Sappyfest is a lot of fun and it is possibly annual. At the very first festival the attitude was established. It was called the Sappy Records Music Festival and we were welcomed to “the first and possibly annual” festival. There is something nice about knowing that nothing is guaranteed and that you should value every moment as who knows if it will happen again. The first Sappy was casual and fun with a tiny tent beside Struts Gallery and there was some rain. The crowds weren’t massive, but it was fun. We were all figuring it out and knew that this wasn’t going to be like other music festivals. It was Sappyfest and if there was only one that would be have been cool. But it wasn’t the only one and with the ninth one over, it feels good to have been there every year.
My connection with Sappyfest started with Paul Henderson. He was the director of Faucet, the media division of the arts behemoth that is Struts Gallery. Paul got me to teach a few workshops on things like stop motion animation and Final Cut Pro. The workshops always had great people in them and were fun and once Tara K Wells and Shotgun Jimmie were even in a workshop. Sackville is a small and magical town. When I first bought my pass to Sappyfest there was a little note from Paul in the mail that made me realize that he was the some person who brought me to the workshop.
Egg and Cheese Bagel from The Black Duck
Now it’s years later and Sappyfest is still here, under new management, but the vibe is the same. It’s small and personal and honest and fun. As the final day of Sappy rolls around everyone is into the groove. We’re taking our time, smiling at each other as we pass on the street and everyone knows why you are there. The town fills up and there is music and laughter everywhere. Now there is an invisible social media layer all over the festival with photos and tweets and updates flying around connecting us all.
On this lovely Sunday morning in Sackville the great coffee and food of the Black Duck beckoned to me and breakfast was their delicious egg and cheese bagel. Following the food it was time for a peaceful walk around the Sackville Waterfowl Park. So nice to get out into nature and walk around before starting a day filled with film and music.
Sackville Waterfowl Park
The Sappyfest events for me began in the Vogue Theatre watching the deeply odd and fascinating film Asphalt Watches. A based-on-a-true-story about hitchhiking across Canada, this isn’t the typical movie of the week. Asphalt Watches is a unique animated film from Shayne Ehman & Seth Scriver that surreally documents a road trip that they took. Done in a bright, primitive animation style and with a catchy, experimental soundtrack, it is strangely compelling. Musical and fun it was a good, strange way to start the day while sipping coffee in the dark.
The great thing about the afternoon shows in the tent on Bridge Street is that there are chairs. The tent usually will fill up, but there is enough space to sit in a chair or on the ground to listen to the music. That is important after standing for hours the previous two days. It’s good to be able to rest and enjoy music. One of the many neat things about Sappyfest is how small and flat the structure is. The musicians appear on the stage before their sets and get their gear ready as we watch in the crowd. After the show and the applause they quietly return to the stage to unplug their gear so the next band can get ready. Many of the other performers are usually in the audience watching and they slip backstage near the end of the previous set to get ready for their set.
Wandering out of the Vogue after the film, Banded Stilts were playing in the tent. The seats were full and after being in the theatre for a couple of hours it was good to stand for a little while. After they finished some seats opened up and there were some great seats to relax in as Rae Spoon set up their gear. I’ve heard Rae Spoon’s music, but hadn’t actually seen the film about them yet, but having listened to one of the albums, I knew that there was a good chance I would be in for a treat. Taking the stage alone it was fun and neat to see a set filled with humour and small-personal songs that ranged from dance to grunge. The crowd loved it and I did as well.
Fredericton’s The Olympic Symphonium wrapped up the afternoon with a great collection of songs and constantly reconfigured themselves switching instruments and vocals. I had not seen them perform before and they were a nice, gentle ambient folk band that provided a fitting end to the afternoon show and hints of what was to come in the evening.
The pace seemed to be just about right for this final day and after a beer and light supper at Ducky’s there was time to get the blog post about day 2 done and rest a bit before heading back down to the tent for the evening show. The evening was packed and it started gently with Michael Feuerstack singing his own songs as well as some Snailhouse songs. Accompanied by some of the members of Olympic Symphonium, it made me realize how much of Sappyfest is interconnected with all sorts of collaborations happening between the talented artists who make the festival what it is. Gently-crafted, honest, and personal, they are lovely and it was interspersed with some humour as well. A great Sappy way to get the evening started.
A sweetly-smiling Basia Bulat took the stage and our hearts as she started to play. There was an amazing energy as she played her songs and switched instruments. Such a lovely voice and beautiful songs. We sang along sometimes and stood, transfixed as she sang and played. It was magic. She finished and was drawn back by the applause and chanting of the audience for one more song.
The power-duo of Shotgun & Jaybird reunited for the penultimate set in the tent. Fred Squire and Shotgun Jimmie alternated playing guitar and drums and pleased the packed tent. So nice to see them play together again in another reminder of Sappyfests past and of the bright future the artists who are part of the whole experience. They set up things for the Constantines who were reunited and powerful and friendly and rocked the tent. All the pent-up energy and anxiety from the previous 8 Sappyfests and the possibility of there not being another combined in moments of rock and roll perfection. Sappyfest never went anywhere and we’ll always have that feeling in our hearts. Thanks to everyone for continuing to make it so special.