Sled Island 2019 features 250 bands. It's OK if you've never heard of most of them

Sled Island, Calgary's independent music showcase, kicks off Wednesday for five days of music at 35 venues across the city.

35 venues set to host city's largest independent music festival

A wrap-up pig roast at Palomino at the 2018 Sled Island festival. (Cary Schatz)

Even Sled Island festival manager Sean Petsche hadn't heard of all the bands performing at the Calgary interdisciplinary music festival, which kicks off Wednesday across the city.

The 2019 edition of the popular festival features 250 bands performing at 35 different venues over the next five days. Throw in a smattering of standup comedy, film and visual art, and Sled Island becomes a festival unlike any other.

Which makes it all that much more worth venturing out to visit, Petsche said, whether you're 18 or 60.

"Really, what the festival is, is it's basically an invitation to come discover some new stuff," Petsche said, in a Tuesday phone interview with Doug Dirks on the Homestretch.

"People go to restaurants and try food they've never tried before," he said.

"They go to the opera. They don't even know what the words mean. They give it a chance," he added.

"But somehow there seems to be this sticking point that if it's a rock band that I haven't heard of, then better not go. So we try and change that and get people to get out of their comfort zones a little bit."

Audience at Memorial Park at the 2018 festival. (Cary Schatz)

From stars to local bands

This year's fest features independent artists and bands ranging from Julien Baker to Japanese Breakfast to Torche, as well as a large number of Calgary bands, Petsche said, might only be "playing their second or third show ever."

"It really is a broad stroke of what's happening musically," he added.

He added that the Sled website features an easy to use sampler of all 250 bands, each with a song available for streaming.

And if you happen to feel that your indie music street cred badge expired a while ago, Petsche said that's not how indie music works anymore.

"It's not only 18-year-olds and early 20s," he said. "It really runs the range from 18 to 60 [year olds].

"We've had people who have come to every Sled Island and this is our 13th, so we have bands that the members of the bands are over the age of 60.

"If you like music," he added, "it might be for you."

WIth files from The Homestretch


Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email:


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