the point of Sled Island — you really don't have any pre-existing knowledge. Just take the guide and flip through the pages, maybe you might recognize a venue you like and decide to give that a chance. Or you can ask friends or we have a player on our website where you can listen to one song of every single artist. There's lots of ways to kind of roll the dice, but really, just walking in — a lot of our venues are around 17th Avenue or downtown. If you see a lot of bikes outside a venue, chances are it's a Sled Island show so you should walk in and see what's there.

Q: We've reported a lot of this show and people talk about where the economy is at in this city. It's been a little rough the last few years. How has the festival been managing that financially?

A: It is a struggle. It is very difficult, definitely the low Canadian dollar, knowing we bring a lot of artists from outside Canada, it's been impacting us quite a bit. We're trying to be resourceful and find ways to cut expenses here and there. We're doing our best to try and continue to deliver the same level of quality of programming, but there are a lot of risks associated with putting on an event like this one.

Q: And yet every year it comes back. People are buying tickets, there's tickets still available, how do people get involved if they want to get out to these shows?

A: People can go to our website, you have the option to buy a full pass for the entire festival or all shows have individual tickets if you're not sure yet and just want to give it a little try. And we also have a lot of free events.

With files from The Calgary Eyeopener