A trifecta of three very different sounding acts took the ever-cozy basement stage of Calgary’s Wine-Oh’s last night.

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S.P. Davis, a talented young Vancouver local whose musical journey is just taking off began the night.  With a poised and slightly shy demeanor, he took to his nylon-stringed acoustic with utmost gentleness, spinning sweet lulls of finger-picking repetition and haunting folk riffs, with just the slightest hint of flamenco influence.   At times the songs became reminiscent of something almost like a medieval relic.  The songs were satisfying and awe-inducing in the most uncomplicated of ways, this type of tangible musical intricacy being something that has become somewhat displaced in our overabundant age of musical options.  A single musician playing a single instrument in a traditional yet captivating way.  These days a rarity, especially at Sled Island fest.

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Shaani Cage is the project of Aleem and Kaleem Khan, two Calgary-based brothers who have been taking this year’s Sled Island by storm.  They play a smooth kind of R&B infused electronic music that is just as easy on the ears as it is interesting.  The beats are hard-hitting and slow, and tightly composed.  Paired with Kaleem’s smooth lyrics of romantic offerings, the performance was a warm and feel-good treat.  Along with the ever-growing success of this group in the Calgary scene, Aleem is making a name for himself as a solo music producer.  Very excited to see what the next few years will be like for these guys.   


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Just as Shaani Cage finished their set, a giddy mass of post-Godspeeders sauntered through the doors and Wine-Oh’s was packed to the nines just in time for Mdou Moctar to take the stage.  One of this years act’s who were hand-selected to play Sled Island by the holy and honorable Godspeed! themselves, Mdou Moctar and his band came all the way from Abalak in the Azawagh desert to tour Canada. Moctar is one of a large canon of Tuareg (Touareg) guitarists, an audibly distinguishable type of music from a lineage of what were traditionally pastoral/nomadic peoples of Saharan Africa. 

Him and his band have been getting a lot of underground buzz, and I was happy to see such a full house of eager audience members.  They wasted no time for introductions or warm up pieces, immediately breaking into a jam of hypnotic drum beats syncopating against Mdou’s whimsical guitar playing.  It got real hot real fast in that tight space, as infectious music spread through the room, inducing some crazy dance moves for many (myself included of course.)  Besides the elation and unstoppable trance state this kind of music induces, for me the best part of this performance was the beautiful smile spreading across Mdou Moctar’s face as he wowed us with his shredding.