Phil Benson, Terry Malts, pic by Mikala Taylor/

Day 1 was a warm-up and mellow hang with my friend Lou Barlow.

Day 2 was an epic tear across the city to all the good stuffs, including Willis Earl Beal and Hot Snakes.

So of course on Day 3, I go all screwy insomniac, wake less than four hours after going to bed, and look at the sleeping friend-musician in the next bed. He’s sleeping, the bastard. Like normal people. But sleep? No dice, for me. Eventually Devon from Beekeper (see Day 2) catches up with my aweakness, gets on his tye-dyed rainbow wifebeater and cutoffs, and heads out. Exhaustedly, I go back to bed. SO un-rock-n-roll, I know. Or is it?

Beforehand I text Phil from Terry Malts – that’s a band, not a guy, though Phil’s a guy – to see if they want to join New Music Michael and Photographer Aaron and I for BBQ at The Palomino. Phil, Corey and Nathan from Terry Malts and I have become fast friends after I sorta accosted them in the Artist Lounge on Day 1 and we some instabonding. They probably didn’t know what hit them, (ie, ME) but Phil seems game for a laugh and becomes my text buddy over the next couple of days. I wake up again to a text saying that they may join later, ‘cos the Palomino is giving out free food apparently. But my hunger waits for no-one so this late lunch is me, Michael and Aaron yelling at each other over the amazingly named thrashband COWPUNCHER.

I down several bloody Caesars (again, US/UK friends, this is a drink, not a salad), and we hear local Doug Hoyer‘s stuff wafting in over my pulled pork sandwich. But all I can concentrate on IS MY PULLED PORK SANDWICH. Behold.

Pork, pic by Mikala Taylor/

I am entertained by the double-nipped BBQ sauce squeezer as well. After face-stuffing, I wander downstairs at the Palomino to check out Stressed Out for a minute, and recognize the lead singer from this Lethbridge, Alberta band as “Drunk And Also Stoned Guy Dancing at East Village Yesterday And Also Drunk Guy Who I Was Talking To And Who Was Slagging Off the Security Guards at Dicken’s During Hot Snakes”. Huh, small town. He’s now Singer Guy Who’s Yelling.

Soon it’s time for Aaron The Photographer and I to make tracks across to the Ship & Anchor pub where Vancouver’s Mint Records is doing a showcase featuring White Poppy, Watermelon (who were great, in a sort of droney old Cure/Joy Division-meets-hipster-fuzz sort of way) and today’s main attraction: my friend Nardwuar and his punkpowerpop band, The Evaporators.

Nardwuar’s a national treasure, wrapped up in a hyperactive ball of awesome, and besides being one of the best and most unique music journalists ever, he also fronts a totally goofy band that’s been around as long as I can remember liking music. The Evaporators’ live shows are hilarious, thanks to Nardwuar’s sheer weirdness and the Evap guys’ brilliant energy. The place is packed, and once again I run into the fab Dan Moxon from Bend Sinister, and tons of other folks from the festival, all waiting to check this thing out.

Nardwuar, pic by Mikala Taylor/

And he doesn’t disappoint. Nard’s done tons of collaborations, including with Andrew WK, who also happens to be the Sled Island Festival’s musical curator this year. Andrew shows up pre-show – Lou B. texts me to ask if he’s in a white shirt and white jeans – YES OF COURSE – and watches the show from the sidelines. I love this pic. Check out the doorway. Let it be known that Andrew WK TOTALLY LOVES NARDWUAR.

Andrew WK, pic by Mikala Taylor/

And what’s not to love? One of my favourite Nardwuar party tricks is when he gets the audience (and, in this case, Andrew) to hold up a keyboard, which he then crowd-surfs over to and plays. Did I mention Nardwuar is awesome? It’s a shtick, sure, but it’s fun.

Nardwuar, pic by Mikala Taylor/

Superhero! Soon Andrew WK is invited on stage to join the band for the track “I Hate Being Late (When I’m Early)”, and for a cracking rendition of, you guessed it, “Party Hard.” The crowd’s going bonkers in this tiny pub. PARTYING HARD, you might even say…

Andrew WK, pic by Mikala Taylor/

Then the band launch into “Hot Dog High”, the Evaporators’ latest single, and a track that I appear in the video for. After the song, Nard – EEEEEEEEEKKKKKKK! – walks over to ME and introduces me – and BackstageRider to the crowd.  I’m blushing under my beer/Bloody Mary blush and he asks what I remembered from the video. I say “that I won’t eat hot dogs for a while” and then proceeds to tell everyone what a cool website I have. Nardwuar is a very, very kindhearted man.

Then he gets naked, pretty much – it’s hard to tell, he’s quite furry – and gets everyone in the entire pub to crouch down on the floor and jump up on command. And then he changes into a new jumpsuit in the middle of the room. During the set.

Nardwuar, pic by Mikala Taylor/

That’s showmanship, folks! Afterwards, Nardwuar introduces me to Andrew WK, and Andrew and I have a wee chat (he’s a lot more adorkable than I expected, great smile on the guy) but it’s all so chaotic and both dudes are dripping in sweat. Yet, still I invite them out to mug for the camera, SO THAT THIS AWESOME MAY HAPPEN:

Nardwuar, Andrew WK & Mikala, pic by Mikala Taylor

Magic! Later, a few of us sit under an umbrella in the muggy rain, having beers, until one of the guys at our table casually reads out a tweet from Beatroute magazine that claims that (Sonic Youth’s) Thurston Moore and (Pavement’s) Steve Malkmus – playing Sled on Day 4 – were back at the Palomino having dinner.

THEN WHAT THE F*CK ARE WE SITTING HERE FOR? I blurt. Next thing you know, we’re rammed into a cab, then at the bar in The Palomino ordering pints while  Thurston Moore sits with Baby Dee (from last night). Alas, we missed  Malkmus, which was a shame, as we have friends – Pavement’s Bob Nastanovich – in common and have hung out before, but still, it’s THURSTON MOORE!

Rule number one when sort of stalking: don’t. I’m too old for this. I usually “hang” not stalk. And I know better than to interrupt a meal, instead preferring to wait for a moment when it seems okay. That moment actually comes.  Baby Dee looks over, and as I’d chatted with her the day before, we exchange smiles. I lean in quickly to say “Your set was brilliant last night, loved the song about the Mormons camping…” and she grins, and turns to Thurston to tell him about the song. Next thing I know, I’m having a chat with THURSTON MOORE about his gig and Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr’s first tour was with Sonic Youth back in the day) and OH MY GODS IT’S THURSTON MOORE.

Conscious of not actually bugging the guy while he eats or overstaying my welcome (there’s about 10000 things I could talk to THURSTON MOORE about, but…), I make it short and slide away with dignity intact. I mean, yeah, we jumped a cab to meet THURSTON MOORE, but wouldn’t you?

Anyway, we finish up our beers and head out to get seats early for Thurston, and I make a quick pitstop back at the hotel to get a new lens. Leaving the place, a dude comes sliding across the marble hotel lobby floor on his knees, landing at my feet. It’s Humans’ Robbie Slade, clearly in the party spirit. That guy’s got some sweet moves.

But I have to hurry – there’s some insane goth kabuki noh-wave drone metal pop band from Toronto/Montreal I have to check out! Presenting the very rad Yamantaka//Sonic Titan

Yamantaka/Sonic Titan, pic by Mikala Taylor/

Right? How can you argue with performance art and a chick that holds a rockhand for, like 10 minutes, while ringing a bell? IN BLACK AND WHITE MAKEUP!

Yamantaka/Sonic Titan, pic by Mikala Taylor/

AND FANS? Here’s Ruby Kato Attwood doing a wee bit of modern Nihon Buyo, in her 8-holes. Like I said: rad. But soon it’s time for this guy.

THURSTON MOORE! You might know him from such things as: my comments earlier! Sonic Youth! Solo (his last album was called Demolished Thoughts)! His new band – the one’s he’s here with in Calgary – Chelsea Light Moving!

And Thurston Moore is smiling. He’s always funnier than you remember, and stands on stage in front of a rapt, silent theatre crowd asking about how Sled Island got its name. Were we actually on Sled Island? he wanted to know. Thurston kinda asks to be heckled, and it’s great.

Thurston Moore, pic by Mikala Taylor/

(As a totally pointless aside, while I’m exceptionally sad that Mommy and Daddy broke up, I’d make out with Thurston anytime. Thurston? Ya fancy it?) Anyway! He showcases the new Chelsea song  “Burroughs” and shreds through it (while keeping all of his song lyrics on a stand). “Orchard Street” also sounds great, though clearly mellow, and Thurston gets all loose and limber with the rock…

Thurston Moore, pic by Mikala Taylor/

And while I could soak up much more Moore, it’s time to run off to the Legion (DID I MENTION I LOVE LEGIONS? Oh, yes I did.) to hook up with my new mateys in the band Terry Malts.

Phil Benson, Terry Malts, pic by Mikala Taylor/backstagerider.comt

Terry Malts is a San Francisco alt-powerpop-punk thing with a bit of a new wave thrown in the blender. Phil Benson (above) is all wired punk speedo singer, drummer Nathan Sweatt doesn’t look like it to talk to him in person but he’s a monster and Corey Cunningham (below) is a jumpin’ guitar thrasher.  Which makes them great on the earballs and eyeholes. I rock up just before they’re on and end up talking to Phil about the vinyl he picked up, and try to convince him to come to Boris later.

Corey Cunningham, Terry Malts, pic by Mikala Taylor/

Ah yes! Bet you thought I’d forsaken Boris, but no!

It’s now 11:30ish and so I trek over to the Distillery to see the Japanese juggernaut, Boris. Kind of a mistake. The Distillery – with its weird sunken floor and mirror-y ceilings – is a wretched hive of scum and villainy (which I normally dig, but I shoulda stayed at the Legion for NoMeansNo. My rationale went like this: “NoMeansNo are awesome but from Victoria, next door to Vancouver. Boris are Japanese doom metallers and their crew are crew for my friend. It is their last show of Sled, I should go!”)

Place is teaming with metal fans and sloshed punks, understandably, and I’m shattered and not nearly drunk enough. I’m also alone. Friends claim to be coming later but I see no sign. However, I do appreciate the door stamp:

Fuck Off, pic by Mikala Taylor/

I sit in the back, drink my beers and nod my head to the paint-by-numbers metal of Vancouver’s Ancients, while I get texts from Phil from Terry Malts telling me that NoMeansNo is “off tha hook”. WAH. Run into Boris’ crew guys Tomas and Noel, who look fairly surprised I actually made it here and followed through on my promise to check ’em out. THE BACKSTAGE RIDER ROCKS ON.

Boris, pic by Mikala Taylor/


Boris are melting the walls with metals porous, ferrous and vicious. Atsuo is bashing around wildly behind his kit, Takeshi is dispatching slow sludge at warp factor ENORMOTRON and Wata – who’s brought her 8-year-old daughter on tour with her for, like, 7 years – is just up there being all stone-faced chill. It’s kinda fun…provided you have brought with you two sets of earplugs, some duct tape to keep them in and are standing  away from the mosh pit.

But it’s also kinda exhausting. It’s my last night of Sled Island (I couldn’t stay for Day 4, alas) and I haven’t eaten for 12 hours. Hellooo McDonalds taken back to the hotel!

Would I do it again? Yeah, Sled Island’s pretty fun. They totally lie about how “close” everything is (only a few venues are), but it was a cool way to see a city, hook up with friends old and new, stalk musicians and enjoy live music. Sorry I didn’t get to see the comedy or Malkmus, but maybe next year Calgary! \m/

READ: SLED ISLAND DAY 1 – A Mostly Lou Barlow, Slightly Shadowy Men Sort of Day



  1. You mention Wata’s 8 y/o daughter in there. Funny thing, I was back at the Palliser baby-sitting her through their sound check and this set. Played a lot of 3DS. Didn’t get home ’till 4, but it was a totally unique Sled Island experience.

  2. Awesome, yeah, we were chatting with Boris’ crew guy Tomas about how he’s looked after her from time to time too…I think it’s way cool 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *