Sled Island Day Three: Renny Wilson, B.A. Johnston, and Dan Deacon | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Sled Island Music & Arts Festival 2014: Day 3, Sled Island Music & Arts Festival 2014, B.A. Johnston, Dan Deacon, Renny Wilson

Sled Island Day Three: Renny Wilson, B.A. Johnston, and Dan Deacon, June 19th, 2014

Jun 26, 2014 Renny Wilson Photography by Laura Studarus Bookmark and Share

The week was probably going a bit too well. Day three of the festival, and I found myself attempting to see Blitzen Trapper (and a no-show Neko Case) amidst an epic rainstorm. Given that inclement weather caused the cancellation of the festival the year before (to say nothing of massive flooding in the region), I imagine that the coordinators were a bit jittery at the sudden cloudy skies. I bailed on Blitzen Trapper and walked back to my hotel looking (and feeling) a bit like a drenched cartoon character. I’m told the sky turned a glorious shade of orange shortly after, but c’est la vie—by that time I had taken refuge at a show featuring three beautiful weirdoes: Renny Wilson, B.A. Johnston, and Dan Deacon.

But first, we interrupt this recap for a quick word about venues at Sled Island. Anyone can do theatres and bars. It’s easy right? In addition to the local haunts, Sled Island offers a variety of alternative locations to see music. During the week I caught DJs by the riverside, post-punk in a senior citizen’s club, and—in the case of my new favorite oddballs—a show at The Canadian Legion. (What is the Canadian Legion? Festoon an Elks’ Lodge with maple leave flags and you’ll come close.)

All that to say, things were getting weird even before bands took that stage. Opener Renny Wilson played soft disco pop with a slightly sleazy edge. Which wouldn’t have been weird if he was, say, Rhye. But the Edmonton-based artist was equal parts lumberjack (or Kurt Cobain judging on his flannel and jeans attire) and class clown. (He rolled around on the ground, and played a harsh cover of “Helter Skelter” as his final song.) Hard to pin down, sure. But seriously, who needs categories?

Strike that—I need categories. Or at least, I do when describing the second artist of the evening, B.A. Johnston. Imagine a robust man wearing an “I’m With Dickhead” sweatshirt, singing songs about falling in love with his deep fryer, and how he sucks as a cat sitter. Did I mention the confetti and pirate costumes? See—having a touchstone here would help. Musical comedy might scrap the surface of what he does, but in all honesty, few of his songs would stand alone as jokes. It’s more a case of stagecraft—and plenty of it. (Just trust me when I say it didn’t suck.)

Dan Deacon closed out the evening in fine form. The Baltimore-based electronic art started his set with a long droning piece—before (tongue-in-cheek) apologizing for his self-indulgence. He then started out the “real set” with a long rant about pretending your hand was an alien, and spots on the ceiling represented moments of regret. In anyone else’s hands it would have sounded like low-rent acid-induced ravings—but somehow even the weirdest of Deacon’s pronouncements sound a bit like things you’d shout at a child’s birthday party. Before the night was through he hosted a dance contest, and got an audience of adults to take turns running through a tunnel made of people putting up their arms. It was whimsy and bubbly electro pop at its finest. But alas—I was feeling my age (too young for the “Golden Age Club,” too old to frolic in the wee hours of the morning) and had to call it a night. At least I was smiling (and dry) when I walked home.






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