Welcome Home: A Personal Account of SappyFest 9

SappyFest is an independent arts and music festival held annually in Sackville, New Brunswick since 2006.

The Bridge Street main stage tent on Friday before people arrived. Scott Brown, 2014

The Bridge Street main stage tent on Friday before people arrived. Scott Brown, 2014

You should not expect a complete, band-for-band recap of SappyFest 9 here. Did I see a lot of bands? Certainly! But SappyFest isn’t just about seeing band after band.

Aside from the music, it’s as much about the people and the place. I live in Sackville and the build-up to Sappy is the best kind of unbearable. The town is abuzz weeks leading up with the promise of good times ahead. SappyFest is by far my favourite music festival and I’ll keep attending as long as they keep happening.

Here is how I spent my SappyFest 9:

Friday

My Friday started like that of many attendees: at the main stage watching The Others, featuring youngsters from our local Kids Corner Power Jam (AKA Kids Rock Camp, AKA John Cougar Bandcamp). The kids performed a selection of songs written over the preceding week. This band was so rad. You’ll be hearing “Sun, Shimmer, Shine” on radios across the world in the near future.

After that the evening was spent running into friends, buying merch, enjoying the perks of a performer pass (free beer) and of course, checking out more bands.

Following The Others the main stage consisted of The Grubbies, Freelove Fenner, Dusted and PS I Love You. All great, and a very good way to kick off the festival.

One thing about Sappyfest is that it is very easy to stay up all night every night. This can partially be attributed to there being so much post-midnight music on the go. Late night Legion shows have been really popular the past few festivals, and with no competing shows this year there were line ups down Lorne Street every night.

I was able to catch Moon’s set and loved every second of it. I remember lots of new material and talk of a “fun run”.

Honestly though, recollections of the evening start getting hazy just prior to this show.

Kevin Brasier put together after-shows at our local jam shed every night of the festival. These were not official Sappy shows, but people seemed just as excited for them.

My band, Kappa Chow, played a shed show with the Ketamines on Friday that didn’t start until around 2AM, maybe later. Like I said, it’s easy to stay up all night. The shed became packed pretty quick, Ketamines were great, I’m under the impression our set was good. I then spent a lot of time talking outside the shed and made it home close to 5AM.

Saturday

I started my Sappy Saturday playing bass in my friend El Ron Maltan’s band at the main stage.

Following that I continued to hang around the main stage general area and took in chunks of Duzheknew and Wet Denim’s sets, but made sure to catch all of JOYFULTALK, an instrumental ambient/electro trio fronted by Jay Crocker. It’s hard to make three dudes sitting and twisting nobs an exciting live experience, but the music was good enough to make this low key performance a highlight.

I went into the Vogue Cinema only once this Sappy and it was for Bry Webb’s beautiful solo set (which featured a cover of “Albuquerque” by Neil Young).

The Vogue shows always feature some of the best musicians of the festival, but if you’ve been drinking beer in the sun for any amount of time (it’s Sappyfest so yeah) it’s hard to work up the energy to sit in a hot movie theatre for anything. I’m told all the other Vogue sets were fantastic and well attended.

My favourite quote of the weekend came as the main stage opened on Saturday. I was walking to the tent to see COOL and observed a very beard-y man in a tie dye tank top yell at people that COOL was about to go on and they should make their way to the tent.

He spotted Michael Feuerstack and yelled “Yo Snailhouse, COOL’s in the tent” and then went on his merry way. I could talk at length about how much fun I had during COOL, but it would be a disservice to the set and, I’m sorry to say it, if you weren’t there you wouldn’t get it.

Ought followed with a crowd-pleasing set featuring great hand gestures and Josée from the Mouthbreathers sitting in on guitar for the track “New Calm Pt. 2”. Following Ought and COOL I was afraid that Julie Doiron might cause a dip in energy in an evening of very active, energetic bands, but I could not have been more wrong.

This was for sure one of the funnest sets I’ve seen Julie play and the crowd was fully on board with every note. The stage was closed out by the always fantastic Cousins with a set heavily populated by tracks off their recent album,The Halls of Wickwire, as well as a cover of “Nightshade” by Construction & Destruction.

Sappy sets tend to be a good opportunity to cover songs by friends and heroes alike, and with one song Cousins gave tribute to both.

From there we were given three post-main stage party environments. Struts Gallery hosted karaoke (an increasingly popular pastime in Sackville), the Legion had Weird Lines and Greasebeast, and in the parking lot behind Struts Duzheknew and others jammed at what some dubbed the “Garbage Party”. The Legion and Struts both had line ups down the street and I was able to make it in just in time to catch the last few Weird Lines songs.

Greasebeast then went on and became, possibly, the first metal band to play the festival. I loved watching the room jump as Greasebeast smashed into their first song.

I missed almost all of the shed show as I decided to take a long five at Thunder & Lightning after the Legion. I got to the shed just as the Mouthbreathers were finishing, but just in time to jump on the party train to go to destinations all over town.

Sunday

I stayed up pretty much all night Saturday so my Sunday really started roughly by 1PM. Because of this, I missed Rose Melberg’s set at the Sackville Community Garden and still feel bad about it. A late breakfast also caused me to miss Banded Stilts at the main stage.

I started getting my festival-attendee-shit together at around 2:30PM when I caught the Rae Spoon set, was great, but missed the following set by the Olympic Symphonium for reasons that escape me. As you can probably tell, I was a mess. Following this I alternately napped and loitered until the main tent re-opened.

Michael “Yo Snailhouse” Feuerstack was joined by backing band the Olympic Symphonium as well as guest vocalists Julie Doiron and Misha Bower. Feuerstack & co. performed a nice mix of his new solo material and Snailhouse classics that gained him a few new fans and pleased established fans like myself.

Later on I was back to the front of the stage for the two most anticipated sets of the festival: Shotgun & Jaybird and the Constantines. Two bands that mean a great deal, but I didn’t have the chance to fully appreciate when they were around the first time.

Shotgun & Jaybird kept it to the pre-Paul & Julie albums and played to a very receptive crowd. This was the type of show they deserved all those years ago and I’m glad they finally got it.

The Constantines on the SappyFest main stage. Scott Brown, 2014

The Constantines on the SappyFest main stage. Scott Brown, 2014

The tent was a madhouse during the Constantines. People yelling the lyrics, crowd surfing with reckless abandon, smiles on every face. Did they play your favourite song? Probably. This was an epic set in both scope and duration. I would have loved to hear “National Hum” but with a band like this, with four near perfect records to pick songs from you celebrate the moment and do not get bogged down in what is not there. It was a triumphant set.

The night didn’t end there, but that was the last set I made it to. I slowly made my way back to Bridge Street much later after another failed attempt at seeing a shed show.

On the way I said goodnight to the handful of people I ran into, and went to sleep in my tiny apartment to await the inevitable post-festival blues — happens after SappyFest every year. The best kind of heartache.

Local bar called Thunder & Lightning closed to see the Cons. Scott Brown, 2014.

Local bar called Thunder & Lightning closed to see the Cons. Scott Brown, 2014.

Check out SappyFest’s website here
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One thought on “Welcome Home: A Personal Account of SappyFest 9”

  1. Pingback: Looks Like They Made It: Lineup and Preparation for SappyFest X | Secret East
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