Posts Tagged ‘sappyfest’

Sappyfest XI Coverage

August 3rd, 2016 | Features | 0 Comments


Sappyfest XI was my second Sappyfest and it was great. The lineup was not quite as good as the lineup in 2014 (which featured Constantines, Cousins, a Shotgun and Jaybird reunion, and Dusted, among other great acts), but it was still absolutely wonderful.

For those reading about the festival for the first time, Sappyfest is a three day festival held every summer in the wonderful little college town of Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada, featuring various up-and-coming, as well as long-beloved bands from across Canada. Festival goers camp out around town, chill, meet new people, shop, grab coffee, explore the area, check out sets. Everyone’s really nice and well-behaved. There’s no hard drugs (or even much soft); good vibes abound. The whole thing is pretty utopian.


In the positive spirit of the festival, I’m not going to write about any of the bands I didn’t like. There were no bands I actively disliked, but there were a couple that just didn’t really interest me much. But who wants to read about bands they shouldn’t like? Nobody. So let’s talk about the bands that were great, and that you should check out.



Due to a flat tire and other issues encountered on the drive up to Sackville from Brooklyn, I didn’t get to the festival until like 9 or 10pm. The first set I saw was Halifax/Toronto power-pop supergroup Tuns‘. It was pretty cool. As one might expect from a band consisting of former members Sloan, Super Friendz and The Inbreds, the songs were extremely well-composed, and the performance was legit.


Canadian East-coast folk-punks Horses played the first late set in the bowling alley under Thunder and Lightning bar. I’d never heard the band before, but I really liked them. The played an appropriately raucous set.


East-coast indie-rock legend Shotgun Jimmie closed the first night. A former Sackville resident himself, Jimmie’s set was effortlessly great, and easily the standout of the festival’s first night.  He played most of the set solo, banging out a beat with his feet on some floor drums while playing guitar and singing.

The song selection drew on an abundant number of quasi-classics from his stellar discography. At one point he stopped playing guitar in the middle of “King of Kreuzberg” and sang both the lyrics and instrumental melodies of one song along with the audience before kicking everything back in. At another, he called Jon Mckiel (another great East-coast indie rocker in his own right) up to play drums while he sang Guided By Voices‘ “Game of Pricks” a cappella. He also played this song (it went over very well).

After the set I went to sleep.



The next day I spent most of the morning at the zine & craft fair.


I managed to catch the last song of Hamilton, Ontario’s ornate Cosmos Quartette. It was pretty impressive. A lot of people seemed blown away by them (I think Shotgun Jimmie, the night before, even said “they’ll change your life” or something).

Toronto folkies Luka went on next. It wasn’t bad. My girlfriend said they were her favourite band of the festival.


Guelph’s wonderful Kazoo! Fest had a little showcase in the bar Duffy’s. Guelph experimental two-piece Badminton Racquet played and were one of my favourite discoveries at the festival. Guitarist Kyle Coveny used a wide array of pedals to get a really warped guitar sound, banging out metal power chords and sneaky riffs over drummer Nathan Campagnaro‘s avant beats. Their $2 cassette EP was an easy sell. They were followed by Cupcake Ducktape, but I missed their set to see The Wooden Stars.


Formed in 1994 in Ottawa, The Wooden Stars were a great 90s Canadian indie rock band. They’ve reunited for a bunch of shows since more or less disbanding after 1999’s classic Julie Doiron and The Wooden Stars album (more on that later). In 2008 they even released another album called People Are Different (admittedly, not my favourite Wooden Stars album). As great as The Wooden Stars are, both as songwriters and musicians, the set was kind of low-key, and maybe didn’t feature the best song selection.

I went to sleep soon after their set, since I hadn’t slept well for two nights and was exhausted at this point.



Jay Arner opened up the MainStage show on the third day of the festival. The Vancouver synth-pop artist was another one of my favourite new discoveries of the festival, and even though he played an early set, it was nonetheless excellent. If he hadn’t run off so quickly with his merch, there’s a good chance I would’ve grabbed a cassette of his recently released Jay II.


Montreal sample-gazers Phedre also played a nice afternoon set. I’ve been a fan of the band for a long time. The chill, afternoon outdoor setting worked well for their kind of gooey experimental pop.


Moncton’s French-language Les Hotesses d’Hilaire rode into town in a distinctively-painted tour bus that let everyone know the band was a big deal. Thankfully they lived up to expectations. Their songs may not have been Radiohead-y masterpieces of creativity and composition, but all that really mattered was that the band hold down the fort behind boisterous frontman Serge Brideau, who stomped around the stage sing-shouting ridonc jokes about French-Canadian politics (“I’ll French you on the English!”) in his thick French-Canadian accent. Being from Toronto and not speaking French, I probably didn’t get half (or even 10%) of the jokes. But the man’s boundless charisma needed no translation to make for an incredibly entertaining stage show.


Julie Doiron‘s performance with The Wooden Stars some 17 years after the release of their album together was debatably the centrepiece set of the festival. As guitarist Mike Feuerstack predicted the reviews would note, the set was plagued by all kinds of technical issues, from the band not having enough beers (that’s a joke…kind of…), to a broken guitar string, to a replacement guitar that didn’t work, to monitor levels taking a while to get to where the band wanted them to be. Even with all the issues, the set was the best of the festival. The ensemble performed the album’s meticulous arrangements with the skill and grace of seasoned veteran musicians. Which, of course, they are. Even some of the album’s less memorable songs became masterpieces onstage.

The set was also notable for its non-musical qualities. The band’s (especially Feuerstack’s) hilarious stage banter kept everyone entertained while Shotgun Jimmie changed guitarist Julien Beillard‘s string backstage. At one point, in the midst of technical difficulties, Feuerstack said “oh god, I can see the Exclaim! review now…” He also asked the crowd how many people’s nipples were getting scratched by the festival wristband while they were in the shower. A lot of hands went up. Apparently this is a common problem.

It was also amazing how many people were there with small children. Kids were present throughout the festival, running around the maze of legs, wearing big, hearing-protection headphones. But it seemed this was the set their parents were all waiting to see. It was the set that brought young and old together. There was even a funkily-dressed old lady standing on a chair. After the set, I saw her walk off with a Julie Doiron & The Wooden Stars vinyl.


The last set I saw was Halifax slack-rockers Nap Eyes. I wanted to watch their set while drinking my last Canadian beer (so much better than American beer) of the trip at Thunder and Lightning. That’s why the pic above is an over-the-fence shot. I could hear the band just fine, and they sounded great. Three days of driving, sleeping in tents, bathing in rivers, watching sets and exploring Sackville had left me exhausted. The band’s lazy-day serenades served as a beautiful and fitting coda to the whole Sappy experience.

I went to my tent to get an early night in. I had to wake up early the next day to get a good start on the 12-hour drive home. I could still hear Sackville super-crew Weird Lines. Good night, sweet Sappy…good night…


Weird Lines

July 5th, 2016 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments


Just in time for this year’s Sappyfest, a gaggle of Eastern Canadian indie rockers (including Julie Doiron) band together to put out a very nice little album on a new label called Sappy Futures.

Roadtrip To Sappyfest Video

August 16th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

This is a little video I made of my roadtrip to Sappyfest. Enjoy 🙂

Sappyfest 9: Day 3

August 4th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments


Day 3 began with the event Universal Dawn in the Sackville community garden. This mostly consisted of prose and poetry readings, but also featured a set by Rose Melberg (Softies, Tiger Trap, million other bands). Admittedly, I didn’t pay too much attention to the readings, since I was writing yesterday’s review through most of them, and in any case was more interested in Rose Melberg‘s set. She played solo electric and it was simple, sweet, charming.

I missed the Asphalt Watches screening, but grabbed a coffee and saw Banded Stilts‘ set of very ‘clean’ Canadian indie-folk. I don’t find the genre the most interesting of all genres, but I don’t have anything against it, and Banded Stilts ably performed a well-written set of songs. I would say the exact same thing about the not-dissimilar music and performances of Olympic Symphonium and Baby Eagle, who both played later that day.


Rae Spoon – now based in Montreal – followed them and, as with Banded Stilts, I also find Spoon’s music a little too clean, too ‘Indie 88‘, but, even taking this into consideration, Spoon is clearly a songwriter of incredible skill and honed craft, reflected both in her music and lyrics.


Skipping forward a couple hours, Mike Feuerstack (Snailhouse, The Wooden Stars) performed the best set I’ve ever seen him play. It was probably the fourth time I’ve seen him, but only the second time with a full band. And this band had their stuff down. Though Feuerstack’s songs work just fine when played solo, a great backing band blows them up into epic widescreen. They also picked picked a phenomenal bunch of Feuerstack’s songs to play.

Following him, Basia Bulat was another performer of the fest who was maybe a little too ‘clean’-sounding for me.


Sackville locals Shotgun and Jaybird followed her. I’d never heard them before, but I loved their lazy East coast vibe. They kept things especially loose, taking turns alternating between guitar and drums. I had heard a lot of loving praise for the underdog band and I’m beginning to see why – looking forward to checking out their albums.


And then… it was the Constantines turn. Things got crazy. The Cons are an amazing live band to begin with, and they met a hugely enthusiastic audience at Sappyfest. People were moshing hard from start to finish, and the crowdsurfing got so out of control that surfers were getting stacked on top of each other. I never knew how awesome “I Will Not Sing A Hateful Song” is live.

I saw a bit of Halifax rapper XXX CLVR‘s set but wasn’t feeling it, so I left the Legion to go grab a beer at the bar Duckie’s.


Sometime around 2:00 am Halifax’s Quaker Parents played a set at The Shed (literally that). I caught the end of it. It was cool. And then I had to sleep.

But wow. Sappyfest was one of the best music festivals I’ve ever been to, if not the best, period. The whole experience was utopian – beautiful people, great music, an amazing and gorgeous location, with outdoor markets and cool coffee shops and a zine fair…I wish we all could’ve just stayed there and decided to live our lives there like that forever. If I can come back next year (and the year after) I will. Because I get it now. Sappyfest is just a magical festival that attracts, for the most part, people who really care. Not about the bro-ing out and getting drunk and big name bands, but the real stuff: good music, good times and a lot of new friendships with really great people 🙂

Sappyfest 9: Day 2

August 3rd, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments


Waking up in Sackville during Sappyfest is like waking up in paradise. This is what you see…


There’s an outdoor market here in the downtown area every day of the fest, but yesterday morning they also had farmers selling vegetables. I bought some baby carrots. I ate them with hummus. They were delightful.


At around eleven I went to the Legion hall to set up for the zine fair, in which I was participating. (In order to make a couple bucks for the festival, I turned the first chapter of my in-progress book – about my trip across America after finishing the IDF – into a little zine.) I ended up meeting and sort of befriending some of the other vendors, including Jonathan Rotsztain, who traded zines with me (his was more a comic, actually) and interviewed me for an article he’s writing about the zine fair for Broken Pencil Magazine.


I felt like a total amateur. Everyone else had a bunch of zines or prints or comics or whatever, of different colours and sizes and they looked really nice…and I had just the one black and white zine.  I actually ended up selling most of them and trading almost all the rest, probably because Israel’s been in the news so much lately. I even made a little bit of money – nothing amazing, but I was glad to have it to spend on records and stuff.


I missed most of the afternoon’s shows because of the zine fair. Then I worked out for a bit on the plateau of an unfinished or demolished bridge by the lake. Around eight I went back to the mainstage to see the Vancouver-based Cool. I wasn’t that crazy about them. They seemed kind of jokey to me, playing this high energy white funk kind of thing. Everyone else seemed to love them though, so I guess I’m just a curmudgeon.


The Montreal-based, Talking Heads-esque Ought followed them. These guys have been blog/Pitchfork favourites of late, and I like them on record, but I wasn’t that crazy about them live. The frontman was doing this high-energy David Byrne-esque frontman shtick that reminded me of quirky 80s art-punk bands, but I thought it felt a little put-on.


Julie Doiron followed them. She was introduced as ‘the mayor of Sackville’ and it was easy to see why. Doiron is something of an indie legend in Canada, especially on the East Coast, and the fact that she lives in this tiny town of 5000 is kind of amazing. She’s accorded royalty status here, but she’s also just ‘Julie from the block’ or whatever.

Her set was very cordial. It was just her and a drummer. They played a couple songs from her enormous repertoire (she’s been putting out incredible music since the early 90s) and also did a shaky cover of “Love Hurts”. It felt like she knew she didn’t really have to impress anyone; she was playing for friends, which made it a fun set, but not the most technically mindblowing.


By the time Cousins came on I was just ‘rocked out’. I sat outside the main area and watched, and they played a great set like every other time I’ve seen the Halifax duo, but I was just out of energy by that point. I had enough left for two songs by local indie rockers (sorry for the unspecific description, I was getting too tired to listen too closely) Weird Lines at the Legion hall, but then I was done for. But another great day/night of Sappyfest all the same.