The playlist this week has most of the bands that will be heading to Sled Island Festival in Calgary, AB from June 19-23, 2019.

Since 2007, Sled Island’s thoughtful, eclectic programming and independent spirit have produced a one-of-a-kind festival experience. Each June, the five-day music and arts festival brings together a community of more than 250 bands, comedy, film and art as well as over 30,000 attendees in more than 30 venues— from bars to churches to theatres to Legions and more — , earning rave reviews from attendees, artists and media across the globe.

Even the most dedicated music nerds would be hard-pressed to know all of the artists playing. Here’s a cheat sheet to the first 20+ artists, most of which have never played Calgary before, to get you better acquainted.


Memphis-based singer-songwriter Julien Baker was announced as the festival’s 2019 guest curator. Just 23 years old, she has already released two critically-acclaimed solo albums as well as a collaborative project with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus called boygenius. Each year, Sled Island’s guest curator puts their personal stamp on the festival by programming 10-12 artists throughout the week. Selected artists announced so far include: Japanese Breakfast, JPEGMAFIA, Hop Along, Bully, Torres, Worriers, Death Bells and Squirrel Flower.


We’re excited to announce exciting voices in independent music-making today:

  • Japanese Breakfast: from lo-fi bedroom pop to more expansive shimmering space pop, Michelle Zauner’s project has one common thread: perfectly-penned songs.
  • JPEGMAFIA: politically-charged, adventurous, and noisy hip hop bursts of energy from Iraq war veteran Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks.
  • Le1f: one of the most transgressive and enrapturing artists of electronic music’s present, celebrated alongside other innovators like Sophie, Junglepussy and Lunice.
  • Hop Along: with finely-tuned songcraft and Vulture’s “best voice in rock music,” Hop Along may be the best entry point for those intimidated by the fest’s near-endless sub-genres. 
  • Bully: Nashville might be the last place one might expect to be ground zero for a grunge revival, but Bully’s feedback-drenched, Cobain-scream pop will make you a true believer.
  • Cate Le Bon: the Welsh-born songwriter’s free-form brilliance is hard to pin down but easy to appreciate, whether its sprinkled atop psych-folk, post-punk or classical piano compositions.
  • Cass McCombs: the idiosyncratic poet-prankster topped too many “most anticipated albums of 2019” lists for us to keep up.


Joining them are a selection of artists who have already left their indelible mark on music:

  • Oblivians: the godfathers of garage punk, featuring members of Reigning Sound and The Deadly Snakes, among many others, return nearly 25 years after their debut.  
  • Man Or Astro-Man?: with a dash of Devo and a pinch of The Ventures, Man Or Astro-man? are the festival’s bucketlist space age surf band you didn’t know you needed.
  • The Messthetics: members of legendary band Fugazi teamed up with Anthony Pirog for decidedly more adventurous avant-jazz guitar explorations.
  • Fly Pan Am: after an extended 15-ish year hiatus, the krautrock-inspired experimental rock of these Godspeed You! Black Emperor collaborators returns.
  • Kid Congo Powers + the Pink Monkeybirds: an honest-to-goodness punk rock legend, Kid Congo was a member of The Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds.
  • Chandra: after fronting a post-punk, freak-funk group by the age of 12, she returns with a brand new band, including her 12-year-old daughter, after three decades away from music.


At the close of the festival each year, attendees trade stories of their “you had to be there!” shows. Here are a few that may otherwise fly under-the-radar, but that are guaranteed to be among the most memorable shows of the fest:

  • Lubomyr Melnyk: this illustrious Ukrainian-born pianist and composer claims to hold a world record by playing 19.5 notes per second per hand.
  • William Basinski: best known for The Distintegration Loops, a work in which the highly-regarded avant-garde composer recorded the life and death of sound through slowly decaying analog tapes.
  • The Comet Is Coming: a euphoric live show that sits somewhere between Kraftwerk, Sun Ra and Fela Kuti.
  • Ouri: With a mix of apocalyptic trap, lo-fi house and spectral R&B, it may be best to just say that there’s no other producer that sounds quite like Ouri.
  • Sinjin Hawke + Zora Jones Live AV: 3-d mapped robots and a visual theremin (an instrument translating dance moves into song) are just a couple of the tools at this audio-visual duo’s disposal.


One of the joys of working with a guest curator is discovering new artists that may not yet be gracing the front page of Pitchfork, but that come with a built-in and trusted stamp of approval. In addition to Japanese Breakfast, JPEGMAFIA, Hop Along and Bully, Julien selected:

  • Torres: the follow-up to her two critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter recordings sees Torres moving her songcraft into decidedly more electronic territory.
  • Death Bells: the six-piece Sydney, Australia transplants’ morose post-punk fits in perfectly with their new Los Angeles surroundings.
  • Worriers: Brookyln-based hooky and ultra-melodic pop-punk that trades individual trauma for communal catharsis.
  • Squirrel Flower: with choral training and an impressive range, Ella William’s introspective  and personal songs become universal

You can find the above cheat sheet and more info on the Sled Island Festival on their website.

The playlist has many artists I haven’t heard before but there are a few I know such as The Garrys, Natural Sympathies, Slow Down Molasses, Kestrels and a few others. There is so much great indie music out there and I really enjoyed listening and putting this playlist together. Sled Island is sure to be a good time and many new musical discoveries to be made. Take a listen to the playlist to get a taste of what will be playing. The playlist is in mostly alphabetical order and I did find this one was best on shuffle.