“There was a hint of sadness as the whirlwind weekend wound down, with fans wishing every weekend was this legendary.” — Exclaim! Magazine
Sled Island is an annual music and arts festival that began in 2007. Zak Pashak, then owner of the Calgary music venue Broken City, had been inspired by Pop Montreal and the street life that was activated by that festival. Knowing that Calgary had many more artistic venues than it was usually thought to have Pashak felt his hometown could host a similar event.
In a downtown where cars often take priority to people Sled Island is also an experiment in urban life. Though we may at times feel it Calgary is not an island. Our culture does not need to be contained in isolated pockets. Sled Island is an effort to step past barriers that can exist among different businesses, different fans of different forms of music, and different age groups. The goal is to open up as much of the downtown core as possible and fill it with as many types of people as possible- using the appreciation of thoughtful, fun, music as the impetus to get together. To see and hear things together and share experiences with each other.
Pashak's background in campus radio, volunteering with CJSR in Edmonton and CJSW in Calgary taught him to the joys of eclectic, proactive, music programming. On campus radio you might not play a song that everyone has heard, but you will play something you think is worth listening to. This caters to a radio listener who is open minded and patient, but who also finds the greatest listening rewards and has the best ability to appreciate new things. Sled Island is programmed similarly- making the effort to walk the thin line between encouraging exploration and inviting people in. We want you to have a reason to come down - to know that you will be familiar with some of what you experience - but we want you to find new things too. New bands, new venues, new friends.
Everyone who attends (even the programmers) has something new to see. This festival caters to people who aren't intimidated by not knowing something. It caters to those who are inspired by that.
Because the festival format pushes people into new things participants sometimes develop a sense of euphoria as the week goes on. Seeing people filling the streets, hustling to catch the last song of a set, passing friends and making plans for later. Having so many options and so many different paths to choose from creates a sense of wonder and shared celebration for many attendees. The goal of Sled Island is not to exploit our audience but to inspire them. In turn they inspire us, and the bands who play for them. Calgary -it turns out- is an excellent place for a festival like Sled Island. Our crowds are appreciative and willing to explore.