by Adria Young
From August 3 to August 5, the streets of Sackville, New Brunswick were filled with artists, musicians, and fans of all kinds for a lineup of surprises and various genres of independent music at SappyFest 7. There were a number of east coast bands, including some of my Halifax favourites. This year’s theme, “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” rippled rumors of a Neil Young secret show. Keep dreaming. Really, the theme related to the concept of artist-run centres, existing everywhere and nowhere at once. With street vendors, the Zine Fair, City Mail, Struts Gallery and true musicians, Sappy was nowhere and we knew it.
While a festival tent fills Bridge Street and accommodates everyone, other venues like the Mount Allison University Chapel, Uncle Larry’s Billiard Room, and The Vogue Theatre are a bit more limited, so some shows were a tight hot squeeze if you were lucky enough to get in. After a 53 minute wait, I was the first in line for The Talking Exploding Diamond Talk Show at The Vogue on Saturday night. Hosted by Larry Snails (Michael Feuerstack/Snailhouse) with special guests B.A. Johnston and Calvin Johnson (!) and house band Shotgun Jimmie, I saw a tiger and a Sasquatch wrestle onstage at 2:00am. Bizarre. Typical. And I appreciated the kitsch of a live 1970s-style talk show.
On Friday I saw Mike O’Neill (The Inbreds) playing from his latest album, Wild Lines. I think he’s the kind of guy most indie musicians want to be. Even I want to be Mike O’Neill. He is an excellent performer and a thoughtful songwriter and he’s also funny on Twitter.
O’Neill was followed by Toronto’s Andre Ethier, a modern day Dylan with less of an attitude and a richer, deeper voice. Playing last year also, Ethier made NB’s Picaroon’s beer go down smooth, in just the right way for Montreal’s zydeco/Cajun/Francophone folk eight-piece Canailles. First of all, the women in the band are beautiful; their gorgeous energy made everyone dance. Plus, it was really cool to see Cajun music performed by a Quebecois band. Anyone who knows Maritime history would recognize that a number of Cajun French in the American South were once part of New France (Acadians) before the English expelled all French from Nova Scotia in 1755 (blech, colonialism). Some returned to NS and NB in the 1800s, but the French Southern culture flourished, too.
Saturday was a very hot day, made even hotter by the lineup. Baby Eagle & The Proud Mothers took me back to ‘90s California rock (those were the days), Cold Warps played in the backyard of nineteenth-century Cranewood Manor, the home of some important dude in Sackville’s history. And me, little five-two Adria, shoved around a six-foot-fiver in the summer sun. It was really hot, so I cooled off with Marine Dreams, and singer Ian Kehoe (You’ve Changed Records, Attack in Black) was boyishly charming. Experimental what-the-hell Oneida was pretty hypnotic. I stood there drop-jawed, sausage in hand.
I rolled into Uncle Larry’s Billiard Room on Sunday afternoon with a Gatorade and a tequila shot, just in time for Sackville’s The Mouthbreathers (check this review I did). The local fan favourites packed the hall, and the crowd stuck around for hot dog vendor extraordinaire and music man of the new millennium, B.A. Johnston, who played songs from Hi Dudes! and some classics, as well. Also there: snot rockets, outfit changes, lots of sweat, beer squirting, and making fun of the crowd. B.A. joke: “What do you call someone from Moncton who doesn’t have weeping pus-sores all over their body? A tourist”.
We roamed around for a while looking for the Mount Allison University Chapel, a concrete Christian coffin, God help us, but it was nice to be in a church on a Sunday. Frederick Squire and Katherine Maki played the most beautiful songs full of longing and sadness and hope, and ended with the Carter classic, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” which was topical because they just had a son together and he was there, too. I bet he was warm in that Chapel. I was; the flowers in my hair wilted. Show photos here!
Back on the main stage around 7pm, Halifax’s Cousins rocked the fucking tent. I’m not even joking. I think it was a top SappyFest performance, not just because I really love them but because the energy between Aaron Mangle and Leigh Dotey was so palpable. JULES!
I can’t really recall what I was doing between 8pm and midnight (drinking and dancing, I guess?) until I went to the Royal Canadian Legion for Each Other and Dog Day, which were (IMO) the best bands to end Sappy, though I know a lot of people really loved Caged Animals and Light Fires at Uncle Larry’s. But the Legion show was ridiculous. I gave myself whiplash. And Legions are famous for cheap beers. I think we got a bucket of six for $15. LIKE COME ON. Plus Dog Day has to be one of the tightest, most professional Halifax bands: extremely creative and magnetic and powerful. Dog Day’s bite is so much larger than their bark. And they brought border collie, Woofy and he was nice. Plus, Seth and Paul’s (Cold Warps) poster company, YORODEO, made the Sappy signage this year.
Afterwards, the street outside turned into a football-game dance party until the cops showed up (I have to say, the Sackville Police was a really kind force, good to see pleasant interactions, kept things safe). I think I went to Pickles sandwich shop at 4:30am. By then, the stage was already in tear-down. Two security guys watched. Then I watched. Sadly.
Every year SappyFest is as unique as you make it and more wonderful than you remembered. Every year you think,“This year can’t top last year,” and then it does! And you’re like, “Wow, I thought I knew everything,” but really you know nothing because you are nowhere. These are only some of my highlights. There were so many incredible acts.
I already can’t wait for SappyFest 8; I gotta get away from this day-to-day runnin’ around.